Posted tagged ‘serving one another’

Being Out-served

March 27, 2020

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      March 27, 2020

                                    

A young woman, consumed with the number of her followers on Instagram, was interviewed by Dr. Phil about her self-centeredness in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. She had partied and been apathetic toward the idea of taking safety precautions to protect herself and, more importantly, others from contracting the virus.

When Dr. Phil directed his anger at her about putting others at risk through her carelessness, she responded that it wasn’t her problem. In fact, she indicated that Baby Boomers, like Dr. Phil, were the problem. 

He had a few things to say to her!

Her perspective, based on narcissism and arrogance, is at the opposite end of the spectrum from those who proclaim to follow Jesus. Instead of placing ourselves on the throne, Christ-followers seek to serve the One who is on the throne. Sometimes that serving is clumsy and misguided, like buying your wife a weigh scale for her birthday thinking it will help her be more healthy, but the mindset is right— seeking to benefit someone else’s life.

In these uncertain times, if too many people with the same attitude as the young woman are populating one side of the world’s see-saw and too few people are helping at the other end we will all suffer from the imbalance.

I still remember a message conveyed almost 25 years ago at a Promisekeepers conference in the Pontiac Silverdome by an African-American pastor named Efrem Smith. He encouraged us to out-serve our spouses. The same principle could be used in regards to out-serving our parents, our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers. His point was that our tendency is to think about ourselves, our wants, our needs, who’s going to wait on us, who’s going to bring us satisfaction, instead of figuring out how we can help others to know that they are valued.

In Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, he wrote these powerful words that indicate what Jesus’s mindset was:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,

    being made in human likeness.

  And being found in appearance as a man,

    he humbled himself

    by becoming obedient to death—

        even death on a cross!”        (Philippians 2:5-8)

I’ve been blessed to have seen this picture of selflessness modeled for me by numerous people who have been parts of my life. My dad served my mom with patience and care. In her last few years of life when Parkinson’s was limiting her mobility, Dad waited on her as his calling. When Mom was bedridden and the disease had impacted her ability to formulate words, Dad cared for her without grumbling. He did not do it out of obligation, but rather out of his desire to show her that he still loved her. 

That character was evident in many of my professors at Judson College and Northern Baptist Seminary. The willingness to sit and listen to students at lunchtime in the student commons or continue conversations after class over a cup of coffee was the norm, not the exception, as our teachers sought to help us toward maturity of mind and meaningfulness in life.

Serving one another, and seeking to go the extra mile for one another, has become a key ingredient of our marriage. Truth be told, it is so ingrained in our relationship that we don’t think about it when we’re in the midst of it.

Since we’re confined to our surroundings for the foreseeable future, having the nature of a servant is crucial. In fact, the idea for this Words from WW came from Carol. She had remembered me talking about this message by Efrem Smith so long ago. I’m hoping that, in the midst of my failures and shortcomings, that she has felt loved, cherished, and served. 

The Possibility of Entitlement Conversion

March 14, 2020

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        March 14, 2020

                      

 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” (Romans 6:11-12)

As the world locks arms…from a distance…to battle the Coronavirus, the problem children emerge as well. Hospitals are discovering that some of their important items are being stolen. Hand sanitizer and rolls of toilet paper are flying out of hospitals as fast as they are appearing on grocery store shelves. 

And yet other people in this great world are discovering the joy of serving their fellow man. And others still are looking at the self-centered nature of their lives and making about-face turns. 

Perhaps this pandemic can light a fuse for the conversion of our entitlement culture. When the life and death of others becomes the final jeopardy question, will enough people take themselves off their thrones and realize that the world doesn’t revolve around them? 

Stealing hand sanitizer from a hospital is a sign that dark hearts still lumber through our land, but to have people looking out for one another— their neighbors, their elderly parents, canceling major sporting events, concerts, and church gatherings— says that there are still willing hearts in this struggle.

Maybe, just maybe, this world crisis will spawn a spiritual crisis about what is really important in this short life of ours and what’s simply not necessary. Maybe, just maybe, there will be an awakening about what should really rise to the top and what is simply like toilet paper, a lot of fluff! 

Happy To Do It!

