Have you ever stopped and thought about WHY you serve? Recently, I found myself thinking about this very thing. At our church, it's been really difficult to recruit and retain volunteers in our Children's Ministry Program. I ALWAYS feel guilty when someone asks if I would be willing to help out. I never say, "No." BUT...I want to. And to be honest, I all but say, "No." I've begged and pleaded... groveled, really. Then I follow up by saying, "But, if you can't find anyone else and you really need me then I will." I'm a fine example, right? In my defense (if I can call it that!), I'm at home with three kids five days a week... homeschooling. I look at going to church as my respite... the one place where, for about an hour, I can sit, hear God's word and not be interrupted with endless requests for help with school work, going to the potty or fixing juice.
So, reading Chan's description for this characteristic was a little painful:
"People who are obsessed with Jesus do not consider service a burden. Obsessed people take joy in loving God by loving His people (Matt. 13:44; John 15:8)."
Yet, as painful as it is to read this characteristic, I have to admit that I still feel the same way... sort of. I think the problem with this characteristic is that the word "service" is painted with a broad stroke... especially when referring to my example. Over the past few weeks, I've really spent some time looking at everything I do outside of my familial structure. I was stretched pretty thin...serving. And for the most part, I loved the way I chose to serve. However, a lot of the activities I was participating in weren't necessarily about serving other people. Of course, I could rationalize that they were... and I'm quite sure I could convincingly persuade you of the same. But, I know my heart, that the majority of my service, first and foremost, fulfilled a personal need for myself... kinda takes away from the point of service, doesn't it!
Now, some might argue that it doesn't matter why you're motivated to serve... the important thing is that you ARE serving. But, I beg to differ. I think your motivation is equally important... if not more important. I could enter into a rather lengthy diatribe here, but I'll spare you! I'll just share what God has put on my heart these past few months... and how He has changed my heart when it comes to the area of service.
I strongly believe that God places desires in our hearts, and that He gives us gifts, both spiritual and physical, that He wants us to share with others... IN SERVICE TO HIM. As I've spent time the past couple of months thinking about the portions God has given to me, I have grown to understand and appreciate the difference in serving out of necessity, or obligation, and serving out of true love for Him. In my example, the Children's Ministry Program needed volunteers, which, in this particular case means teaching the kids a pre-planned curriculum and making sure that nothing gets out of hand. As I mentioned before, this wasn't appealing to me... mostly because it's an extension of my rather monotonous weekdays. But, as I began to think about my gifts... specifically how I could use my gifts to fill an obvious need, an interesting thing began to happen. I was coming up with ideas that would not only help fill a void in that particular ministry, but could, quite possibly, enhance it. I thought about taking my love for music, or missions, and using those gifts to teach the children... starting a new ministry within the Children's Ministry. (Now, it should be noted that I haven't done these things; however, I have suggested the idea and expressed my willingness to pursue the endeavor.)
I've come to realize that so many of us see service as a chore because we just "plug in" to existing projects, or ministries. Sometimes this limits us, and ultimately, frustrates us. And, it's really hard to serve with a joyful heart when we're frustrated with what we're doing. Some might scoff at what I'm proposing, adhering to the 'ole saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" But, my contention is that something doesn't have to be broken for it to lose its effectiveness. What I'm suggesting is that the best way to combat complacency, or mere routine, is to infuse it with a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit... through the myriad of gifts and talents that He bestows on us. If we begin to think outside the box, if you will, I'm quite positive that we'll begin to see the endless opportunities of how we can bring the idea of service to a new level. The best way I know to show love to God's children (young or old) through service, is to teach them about what He has done in my life... to share the gifts He has given me. And I think this is the transformation that Chan is eluding to... where service is no longer about obligation, but, instead, about the pure joy of loving God and His people... of sharing Him with others.
When you think of service, what feelings do you have? Joy or dread? Do you think of obligation or opportunity? If the word "service" brings up feelings of dread or obligation, maybe it's time for you (like me!) to think outside the box. Sometimes that's where He gives me my best ideas!