Blessing of Service
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The Blessing of Service
Anyone here like jigsaw puzzles? My wife Tricia does. She just finished a 1000 piece puzzle. I think that’s really good, but check this out. Jack Harris, age 86 set out to put together a five foot long, 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle. His daughter-in-law Eve Harris, gave him the puzzle as a Christmas present in 2002. She thought it would be a challenge for him considering that Jack receives a new puzzle every Christmas only to have it put together by spring. This puzzle, a picture of the 19th century oil painting called The Return of the Prodigal Son, has cluttered his dining table for almost eight years. And just when he thought he was done, he discovered the puzzle was missing one piece. The family has searched his house and even called the puzzle’s manufacturer, Falcon Games, to see if they could provide a spare only to find out they stopped making this puzzle. Now maybe you a wondering, “What happened to the missing puzzle piece?” Most family members believe one of his dogs ate it.”[i] You have to feel sorry for him – right! Talk about “bummer – one missing piece!” I believe with all my heart the Apostle Paul wants to show us the missing piece. Why some churches “get it” and why others don’t. Turn in your Bibles to Ephesians 4! If you do not have a Bible now is the time to raise your hand big and tall.
Last weekend Chuck & Margaret Hegenberger sat in all three worship services so Chuck could tell you about a little blonde haired girl who was thrilled to pick up her food backpack each Friday because she knew her family would have food to eat throughout the entire weekend. Chuck talked about certain churches having electricity” about them. What we are about to read creates the electricity – what we’re about to read is the missing puzzle piece – what we’re about to read is the difference between churches “getting it or blowing it” for God! Let’s start with verse 7 in Ephesians 4. (7 & 11) (some to be apostles – like Peter & Paul) (some to be prophets – like Isaiah & Jeremiah) (some to be evangelists – like Philip & Billy Graham) and some to be pastors and teachers – like Eugene Peterson, Chuck Swindoll and me) I love what I get to do for God. I can’t believe that God allows me to serve him in this two-fold pastor/teacher role. “A pastor is literally a shepherd and is equivalent with an overseer, bishop or elder. A teacher is linked with prophets”[ii] or preachers. My responsibility is to humbly yet boldly present to you a “word from God.”
I’m reminded again of this book called FOCUS! Focus is the combined results of spiritual growth surveys taken in 2008 & 2009 from 80,000 people in 376 churches.[iii] The top ten things people want and need from you and your church! One question really caught my eye. What do people want and need from the Senior Pastor? The survey said – you want is a great sermon. More than anything else you want a moving message – if you laugh or cry that’s okay. You want to hear from God’s word. What you want from me is a great sermon, but what you need from me is to be spiritually challenged. Spiritual challenge oozes from Paul in Ephesians 4:12. (Read) Verse 12 reveals my purpose and our purpose collectively as the church. Paul gives two purposes for every pastor, minister or preacher in verse 12. My gift is to prepare you to serve and to remind you of who you are in Christ. I do that primarily through preaching. I confess – I had no idea what I was doing in 1984 when I graduated from college and then one month later began serving as a minister at a church in Indiana. I thought being a minister meant doing everything and being everywhere! I was basically taught – no one comes to Christ unless they’ve spoken with me – no one leaves the hospital unless they’ve been prayed over by me – I perform all weddings, conduct all funerals and preach every sermon. This is what I thought was correct and what solidified my decision is that everyone in the church was thrilled with that arrangement – we’re good with that! This is terrific- “spiritually gifted Greg” – you do all the work and we’ll sit back and applaud your efforts!
I’ve heard that ministers usually burn out or rust out. I don’t want to do either. I don’t want to one day just spontaneously combust! I also don’t want to sit around idle – rusting out because of the lack of use. I want to be like Moses. Deuteronomy 34 records Moses’ death. Let’s read verses 5-7. I don’t want my eyes to weaken or my strength to be gone. Moses was certainly empowered by God but what strengthened him was his decision to listen to Jethro and delegate the work.[iv] Moses delegated. I must delegate. I must prepare you to use your gifts to serve. The word “prepare” is used only one time in the whole New Testament.[v] Guess where? Right here! To understand a word or a concept I often have to visualize it. Who here has ever broken a bone? Evel Knievel holds the record for most broken bones at one time. He broke 35 bones when one of his motorcycle jumps did not go as planned.[vi] To prepare means “to put right.”[vii] When a broken bone is set – it’s put right. The surgeon is literally preparing that person to walk again! To prepare also means to “mend a net.” Otherwise the net is of no use. Prepare also means “to equip.” Tricia and I had this arrangement when our kids were babies. She would feed them and I would bathe them. She feeds – I bathe. I remember Jeanna and Sam asking, “Dad, why didn’t you feed us? And my standard reply was, “I didn’t have the necessary equipment.” I am to equip you through the preaching of God’s word. We all have the equipment necessary to serve Jesus in this world. You are not alone. The Holy Spirit is with you! You are not weak. The HS has empowered you with gifts to serve! My job is to prepare you! Please read verse 12 again! What does Paul mean by service? I confess – this little story is awesome – so I’m telling it again. One Sunday morning, the pastor noticed little Alex standing in the foyer of the church staring up at a large plaque. It was covered with names and small American flags mounted on both sides. The six-year old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside the little boy, and said quietly, “How are you doing, Alex.” “I’m okay,” Alex replied, still focused on the plaque. 'Pastor, what is this? ‘The pastor said, 'Well son, it's a memorial to all the young men and women who died in the service.' Soberly, they just stood together, staring at the large plaque. Finally, Alex looks up and asked, “Which service, the 8:30 or the 11:00?”
