Believe me when I tell you that before going into the ministry, I wasn’t a very good servant. Oh sure, I volunteered for some things – I sang in the choir, helped at the County Fair food booth every year, was head coach of the church softball team (won the championship and finished second three years in a row), and did some leading during the worship service by doing children’s messages. I always enjoyed each of those things so it never seemed like it was hard – it was never tedious or difficult or boring. I did some other things which were harder – I taught seventh grade Sunday School (now that was hard). I helped out in Vacation Bible School (a challenge depending upon where and who I was supposed to lead). One of the most challenging things I took part in was something called “100 Brave Christians”.
I saw the announcement for “100 Brave Christians” in the bulletin. It said something like if you consider yourself a brave follower of Jesus, show up on this particular night at the church and you will have the chance to put that to the test. It sounded very intriguing.
So, I decided I was going to go. I showed up and was paired with another fellow (Ed was his name). Turns out it was an “every member visitation” program (which is always a challenge) with a twist. We weren’t going to the members on our list to invite them to activity or a deeper level of financial commitment. We were going there to get to know them better and to pray for them. That’s it.
Ed and I went to the people’s homes on our list and to this day, there is only one visit I remember. It was a woman who lived on the edge of town. Her husband was a trucker, so he was gone a lot of the time. She told us that she didn’t come to church very often because she didn’t like to sit alone. She also said that when her husband was home, he was tired and because they didn’t see much of one another, she felt obligated to stay at home with him on the weekends instead of attending church.
Honestly, I was never aware of her church attendance or any level of her church commitment – nor did I really care. I mean, that wasn’t our focus. We were not there to make people feel uncomfortable. Ed and I talked with her for a while, offered a prayer and left. I don’t recall seeing her or coming across her at church during the next few years while I was there. I went into the ministry and she and her trucker husband were long forgotten.
When I think of servanthood, I think of those kinds of things that you do for the kingdom of God that make a difference, even if no one knows about it. The author of the devotion comes down hard on humanity, I think. It’s been my experience that there are many persons who serve selflessly, with no agenda. They give so freely of their time – over and over and over again. Sometimes they are the same people who wear different hats. But they give without any thought to their own needs. And there are others who would give more of themselves if they could, but a physical challenge or a time conflict or some other kind of obstacle is in their way. But their desire is still to serve. The church has many who are willing to serve.
Jesus responds to the mother of James and John by telling her and them that the greatest among them will be those who serve others. One does need to empty themselves if she or he truly desires to serve – that point I will grant the author. It’s true – empty yourself so you can fill others.
I had a chance to return to my home church and preach one Sunday about ten years after I had left. After the service, I was shaking hands with the people of my home church congregation. Many were wishing me well, telling me they were glad to see our family. I’m guessing some were still amazed that I had gone into the ministry (the ones who knew me when!).
The line was getting close to the end when a woman came up to me and extended her hand in welcome. She said she appreciated my message. I thanked her. She said “You don’t remember me, do you?” I had to confess that she looked vaguely familiar but no, I could not remember her name.
“You and another fellow had come to visit me a number of years ago. I hadn’t returned to church until the last few years, but I always remember your visit. It's one of the reasons why I am here today.”
You just never know how you are going to make an impact on someone.
But if you are without any personal agenda and just want to greet someone, meet them on their own terms and embrace them on their own ground, it makes a difference. Jesus is really saying if you want to make a difference, don’t be concerned with where you sit or if you are first. Invite others to go before you. Approach them with humility. See what unselfish love can do.
Perhaps you can discover a way to be a brave Christian in service.