In my last post, The joy of service, I wrote about the need to serve practically when all you want to do is teach. Karen asked a great question: “Does it work the other way, Jean–when you’re good at (and often prefer) to stuff envelopes, stack chairs and wash dishes, but the thought of leading Bible study fills you with extreme terror?” Here’s The joy of service re-written (with apologies) for such a person. Because, yes, I have friends who lead Bible studies even though it terrifies them. And, yes, it works both ways.
I’m no up-the-front servant. My love is given to behind-the-scenes ministries: cooking a meal for a friend, stacking chairs, organising events. If I’m honest, I also love the safety of this kind of ministry. There: I’ve said it.
The word-y roles, the out-there roles, the people-can-see-me roles: they don’t come naturally to me. Sitting next to a stranger at church, reading the Bible during the service, welcoming newcomers, leading a small group, walking into a room full of people: I try to avoid these things. I have to fight down my terror as I do them. I don’t like this about myself, but it’s true.
I know this isn’t good enough. I know that to stuff envelopes and avoid people is as far from our Lord’s example as hell from heaven. And so picture, if you will, a recent morning at our church. The usual leaders aren’t there, so I sit with people I don’t know. When we split into small groups to pray after the sermon, I find myself leading the prayers.
Then there’s this moment. This crystal-clear, earth-touches-heaven, joy-filled moment. As I say a stumbling prayer for one of the members of the group, it’s as if I’m speaking Christ’s words on his behalf. If it was Paul’s privilege to suffer with him, it’s mine to serve with him.1 Looking at this group of strangers, awkward with unspoken fears, I touch the tiniest edge of what it meant for him to serve.
The One with the right to a universe of worship gave up his own interests, his right to equality with God, and made himself nothing. The King of heaven and earth got off a chair, tied a towel around his waist, and knelt to wash his follower’s feet. God’s own Son was stripped naked and hung on a cross, abandoned between earth and heaven, bleeding out his life for his bride.2
Leading a group in prayer is just a baby-step as I follow in his footsteps. But if so much joy can be found in such a simple task, I wonder what else we miss out on when we refuse to serve.