Hopefully, many of you were able to attend the Council of Jackson this past November. Our subject for this year was John Calvin in Geneva and so we spent some time studying Calvin in preparation for the event. Before we started the study, I knew Calvin was a great theologian. I knew of the Institutes. I knew he played a major a role in the Protestant Reformation. Yet, what I did not know is Calvin's love and service to the Church. This is what overwhelmed me as I looked at the life of Calvin and this is what we wanted to communicate through the drama. Calvin was compelled by God to labor in and for the Church in Geneva. So much so that even after he was banished from the city and even in the face of great suffering, he returned to the city because of his devotion to the Church in Geneva. This morning the question before us is, What are my responsibilities to serve in and for the Church? As a Christian and a member of this local Body, what are my responsibilities to serve in and for her? Calvin (and so many from Church history) truly serves as a great example of one who answered that question faithfully. May we follow in his (and their) footsteps as we seek to serve in and for Cornerstone Community Church.
III. Passages to consider concerning Service:
A. The first passage I want us to consider this morning is John 13:1-17. We see clearly in this passage that Christ is our primary example of service. The very Son of God chose to come and serve. Verse three reveals much to John's readers (as Lee pointed out to us in his sermon over this text a couple of weeks ago). It is not as if Jesus did not know who He was or what He was hear to do. No, He is well aware of the situation. He knows who He is and what is about to take place. Yet, in this hour, He humbles himself (taking the position of a slave or servant) and washes the feet of His disciples. What an amazing account of Christ's willingness to serve. And how does this account end? Look at verses 12-17. Christ concludes this act by telling His disciples to serve each other even as He has served them. Thus, we see from this passage a call for believers to follow the example of their Savior in serving one another (another passage that calls us to serve as Christ has served is Philippians 2:1-11).
B. The second passage that I want us to look at this morning is 1 Peter 4:7-11. Here, Peter is giving instructions for how the believers are to live in contrast to Gentile unbelievers (see v.1-6). Instead of living in sensuality, passions, and open debauchery, Peter calls the believers to be sober minded, self-controlled, and to serve one another in love with the gift God has given them. In fact, he essentially calls this a stewardship issue. In other words, God has given believers gifts that they are to use in service of other believers. All this He gives for His glory in our service to one another (see verse 11).
C. An example of this type of service in the Church can be seen in the life of Paul. As we read through his letters in the New Testament we cannot help but notice his devotion to the Churches (see Acts 20:17-38 and Colossians 1:24-2:5). Paul labors for the Church by using the gift God has given him to serve. His love for the Church is clear in throughout the pages of the New Testament. Paul's life should challenge ours. How can we spend our lives and the gifts God has given us for the Church as Paul labored to do? How can we be good stewards of the gifts God has given us by His grace? These are questions that we need to ask ourselves and seek to answer as we are pondering our responsibilities to the local Church.
IV. Misconceptions concerning serving in and for the local Church:
There are some common misconceptions about serving in and for the local Church that I think would be helpful for us to identify this morning. It is not as if all of you are struggling with all of these, but I would tend to think that most of us have struggled with some of these at one time or another. In fact, I would say that at some point your service has been stifled in the Church because of one or more of these misconceptions. So, for that reason, I want to consider them this morning.
A. The first misconceptions sounds something like this: 'I can only serve the Church by doing 'official' service.' A variation of this is 'I will serve only when I am asked.' Another, more pointed variation could be: 'I will only serve when I am guaranteed appreciation.' If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that recognition is often our main motivation for service. Thus, serving in non-official ways looses any appeal. Yet, we must be willing to serve silently if need be. We need to recognize that there are many quiet ways in which Cornerstone needs to be served. We must take the initiative to serve even if it is not 'official' service.
B. A second misconception could be stated this way: 'Service is primarily for the staff, elders, deacons, or a select few.' You have probably heard the quip: 80% of the work in the Church gets done by 20% of the people. Again, this shows our great misunderstanding of the role of leaders and laiety. If you think back to what Peter says in his letter, it is clear that all have been given gifts and all are responsible to be good stewards with that gift in serving the Church. When we fail to do this, the result is often hired ministers in the Church laboring in areas that they are not necessarily called to labor in. Rather, the entire body should labor in serving the Church however they are called to in order that the elders and deacons and everyone else can labor in serving the Church how they are called to. This seems to be the point of passages like 1 Peter 4:10-11, Ephesians 4:1-1-16, and 1 Corinthians 12. As members, we must take heed of these passages and seek to serve in the manner to which God has called us in this local Body.
C. Another misconception is 'I should serve out of duty and not joy.' A similar variation of this is 'Service means always doing something that I will not enjoy.' Again, I think these are misunderstandings of the Biblical concept of service. To be sure, the Bible recognizes that service can and will be hard and difficult at times. We see numerous examples of this in the life of Christ and the apostles. Yet, even though certain situations were extremely difficult, this does not mean that their service lacked joy (see Acts 5:41-42 and Hebrews 12:1-2). Likewise, although certain tasks will be difficult, this does not mean that God will always call us to serve in the Church in ways that we do not enjoy. My ministry here at Cornerstone is an example of this. There are parts of my service here at the Church that are not particularly my favorite things to do. Yet, I would be lying to you if I told that I did not thoroughly enjoy my service here at the Church. God has gifted me to serve in a particular capacity here at the Church and I find great joy being spent on His glory in these ways
D. The last misconception that I want to identify is this: 'Service is optional.' Consider Ephesians 2:10, which says, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Paul only confirms in this verse what Christ has commanded his disciples and what Peter exhorted his readers to do, namely serve one another. The clear call in Scripture is that as believers we are called and commanded to serve one another. Thus, service in the Church is not optional.
V. What then should I do?
Let me conclude this morning by simply giving you three practical suggestions for seeking to serve in the Church. The first is to simply identify specific areas you can serve in the Church. Again, do not limit yourself to just 'official' activities. Rather, simply look for needs that you can meet and then seek to meet them. A second challenge is to serve with excellence, in the Lord's strength, that He might receive glory. At times we are tempted to give the Lord second rate service. Rather, considering the passages we have examined this morning, our service needs to be done with excellence, according to the gift we have been given, that God may receive glory in the Church. The last suggestion I want to make is to encourage one another in their service in and for the Church. As you are served by others in this Church you need to encourage them and be thankful for their service. Likewise, we need to encourage one another and hold one another accountable to serve in the Church. In the end, may we indeed serve one another as Christ has served us.
VI. Close in prayer