We purpose to make disciples who joyfully serve Christ together in ministry and missions.
One could argue that community service and restoration are in vogue activities in today’s culture. The last twenty-five years of legislation seems to support such a viewpoint. Yet, many give little or no thought about the glories of Christ and His gospel and how that powerful message translates over into the day to day. They have adopted serving sacrificially, but for what reasons? This second division in the mission statement of South Woods Baptist Church is meant to communicate essential ingredients of true Christian service. Certainly part of a church’s aims and practices should include serving one another and the community in which God has placed her. However, the “Why?” and the “How?” are vital to healthy disciples and disciple making.
Not that being busy for the sake of others is devoid of value—far from it. Sacrificing for others is a noble cause that plays itself out every day in our world. Regardless of one’s own moral compulsions, the Imago Dei is mirrored in every act of sacrificial service. As believers, we can be thankful that various organizations exist to serve others through philanthropy, charities, renovation projects, crime reduction programs, etc. We all know people at the local grocer, or at our neighborhood bank who would probably be willing to give the proverbial shirt off their backs at the drop of a hat. Beyond our immediate context, and on a more severe scale, consider wars alone. Who can count the lives lost in attempts to serve and save others? Yet, for disciples of the Lord Jesus, mere service, even the giving up of one’s life “to be burned,” (1 Cor. 13:3) falls short of acceptable service to God if we miss Who is to be served and how that service is to be rendered.
A central purpose of our local church is to make disciples who become mature servants of Christ. The implications of such a purpose and pursuit are massive and foundational. First, we view Christ as Sovereign Lord of the universe and Head of His church. We are under Him in every way and find the expression of “servant” to be both satisfying and appropriate. The Old Testament name for God, Adonai, meaning “lord, master or owner,” clearly conveys this relationship, which spills over into new covenant realities. The apostle Paul gives strength to this claim in calling Phoebe and Epaphras “servants of Christ Jesus” and of His “church” (Rom 16:1, Col. 4:12).
Second, the church serves Christ not only as Lord, but we serve Him rooted in the wealth of His example. He left the glories of a royal robe and acquainted Himself with the first-century, dust-ridden foot towel. The words of John 13:5 are arresting, “Then [Jesus] poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel…” Thus the pattern of servanthood is furthered with an act normally reserved for the least in the eyes of the world. However, servanthood comes into its clearest focus at Golgotha. Paul’s letter to the Philippians has enlivened saints in sacrificial service for centuries, “[Christ] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8). From the rich soil of Christ’s living and dying example grows the ethical mandate to give our lives over in service to others.
And how are we to offer this service to God and others? With joy. What other affection expresses so clearly what has happened to us? Believers have been tracked from conception, watched with tenderness and are receptors of the greatest news available to the human race! We have been raised from spiritual death to spiritual life, adopted into an unshakable kingdom and brought into the community of the forgiven! Through the death and resurrection, Christ has conquered humanity’s greatest enemies! Grace reigns! Joy! What a mighty, freeing gift of the Spirit that leads us to serve others! But notice what this joy is rooted in. Not performance, but position. J.C. Ryle, the Church of England Bishop of Liverpool in the late 1800’s once exclaimed, “The greatest cause for rejoicing should never be in the act of Christian service, but in the truth of a Christian’s status” (Ryle, Luke Comes Alive!, 76). Ryle was taking his cues from Jesus’ words to His disciples in Luke’s gospel. Seventy-two of His followers came back rejoicing because of their success in serving Him. Yet Jesus gives the corrective, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
As learners of Jesus—who Himself came not to be served but to serve, let us apply our learning by being joyful servants of the Living God. We gladly serve Him. We joyfully serve those made in His image. Glad service—what we were made for, and, what we are destined for. For with grace the Lord will usher us into His marvelous presence with words that have compelled us to adopt such a mission statement, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your master’” (Matt. 25:23).