Service is much more than just attending a public worship gathering. Actually worship and service are lifestyles and not mere Sunday events. Dr. Kenny Boles researched the NT and noticed that the words “service” or “to serve” are used 66 times. Two thirds of those 66 times service means “meeting physical needs.”[viii] Like bringing food to hungry kids thru Friday Fare! In his book The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission, John Dickson reflects on the power of God through the story of Tim Winton, Australia's most celebrated novelist with more than a dozen bestselling books and several literary prizes. Winton was once interviewed on the television show Enough Rope, hosted by Andrew Denton. At one point in the interview, the conversation turned to Winton's well-known Christian faith. Denton asked Tim, "When you were…about five, a stranger came into your family and affected your family quite profoundly. Is that right?" Here’s what happened.
In the mid 1960’s Tim Winton’s father, a policeman, had been in a terrible accident. He was knocked off his motorcycle by a drunk driver. After weeks in a coma, he was allowed to go home.
Winton said, “My father was sort of recognizable, but not totally my dad. … Everything was busted up and they put him in the chair. … I was terrified."
Winton's father was a big man and Tim’s Mom had a great deal [of trouble] bathing him each day. There was nothing that Tim, five-year-old boy could do to help. News of the family's situation got out into the local community and shortly afterward, Winton recalls, his mother got a knock at the door. "Oh, g'day. My name's Len. I heard your hubby's [not well]. Anything I can do?" Len Thomas was from the local church, Winton explained. This man had heard about the family's difficulties and wanted to help. He just showed up and he used to carry my dad from bed and put him in the bath and he used to bathe him—which in the 1960's, in Perth, in the Suburbs, was not the sort of thing you saw every day."
According to Winton, this simple act of kindness from a single Christian had a powerful effect. "It really touched me in that, regardless of theology or anything else, watching a grown man bother, for nothing, to show up and wash a sick man—you know, it really affected me."[ix]
Service is the missing puzzle piece. Service is the electricity that some churches are missing. We can’t do squat for the people around us and think God’s ok with that! He’s not!
A woman plugged in her power strip back into itself and for her life’s sake could not understand why her computer would not work.[x] Geez, what’s wrong with the church? We’re not plugged into God’s purposes. If you don’t serve – life will lose perspective. Your life will be devoid of purpose. Did you read about an Upper Arlington man who killed his two sons and then himself? Troy Geller’s suicide note read, “I will shield S&S from a life filled with confusion, questioned allegiances, guilt, hopelessness, co-dependency and insecurity.”[xi] S & S are Solomon and Samson. Solomon and Samson are not ordinary names – John is ordinary – their Dad lost his focus.
Paul reminded me so now I remind you - two times in one verse – we are God’s people – we are the body of Christ. A good pastor must challenge people each week on what it means to become more like Jesus and do you know what Jesus did – Jesus served - so must the body of Christ.
A movie called Waiting for Superman debuted on October 1st. This movie documents the lives of five kids (Daisy, Francisco, Anthony, Emily and Bianca) who want a better life. Folks, we have to stop waiting for superman. He’s not coming. Jesus already came. You can be more than Superman to people – you can be Jesus – how by serving! Today is 10-10-10. It’s unprecedented. I am asking you to do something. Take 10 minutes in the next 10 hours to review the Service page on our website – www.westerville-christian.org You’ll find at least 10 service opportunities. Pick one, but beyond that – I give you permission – GO SERVE SOMEONE!
[ii] A. Skevington Wood, EBC, Volume 11, 58
[iii] Greg L. Hawkins, FOCUS, 11, 51, 103
[iv] Exodus 18: 13-26 (NIV)
[v] Kenneth Boles, College Press NIV Commentary, Ephesians, 277
[vii] A. Skevington Wood, EBC, Volume 11, 58
[viii] Kenneth L. Boles, The College Press NIV Commentary, Ephesians, 278
[ix] http://www.preachingtoday.com/Kindness of one Christian Change Novelist’s Life
[x] Idiot Sighting email from Debbie Russ dated October 4, 2010
[xi] Columbus Dispatch, Misery Drove Dad to Kill