In John chapter 13, our Lord engages in absolute shocking behavior. Most of His ministry was shocking. He healed the sick, raised the dead, turned water into wine, calmed the sea, and many other miracles. Pretty much everything He did was shocking because nobody had seen it before. However, the behavior in John 13 has nothing to do with miracles or divine acts of nature; yet it is similarly shocking. The Lord girds Himself as a servant and kneels down to wash the feet of His disciples. This might be the most shocking act Jesus ever performed because the Lord of heaven and earth stooped down to perform the task of the lowliest servant. Our next characteristic of a healthy church is: Humble Service.
When Jesus had finished washing the disciples’ feet, He then instructed them saying, “If I then, the Lord and Teacher washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John 13:14-15). He was not instituting a third ordinance to be practiced by the church, but He was instituting a model of service that should be followed by those in church. He is the ‘example.’ He then states in the next verse, “Truly, truly I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master.” The lesson is obvious: if He is the Master (and He is), and He is willing to stoop to perform the lowliest task, then why would His servants refuse acts of lowly service? Are we too good or too important to serve? A healthy church is filled with people who engage in humble service.
The New Testament teaches us to serve one another (Gal 5:13), those in leadership are called to serve the body (1 Tim 3:10, 13), Paul saw his work as service (2 Tim 1:3), all believers are called on to serve Christ (Col 3:24), and Peter groups spiritual gifts in the church into one of two categories: speaking and serving (1 Pet 4:11). In that same context, Peter calls on everyone in the church to use his/her spiritual gift in order to serve one another (1 Pet 4:10). The church is not made up of a group of professionals, high ranking, and authoritarian types. The church is made up of a bunch of servants…who emulate Jesus Christ in that endeavor.
It is spiritually unhealthy for church members to see themselves as anything more than just servants. That’s why I added the qualifier ‘Humble’ to this call to service. If our Lord was willing to take the form of the lowest servant, and perform that task, then what task is too ‘low’ for us to perform in the church? What job will you just not do? What restriction in service do you have? Is it grabbing a rag? Or, taking out the trash? Or, drying dishes in the church kitchen? If so, then I would ask, what demands do servants get to make? Some people have the perspective on service like this: “I’ll serve, but I’m not doing that!” This is where humility is critical. We are only in His family because of the Lord’s salvation, we are only in His kingdom because He graciously allowed us to be, we are only a part of this church because of His calling, and we cannot forget that. A humble servant says, “Use me!” because it is a divine privilege even to be here.
It has been said that in churches 10% of the people do 90% of the work. That should not be the case. What has happened to the other 90%? It is the infiltration of the ‘consumer mentality’ that plagues churches. People go to church to receive, to get something, and if the church doesn’t deliver week after week they are gone. Churches scramble every single week to put a viable ‘product’ or experience out there that people can come and consume, feel good about, and then go home happy. When that happens, a church is unhealthy because the people are not seeing the church as a place to get involved and serve; and that is what believers are called to do.
I challenge you to find a ministry in the church where you can regularly serve. Where you can participate in the advancement of the kingdom of God, where you can be building up the body of Christ, and where you can be emulating our Lord, the Humble Servant.
- Pastor Mark Scialabba