Archive for July 26th, 2008

On being a servant

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

 “Why, why won’t he come to visit me?”

Jimmy lay in a hospital bed, dying of congestive heart failure. He had been a member of a local church for three or four decades. Now, as an ailing old man, he wanted more than anything in the world to see his pastor come and visit him.

He knew that his time on earth was almost up. He knew time was short. Yet he had been in the hospital with a failing heart for several days, and his pastor had not been by to see him.

“I really wish he would come see me. He knows I’m here. Why won’t he come?”

I was in the same hospital room with Jimmy two days later as he drew his last breath. He was unconscious all that day, so I don’t know if his pastor ever came to visit him.

But, God impressed something on my heart that day that I will never forget.

When God calls us to be pastors, He calls us to be ministers. A pastor is a care-taker. A minister is a servant. He calls us to be the servants of His church – the foot-washers of His people.

Our purpose is to serve the flock. When a church member walks into church on Sunday morning, we should look at them and think in our hearts, “I am their servant.”

That’s a hard thing. Our pride intervenes and cries out, “but I must be their leader! That’s what God has called me to do!”

The best way to lead is to serve. Jump in and show them what it means to serve. Show them what Christ meant when He washed His disciples feet.

If we seek to be great, we shall be least of all in His Kingdom. But, if we seek to serve, to be the least, then we shall be greater.

We should not be too proud to plunge the church toilet; to get on our hands and knees and wash the floor; to help serve the food at a church dinner. By serving we are not only fulfilling God’s commandment and call on our life, but we are also providing an accurate role model for the Christians in the church.

If we model everything that the world expects from a “leader,” then that’s the model the folks in the church will try to emulate, and we’ll have all kinds of worldly “leaders” and no one to serve. But, if we model service, if we model the servant’s heart, then people will emulate that.

It’s ironic that the greatest leader is really the greatest servant – which is why one cannot learn to “lead” well until they have learned to serve well.

A mayor, a bureaucrat, a police officer, a town manager, a legislator, a judge – all are servants of the people in the worldly sense. They are our servants. We pay their salaries, we pay their health insurance, we give them their office, their car, their authority – everything is given to them by us in order for them to serve us. Many do it very well. They remember that, above all, they are servants, and they do a great job working for the public good. Others, however, get a little power, a little money, a little authority, and they become consumed with pride and lord over us instead of serving us; or, they seek solely to advance their own careers and fortunes instead of promoting the good of the people. They decide that they are better than us and, although they are nominally a “public servant”, there is not a servant’s thought in their whole mind.

Our nation suffers greatly because of public servants who have forgotten their calling.

Our churches suffer greatly because of pastors who have forgotten their calling.

When someone in the church is sick, we should visit them. Not just the ones who have a little money and influence, but all of them.

We should be ready to set aside our busy schedules to go and sit with a sick person, to spend an afternoon with a lonely person, to help a church member build a chicken coop, to counsel someone who is in crisis.

If our pastoral duties keep us too busy to do that for the members in our churches, then we need to start shedding some of those other, less important duties and get back to being a servant of the people.

Let the deacons be CEO, manage the money, and conduct the “business” side of church activity. That’s what they are there for: to handle the temporal things so that we can be about the eternal. Our first responsibility is to our calling as pastor and minister, as servant to God’s church.