Fourth in a series on The Effective Pastor
“He who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he who governs as he who serves…. I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:24-30).
When Bill and Carolyn Self wrote a book about hospitality in the church, they said the pastor and his wife should never eat at church dinners. Instead, they should circulate among the diners with the tea pitchers, serving people, getting to know everyone, greeting each person in the room.
That is so smart. And infinitely wise.
Such a minister and spouse can do as much personal ministry in one hour of pouring tea as they will do in a week.
Serving people. What a novel concept!
Nothing defines you, pastor, like your willingness to get in there and get your hands dirty, to do menial jobs, to help sweep the floor or serve the iced tea or clean up afterwards.
This is a call for pastors to be servants. Not a new or strange idea, to be sure. After all, our Lord said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matthew 10:24).
But there is a little problem.
We don’t like to serve.
Something inside many of us pastors prefers to be honored rather than to serve and give honor. Peter addressed this very thing: “Not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (I Peter 5:3).
We would rather receive acclaim and recognition than to remain in the background and serve.
We would rather be in the forefront, at the pinnacle, the star of the show, rather than to join the supporting cast, to be an encourager, to be a member of the event staff.
And yet, this option is not available to the Lord’s children.
We are called to serve.
We are sent to serve by One who said, “I am among you as one who serves.”
I cringe every time someone reports to me that their pastor has said something like, “God made me the pastor and I’m in charge. You are supposed to do what I say.”
Any preacher spouting that half-truth has lost the battle already and should repent.
The shepherd is not to “lord it over” anyone, particularly the Lord’s people.
There is a “Lord over the congregation” and it ain’t you, pastor.
You are there to serve them, pastor. To make them successful, healthy, holy.
You are to set the example, to be role models, to show them how.
It’s like husbands and wives. While Scripture does indeed call on the wife to “be in subject to your husband,” that husband is nowhere authorized to order her around. Instead, he is to “love her” in the same way Christ loved the church. And how much is that? “Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.”
Give yourself to her, husband. Devote yourself to meeting her needs. Do that, and she won’t mind subjecting herself to you. But lord it over her and no woman on earth will want to obey you.
Here are some ways pastors may serve their congregations. You’ll think of a hundred more….
–By serving the tea at church dinners.
–By joining the brigade that mows the grass for widows or repairs the roofs for the elderly.
–By being available for crises and emergencies. By building a reputation as one who cares for his flock.
–By taking the initial in reaching out and ministering to needs within the congregation before anyone thinks to ask you. You surprise them by showing up with groceries or a cash gift or flowers or something to show you care.
–By daily praying for members of your church in your private prayer-closet, lifting those with needs and those in critical places of leadership to Him, and then never mentioning it to them. Just do it.
–By never playing the “headship” card. No private parking space in the church lot. No insisting the staff call you “Doctor.” (Sheesh!) Exhibiting humility not because it’s good PR but because you are humble.
–By knocking yourself out to make your staff members more successful in their work and to make them “look good,” as the saying goes. Do the same with lay leaders of the church too. The church will grow stronger by the moment.
“We do not preach ourselves,” Paul said. “But Jesus Christ as Lord.”
And what about yourself, Paul. “And ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).
Do not miss the qualifying phrase “for Jesus’ sake.” I take that to mean this. I am your servant, but I do not take orders from you. I take orders from the Lord–your Great Shepherd–as to how to serve you.
Servant is the humblest job on the planet. And it’s yours, pastor. Give it a try.