October 19, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     October 19, 2018

                                         

I’m mostly a happy person. I smile a lot, and frown mostly at middle school students who are being doofuses!

A few weeks ago my next door neighbor’s father passed away and they traveled from Colorado to California for the funeral. Their lawn needed to be mowed, so I did it! No biggie! When they returned from their trip they expressed their gratitude for taking care of their yard.

I replied. “Happy to do it!” (He edges my sidewalk and driveway a couple of times each summer!)

I didn’t feel like I HAD to do it. I didn’t cringe about spending an extra 30 minutes cutting his grass after I mowed my own yard. I was happy to be a good neighbor in their time of sorrow.

It made me think about Jesus and his acts of service for others. The gospels include a lot of them…healing the blind man, touching the leper, restoring the paralytic, feeding the five thousand, calming the waves, raising the dead, turning water into wine…I could keep going!

In all of Jesus’ miracles, all of his acts of service, I don’t sense that he felt obligated to do any of them. 

Okay! There is the exchange between him and his mom at the wedding in Cana where she seems to be saying to him, “Jesus, do something! They are running out of wine!” Jesus says that his time has not yet come, like “I do this and the cat’s out of the bag, Mom!”

I don’t think that Jesus walked around smiling all the time, but I believe he was happy to serve those in need, those who were afflicted, and those who were seen as being the unimportant and disposable. 

There’s a distinct difference between feeling obligated and feeling blessed to serve. It’s noticeable in most stores and businesses where face-to-face encounters with customers are at the core of the purpose. We notice when an employee goes above and beyond for us, and we also notice when someone who is on the time clock seems like he doesn’t really want to be there and we’re more of a nuisance than a customer in need. Recently Carol and I ate at a restaurant where the hostess/greeter escorted us to a table and then said, “Your server will be…” By the end of the meal it became apparent that the “server” hadn’t read his job description!

I’ve visited churches where the attitude of the members has been “I’m here for 60 minutes and then I’m out of here!” and I’ve visited churches where the attitude has been “Can I help you find where the coffee is, the nursery is located, or be of service in some other way?” 

Jesus was happy to serve, to restore broken lives, and care for those who needed a shepherd. 

Today perhaps I’ll be allowed to serve someone who is in a tough spot and I’ll be happy to do it!

Believing A Small Church Is Worth the Effort

October 15, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            October 15, 2017

 

Yesterday twenty five people descended on an aging church building in a town of five hundred people to be a help. Bill Hale, nine days my junior but years ahead of me in wisdom and craftsmanship, developed the idea along with our area denominational staff person, Mike Oldham.

The idea was to invite a few churches and individuals to come to Simla, a small town on Highway 24 that you would have no reason to go to if you weren’t heading someplace past it, and provide some labor for a few hours that would allow the church to get a few needed projects completed.

The First Baptist Church of Simla is a congregation of about twenty dear people. Bill Hale, Ed Stucky, and myself have been sharing pulpit responsibilities there for the last year and a half or so. They do not have a pastor, although they do have a parsonage right next door to the church.

The group of servers came from Pueblo, Greeley, Colorado Springs, San Antonio, Texas, and, of course, Simla! They ranged in age from four to seventy-four. One man, who owns a company in Colorado Springs, brought his “bucket truck” that allowed limbs and branches from the trees in front of the church that are about as old as sarcasm to be cut back. The carpet in the sanctuary was shampooed, the church sign was touched up with paint. There was painting done to the outside of the building after a power washing was done, and the wood frames of the stained glass windows got a needed fixing up. Sidewalks got edged, weeds got pulled, and the lawn got mowed and trimmed. Massive efforts that meant so much to the people of the church.

What I’ve learned from Simla is that small churches are worth the effort. For me Simla has become my home church. Most Sundays when I’m not speaking there I still travel the forty-five minutes east of Colorado Springs to worship with the “salt of Simla.” Small churches have a purpose. It may not revolve around budgets, staff, and packing the sanctuary, but they have a purpose. The Simla Saints have started doing community ministry efforts with the United Methodist Church a block down the street. They’ve even had discussions about how the three churches in town might have occasional worship services together, interchanging the pastors as the speakers. This past summer they made a good-sized contribution for the beginning expenses of a missionary family who had already been commissioned  by the American Baptist Churches to go to Chiapas, Mexico, but were trying to raise the last few thousand dollars that were needed as seed money. The Simla Saints gave the contribution and also started supporting the missionary family on a monthly basis.

