What Does It Mean to Serve?

Jesus made clear that in His kingdom serving is a high-value activity.

Here’s His quote: Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35 NIV

Later, when evidence indicated the disciples were not getting the message, Jesus assumed the role of the lowest servant and washed twelve pairs of dirty feet (see John 13). His object lesson continues to convict hearts and summon workers today.

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:13-15 NIV

I’ve encountered men and women who take this concept of serving seriously. For them serving is a way of life not just something to do to gain respect among their peers. Servants just do it and keep doing it until the job is done. It’s in their nature, I mean, new nature as believers in Jesus. Their acts are usually performed out of the spotlight, away from the accolades and applause, and often with few noticing or recognizing the value of their commitment.

Southbridge Fellowship meets in a rented theater, and the stuff that converts the theater to church each Sunday morning comes from storage. Someone has to unpack, move, and build everything before 9 a.m. Need a multimedia system with a video feed to the overflow room? What about backdrops for the Praise Team along with their instruments and electronics? Want a nursery and classrooms for children? How about some refreshments and welcoming kiosks for visitors and members? That 1980’s U.S. Army tagline, “We do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day” comes to life on Sunday mornings at Southbridge Fellowship.

Southbridge Fellowship relies heavily on the Set Up and Tear Down Team. The work day for that group begins at 6 a.m. in snow, rain, or sunshine. I joined these guys to see how they make church happen. The first lesson I captured was that I’m an amateur with nothing but headroom for growth when it comes to serving. The Set Up and Tear Down Team is not a place for marginal commitment. These guys are all in when they arrive, not only the first to show up but also the last to leave.

How hard is the work? It comes in two flow-rates, off and turbo. Last Sunday I tried to snug up my belt to prevent a wardrobe malfunction but that belt was already on the last hole. In a year I’ve dropped 110 points on my Triglyceride count, added to my HDL level, and built stronger muscles many ways. Objects in the church collection, like the huge nursery carpet which once seemed beyond my ability to move, now get one-handed. In short, trying to keep up with Dale and Gary is whipping me into better shape than I thought possible. And it’s free! Who needs a gym membership?

Paul wrote that the value of godliness exceeds the benefits of physical exercise. As I work with the crew on Sunday mornings I realize I’m walking with quiet giants of the faith who practice both at the same time.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8 NIV

Connecting people to Jesus for life change often means time on our knees with dirty hands and sweaty faces. I’m learning that from Dale and Gary and Dave and Neal and Roger.

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