Like a good many of you, I’ve been captivated by the extraordinary and easy-to-read book, A Church Called Tov: Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing, by Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer. “Tov” is Hebrew for good. In the book, on page 176, there is this quote about how servant pastors are committed to nurturing cultures of service:
A culture of service turns everyone toward one another instead of toward themselves. People are first, grace matters, empathy is a first response, truth is told, and doing what is right shapes the mission of the church.”
In other words, people serving people, first and foremost through acts of an other-felt grace, empathy for the other, the honoring of truth, and the doing of justice—always oriented for the blessing of others. Service, in one word.
Service is always outward focused, not out of neediness, but out of the opportunity to honor others, “considering others above ourselves” (Philippians 2:3-4).
The essence of this is outdoing one another in works of lovingkindness, gentleness, patience, compassion, and faithfulness.
It’s striving to always outreach the other’s love, never looking back to see if they reciprocate or not. It’s loving others by serving them, simply because we can. It begins from joy and sustains joy.
Imagine the power of the Spirit working in and through us when our sole focus is to bless others.
A culture of service magnifies the theology of John the Baptist, who said of Jesus in John 3:30, “He must become greater, I must become less.”
For me, it was while I was in the ‘church’ of Alcoholics Anonymous that I saw firsthand and learned the ethic of service. AA has three main goals: unity, service, recovery. (These three goals, by the way, would serve the Christian church well. Unity is Jesus’ desire that we’d all be one as he and the Father are one (John 17:21-23). Recovery is simply discipleship in acknowledgment that once we’re saved, being in recovery from our former selves, we spend the rest of our lives discovering how to truly live the abundant life—and service is central to that goal.
We always get much more than we give
when we serve with a heart to serve.
You may not believe me, but I think service is close to the purpose of life.
- we discover through service how to treat others the way we wish to be treated (Matthew 7:12)
- we’re useful when we serve
- we find our way to God through it (God shows us our heart through service)
- there’s no better way to true humility
- in serving we learn how to be loved in return when we’re thanked (most people find it easier to give love than to receive it)
- we think less of ourselves when we’re thinking more of others
Most of all, service is a string line to life. A builder uses a string line to chart the straight and true lines of their construction, just as service can be our string line in providing straight and true lines with which to secure and sustain our faith.
Service straightens out our fallible moods and it’s true in that such generous behavior good attitudes are formed. Service helps to prevent stinking thinking.
Converting good from evil, which is the essence of peacemaking, service sows peace and reaps a harvest of goodness because others are blessed (James 3:18).
Service straightens out the crooked things. Simply put, serving is good.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Tribework