They will never be a mega-church. They wouldn’t know how to handle that. The town of Simla has shrunk by two-thirds in the last twenty years. Mega-churches rarely happen in villages of diminishing size located between here and nowhere. Every week, however, fifteen to twenty people gather in the sanctuary of this church. They don’t whine about their size. Size does not effect the purpose or change the mission. Their purpose is to be Light in a community that struggles to keep on going.

Too many churches are trying to be great! Churches already have the greatest story to share. Sometimes it seems a congregation is trying to be greater than the story!

Simla is a love story of hope that tells of God’s love story. Call me simple, but when I retired from the ministry that’s what I was looking for…and it causes me to keep on keeping on!

Keeping Jesus

July 14, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             July 14, 2017

                                    

“At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.’” (Luke 4:42-43)

I admit it! I have a personal blanket! I am a sixty three year old man with his own “blankie.” It is somewhat tattered now since I started using it shortly after Carol and I were married 38 years ago. It was hers before it gradually got pulled over to my side of the bed.

No one else uses my blanket. After seeing it you would understand why no one else would WANT to use it!  It is my mine!

There are certain things in each of our lives that we are a bit bizarrely possessive of. Some of them, like a coffee mug with our name on it, make sense. And then there’s others, like my blanket, that are a bit of a reach.

Sometimes churches try to keep Jesus! They allude to the idea that Jesus shows up at their house every weekend. Yes, he’s present at other churches, but he is REALLY PRESENT at their location. If you REALLY want to encounter the Savior you are urged to come by their campus. There is a tendency to equate the size of a church with the level of Jesus’ presence!

When Jesus went to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, he drove out some evil spirits, healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law (who immediately got up and started cooking up some dinner for Jesus and the others), healed other people of a variety of sicknesses, and then the next morning went out to a solitary place. His plan was to head to another town, but the people of Capernaum tried to keep him there. When something of God has happened there is a tendency to try and corner the market.

If Jesus would have stayed at Capernaum he would have been a resident prophet, a wise man that people would come to, a scholar-in-residence! He would have gained job security and a regional following, but lost his calling. His path was to take him out of town. He doesn’t even call his disciples until a little while later…when Capernaum is in the distance of his rear view mirror.

It’s interesting that the theology of many churches ripples out from the Great Commission of Jesus that tells his followers to “go”, but the behavior of churches is to “keep.” Excuse the expression, but we want Jesus to be our personal “blankie” that keeps us safe and spiritual. He isn’t to be borrowed by someone else. If they want to snuggle up with our Jesus they need to come to us, because we’re keeping him.

And so we encounter congregations that tell us we can in turn encounter Jesus if we show up at their place. I have learned to avoid churches that seem smugly sure of their resident Savior, and I search for people of faith who humbly hope for his presence. Like Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, they are people who have been restored and reconciled and are now seeking to wait upon Jesus.

 

The Church That Mutually Submits

September 12, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          September 12, 2016

                               

Churches can be incredible places of grace…and churches can be intolerable places of ungodly treatment. I’ve seen both. We dream of the first and too often experience the latter. It’s been that way since….ohhh, say the first century!

The Corinthians could be a reality TV show. Lawsuits, disorder, self-centeredness, strong personalities, dysfunctional church life…they could make a ten year run on Bravo! And most of the seven churches in the early chapters of Revelation…talk about issues!

Churches are comprised of people with issues, otherwise known as imperfect people, who are incapable of perfection. Every church has problems! Every church has warts!

The difference is when a church recognizes that and brings grace into the midst of the fellowship. Grace paves the way for dialogue, forgiveness, and reconciliation. A church that is committed to grace values the principle of mutual submission. That is, each person in the Body of Believers desires to be serve the others. Personal agendas get thrown into the trunk as people in the Body value one another more than they value their own wants.

Here’s the thing! People don’t trust mutual submission. They are afraid of being burned, and afraid that wrong decisions will be made if everyone is treated with equal regard. They are afraid of pushy people pushing their wants, and loud people drowning out those with soft voices. It is easier to be suspicious rather than servant-minded.

