Dear Church Family,
The tenth section of our newly adopted church covenant reads: “We will serve one another, using the gifts God has granted us. And in doing so, we will strive always to rely on the power of His Holy Spirit that all glory may be given to Him.”
All Christians are called to serve. We once were enslaved to sin and selfishly served ourselves, but when we were filled with the Holy Spirit, we became slaves to God who selflessly serve others. When we serve one another, we mimic our Master who said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15). The Son of Man deserved to be served as the Son of God, but instead He humbled Himself—even to the point of dying on a cross—to serve His people (see Philippians 2; Ephesians 5).
Service does not come naturally to our flesh. Our sinful natures demand that we should be served. It is the grace of God at work in our lives that gives us both the desire to serve and the power to carry it out. Now we struggle to humbly “count others more significant than ourselves” and to “look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Again, we don’t think this way on our own. It is only through the renewing of our mind in Christ Jesus that this happens. In other words, God gives us a mind to serve in Jesus.
Along with this mind to serve, He gives us grace and gifts to serve as well. Think of Ephesians 4:7, “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift,” 1 Corinthians 12:7, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good,” Romans 12:6, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…”, and 1 Corinthians 12:11, “All these [gifts] are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” If we are in Christ, each of us has been given a unique role to play in serving the body and “when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:16). Our diversity fuels our unity because we are interdependent on one another as we all depend on Christ. Because of this, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Now if we were to root all of these verses in their contexts, we would see that these gifts of grace are designed to be experienced primarily within the local church. For example, Romans 12:4-5 says, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Each Christian is primarily called to serve the body he or she is a member of. I might temporarily use my hands to feed my children, but primarily I must use my hands to feed myself. If these members of my body do not primarily and ordinarily serve my body, the rest of my members will suffer and their service to those outside my body will suffer as well. Or think of the flight attendant telling you to put on your oxygen mask first before you help anyone else. In order to serve outside our local church as God intends, we must serve within our body first and foremost.
There are some who believe they can serve God best on their own without the church. But those who willingly distance themselves from the local church—even in the name of serving outside the church, are not only disobeying God’s Word, they are hurting their own body and themselves by extension. Others believe the church exists to serve them. But church isn’t about “me,” it’s about “us” pursuing Christ together. Still others believe their gifting and service are insignificant to the health of the whole church. But God has designed the body with members who have different gifts to perform different functions, each of which is necessary for the health of the whole—even if it isn’t clear how.
We may not agree with, enjoy, or understand all the ins and outs of church membership, but as we seek to serve one another as Scripture commands, we will find ourselves serving our Lord and being served in return. Brothers and sisters, let us trust in the wise design of our Lord and serve one another faithfully within the context of our local church “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11).