A positive, intriguing, convicting, challenging, encouraging and liberating perspective … I hope!
The Church gathers to worship God, hear His word and hang out together as a family. But all that requires behind the scenes work.
There is the tidying up of the hall, often the floor has to be swept and sometimes even mopped. Equipment dragged out of the Hall Store, speakers lugged, gear set-up, songs practised, Projector and computer set up with songs added for everyone to sing. Tables to be put in place, chairs set out, Refreshements set up, Sunday School prepared, Sermon prepared, creche set up, etc, etc, etc. Hours upon hours in total go into each Sunday gathering.
Serving for the Sake of Christ
So why do we do it? The answer is, we do it to serve one another. An important aspect of Christian identity is that of a humble servant. As Servants, we are called to be servants of one another.
That does not mean that everyone else is your boss because you are their servant. But as Jesus' servants, with Him as our Lord, for Him, to please Him, because it is His will we serve one another. This is what the Apostle Paul means when he writes ...
2 Corinthians 4
Sometimes it's a struggle.
Serving can be hard, wearisome, tiring and even become a crushing burden. But this is usually not the weight of the burden itself, but symptomatic of other things. Consider this …
Apart from the preacher (who has usually been released from normal work to prepare to preach), nobody in the church spends more than about 120 minutes per month serving the Church out of the 44,640 minutes per month the Lord has given to each one of us. That is less than 1% of our time given up to serve the Church for the sake of Christ - in fact for most it is less than 0.333r % of your time per month.
If you teach Sunday School or lead worship it may be as much as about 0.666r% of your time per month.
If you want the math: 60 mins x 24hrs per day, x 31 days per month = 44,640.
Serving on Sunday = Total max in Sunday school, leading worship, serving tea, doing creche etc - about 60 mins. Most people do two acts of service per month = max 120 mins.
This is arguably, a tiny amount of service, yet somehow it becomes so hard and draining at times. Why?
Not so many minutes?
44,640 sounds like a lot - but in fact, those minutes get filled with an enormous amount of responsibilities and demands, many of which we have no choice about.
We might be time poor.
The poor soul in the picture below illustrates the point for us. We can be like him. Imagine our life is made up of books. Now imagine, on the spine of each book is a word representing our various responsibilities and necessary activities such as 'Work', 'School runs' etc. Now imagine the size of each book corresponds with the size of the task and amount of minutes and energy it consumes. So the book called 'WORK' uses a lot of energy and time and so is a very big book compared to say 'cleaning the car', which for me is a flier at most!
By the time all the various books of life have been stacked upon us - we feel just like the man below! We're already carrying so much right? We just don't need more books! I think that is how it is for all of us at least sometimes.
So now, you get the church rota, it is like we are giving you, 'yet another book!'. It's not the size of the book - it's just you really don't want anymore. You instinctively know you really ought to carry it - everyone else does, but you really don't want to - but it's just one of those things you have to do because you're a Christian, and it's only fair.
Think About it
But the truth is, it really is all a matter of perspective. Think about each point below, and if you agree, put a mental 'check' next to the point - see how far we track together.
1) We are all carrying some really big, hefty tomes. Check?
2) Sleep is an odd one, it is a big book simply because it takes up a lot of our precious minutes. Not only is it big, but it is non-negotiable - so it also comes first in the stack of life - or at least it is near the bottom of the stack - it goes on before a lot of other books. Check?
3) Then there is Work - this is a hefty tome and it is essential to most of us and so also comes before most other things - that means it too is somewhere near the bottom of the pile. Check?
4) Other 'first things' near the bottom of the stack are a daily shower / personal hygiene routine, for ladies - make-up and personal appearance. These vary in size but being essential, go near the bottom. Check?
5) The next books likely to come on top of that stuff are cleaning the children, changing nappies, shopping, maintenance around the home, family time, school runs, hoovering, housework, social time, me time, it's a bit difficult to decide exactly where in the pile they come - but they certainly do. Check?
6) Perhaps you'd order the stack differently, but whatever, by now the pile is getting very high, we're probably already carrying more than we would like. Check?
7) So now a church responsibility is placed right at the top of the pile - teetering! And so we easily see this as the thing that is too much. Check?
The problem with the above perspective.
That is a real perspective - if we choose to see it that way. I believe we see it that way because we are all, naturally and fundamentally selfish. Pretty much everything else we do is primarily for our 'self', and by 'self' I include our immediate family too as they are a kind of extension of our 'self'.
Serving in the church is an act of service for others - and that we find difficult. Selfishness is our fundamental problem. That is why we would like a situation where we could go to church and not have to serve - just sit back and lap it up, and then go, encouraged and inspired to go out to live our largely selfish lives.
To feel a bit offended at this is understandable, it is a truth of the gospel which is offensive to all human pride. Selfishness is what we do easily, naturally and best. The problem is, you don't have to put selfishness to death in order to serve the church. We might reason, "If I want a church service, I have to take my turn." Although that is true - it is not a good motivation as it is selfish. And if at heart we are serving out of selfishness, it will be reluctant, joyless, too much, perhaps with a bit of moaning, murmuring, complaining. Worst of all, we will do it but get no reward for it from the Lord at all.
An Alternative Perspective
Imagine you throw the whole pile of books down, you open your arms, but this time the Lord Jesus places each book upon you.
The first book he places on you is your 'serving the church for His sake', and it is not heavy at all! It never was!
Then he places other books on you, one at a time. If you're a mum, perhaps he'll put the Book 'Sleep' on next, and maybe it is bigger than the last sleep book. But how? Well maybe he will give you a smaller 'Soap opera' book, or a smaller 'House-work' book - "you don't need to polish everything every day" - he says. so that is where he wants you to catch some zzz's. He places the next book, 'Work', for some of you, it might be bigger - because you've been a bit lazy, for others it might be smaller, "you don't need all that money", or "you are a workaholic".
The point is, Jesus will probably put many of the same books on you, but different sizes. He certainly wouldn't give you more than you can carry, and he certainly doesn't see church service as coming last - teetering on the top of the pile. Serving Jesus is the number #1 priority for every believer when it comes to 'serving'.
With 'serving the church for Christ sake' at the bottom of the stack, and a lighter load on top from the Lord, we will still likely find we take on more and more, things that Jesus has not given us, until the stack gets so high it will grind us down again.
But because 'serving the church for Christ sake' is at the bottom of the stack, and not teetering on the top, it is not the thing we have a desire to rid ourselves of to ease our load - given the chance. It is other things. We just won't see 'serving the church' the way we once did. We will see other things as unneccessary burdens - and rightly so.
So, let us give that tiny percentage of our time, which is ’serving the Church (one another) for Christ’s sake’, willingly, joyfully, energetically, and let’s give that tiny little bit of time the best we can, let it never be the last priority that gets the dregs of our energy etc. If serving tea and coffee - as if for the King! If serving in Sunday School - as if for the King etc, etc, because, in fact it is for the King! To do it willingly and joyfully for the King carries a reward and brings joy to the King - he is very easy to please.