The dynamics of the Kingdom of God are written in a different book than the one most of us are living by. Mutual submission means that we recognize that we need each other, we have a deep love and respect for each other, and that we value each other. When “a wart” surfaces in the life of the church the members of the fellowship respond with words of commitment like “We will work it out together!” Judgment and demeaning decisions get thrown into the trunk with the personal agendas and everyone gets a firmer grasp of the hands of others as a storm of conflict is faced. There is a bond that will not let go. People say things like “What’s it going to take to bring our relationships back to the trusting level? Let’s work on it together.”

The dilemma for the church is that she puts up with people that no other organization would tolerate. Our commitment to grace shows in how we love those who believe in grace but never practice it. That takes us back to the reality of the truth that depresses us, that we all have issues and we all need the grace of God. Woe is we!

The reality of our fallen nature, of being people with issues, will not, however, deter me from  believing the church is to be that place of mutual submission and grace! Even though some of the behavior I see or hear about makes me grind my teeth I haven’t given up on the fellowship of Christ-followers yet!

 

The Need To Be Served

June 23, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        June 24, 2016

                                  

As I was driving along yesterday and listening to the radio an interesting statistic was shared by the radio host. He said that a recent study revealed that the typical American family now spends more money in restaurants than it does at the grocery store. In other words, we eat out a lot and spend more of our food budget on a bacon cheeseburger at Applebee’s than packages of ground beef and buns at Safeway.

It also indicates that we are accustomed to being served by others. My driving destination was the car wash to have the layers of Midwest bugs cleaned off my car. It occurred to me that I was served by the man who welcomed me and took the order of what I wanted done; I was then served by the hospitable lady at the register who took my payment and chatted me up for a moment, and then I was served by the man who did the finishing wipe down. In the simple task of getting my car washed three people had directly served me.

After that I went to Sam’s Club to buy some items that I didn’t really need. I almost always use the “self-checkout” lane at Sam’s Club, but even in that lane an employee came up to me and asked if I had found everything I was looking for.

Earlier that morning I had been at Starbucks. No surprise to those who know me! The employees there served and engaged me in conversation. Once in a while I get an email from Starbucks asking me how my recent visit was. There is a short survey that pointedly focuses its questions on how the service was in my visit.

In other words, my morning was punctuated with various people in different locations whose mission was to serve me.

Yes, they were being compensated for their service, but the point is that “being served” is now a major part of the fabric of our lives. When we receive poor service we usually react in negative ways. During our recent cross-country road trip from Colorado to Ohio and back, Carol and I were on the receiving end of great service and really, really…I mean, really bad service. We stopped at several McDonald’s along the way. Most of them had adequate or good service, but one of them stood out with the lack of service. I don’t usually do customer reviews, except when Starbucks offers me a reward for feedback, but I felt compelled to evaluate the experience at this McDonald’s. It was an on-line evaluation, and at the end of it there was a question asking if it was okay if a McDonald’s management person called me on the phone. Surprisingly, a few days later a lady named Nancy called me and asked me about the poor service I had received. She was extremely apologetic and promised me that she would be addressing the issue.

When bad service is given people are concerned. Bad service is an indication that the customer isn’t that important, and customers expect to be served.

I think there’s a lesson for the church in all of that. Our roots are firmly planted in servanthood. Jesus is known as “the servant king.” The early church was about serving. The first restructuring of the first church was because certain people weren’t being served (Acts 6). Deacons came about because of the need for people to be served. The Christians in Rome around AD 250 took charge of people who were infected with smallpox. Families would turn their backs on the sick, but the Christ-followers cared for them in their last days, even to the point of laying down their own lives. Serving was part of their DNA.

We live in a time when many people come to church to be served, which is okay…but they’ve missed part of the message. As followers of Christ we serve and are served. The church is not a gathering of consumers. We’ve been consumed by the love of Christ. That realization changes us!

Carol and I are fixing dinner tonight for two of our children and one son-in-law. It would be easier to go out to a restaurant and be waited upon, but that “food budget stat” has stuck in my gut. I’ll grill, Carol will make a squash casserole and another side dish, and, I guess, we will serve!

I think it will be a good evening!