The Main Thing Part 3: Serve
Mark 10:45; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
Pastor Morris Brown
Last Sunday, Duane Munford, a retired clergy person in our church, reminded me of a scene from the Billy Crystal movie City Slickers. In the scene, Curly, who is played by Jack Palance, asks Mitch, who is played by Billy Crystal, if he knows what the secret to life is. Mitch says, “No, what is it?” Curly holds up one finger and says, “This.” Mitch says, “You’re finger?” Curly says, “No. One thing. You stick to it and the rest will fall into place.” “So,” Mitch says, “What’s the one thing?” Curly says, “That’s for you to figure out!” Well, at Christ Church we’ve figured out what our “one thing” is! And we’ve been talking about it for three weeks.
In a series entitled The Main Thing, we’ve been talking about the fact that if we want to be a highly effective church God can continue to use to transform Greensboro, Guilford County and the rest of the world, we need to be a community of faith that’s doing “one thing”—namely, “keeping the main thing the main thing!”
And we’ve said that “the main thing” at Christ Church is reflected in our core values: love, grow, and serve. The first week we said we want to be a community of faith that’s helping people love God, humanity and all creation. In week two we said we want to be a community of faith that’s helping people grow in Christlikeness. Today, we come to the final message in this worship series and we want to focus on our third core value. Namely, we want to be a community of faith that’s helping people SERVE. In other words, we want to be a church that’s helping people use the gift of their life to SERVE people—in our church, community and world.
You see, if our faith is about anything, it’s about serving others, especially our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate. Jesus reminds us of that in this morning’s scripture lesson. In the gospel of Mark, he says, “Listen, I did not come into the world to be served, but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.”
When it came to the purpose of life, Jesus said, “What gives our lives purpose and meaning is serving others.” The early Christians understood this. In our scripture lesson from Ephesians the writer says, “We are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared to be our way of life.” Or, as another translation puts it, even more succinctly, “God has given us a new life in Jesus Christ, and we should spend that life serving others!” So, if helping people use the gift of their lives to serve others is a core value, one of the main things at Christ Church, the question is this, “How in the world do we do it?”
How can we be a community of faith that is encouraging people, helping people use the gift of their life to serve others—at church, work, school, or anywhere else they may be? Well, in order to do it, I think we have to be a church that’s helping people overcome four barriers to a life of service. Let me tell you what they are.
The first barrier is inferiority. You see, sometimes people fail to use their lives to serve others because they don’t think they’re good enough. They don’t think they have anything to offer. They feel like the guy who went to a psychiatrist to discuss his inferiority complex: The psychiatrist talked to him for a while. Then the psychiatrist said, “I’ve got good news and some bad news.” “What’s the good news?” the man said. “Well”, the psychiatrist said, “the good news is you don’t have an inferiority complex!” “Great!” the man said. “What’s the bad news?” The psychiatrist smiled and said, “The bad news is you really are inferior!”
Sometimes people don’t serve because they think they’re inferior. A few years ago, in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren talks about this. He says, “Sometimes people miss opportunities to serve others because they think they don’t have any gifts that could really be used by God to be of help to somebody else. But,” Warren says, “That way of thinking is ludicrous! The truth is God gives all of us gifts. Each of us has untapped, unrecognized, unused abilities lying dormant inside of us—gifts God wants us to use in a thousand different ways to be of service to other human beings. We just need to identify them and put them to use.”
Paul backs that up in 1 Corinthians 12. He says, “There are many kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are many kinds of working, but the same God working in all humans. Every one of us is given a manifestation of the Spirit to be used to serve other people.”
So, if we want to be a church that’s producing people who are using their lives to serve others, we need to be a church that’s constantly reminds people that they are gifted. And that no matter what their gift may be there is no need to feel inferior in any way, because every gift matters, makes a difference when it’s put to use.
The second barrier is insensitivity. If we want to be a church that’s helping people use the gift of their lives to serve others we need to help them be more sensitive. What I mean here is that we live in a fast-paced society. A society that is so fast-paced, so busy, that we often miss opportunities to serve others. We live in a society that causes us to be so busy, so preoccupied, and so distracted in life that we often lose our sensitivity to the need of those around us, the opportunities God gives us to serve everyday.
Most of you probably remember the famous story Jesus told in the gospel of Luke. It’s called “The Good Samaritan.” It’s a story about a Jewish man who was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when thieves attacked him. He was robbed, beaten and left by the side of the road for dead. If you remember, three men saw the man as he was lying by the road. When two of the men saw him; however, a Levite and a Priest, they failed to stop. They were in too big a hurry to take the time to help him. It was only the Samaritan, the foreigner, the non-Jew, that not only saw the man but was willing to stop, to take time out of his busy life to bind the man’s wounds and take him to a place where he could heal. It was only the Samaritan was truly sensitive enough to serve.
I don’t know if I’ve told you, but my youngest son, Caleb is an Eagle Scout. When he joined scouting, I was really pleased because I knew he would learn a lot of important life skills, like camping, cooking, sailing, and even surviving in the wilderness. There was one life skill I didn’t know Caleb would learn, however. And yet, it was one of the most important. It came in the form of a simple motto he learned as a first-year scout. The motto is: “Do a good turn daily!” You see, what that motto taught Caleb was that no matter what was going on in his life, no matter how busy he was, each day he should look for opportunities to serve others.
Listen, if we want to be a community of faith that’s helping people serve others, we need to be a church that is constantly reminding people that every day, no matter how busy life gets, they need to be sensitive—sensitive to the opportunities God places in all our paths to help and to serve people around us who may be in need.
The third barrier to service is insignificance. You see, sometimes we fail to serve others because we don’t think our small acts of service don’t really make a difference. We don’t think our small acts of service will make an impact. We don’t think our small acts of service will truly matter to the person we serve. We’re like the woman who called her dentist after she’d received a huge bill. “I’m shocked at the amount of this bill!” she cried. “It’s three times the amount you normally charge for a filling! Why?” The dentist smiled and said, “You screamed so loud when I filled your tooth, you scared two of my other patients away!”
What’s the point here? You and I never know what an incredible impact, what an incredible difference even our smallest acts of service to others might make in their lives. For example, a number of years ago, the late Erma Bombeck told about an experience she had when she was flying home from a speaking engagement.
“I was headed home from several busy weeks on the lecture circuit” she writes, “And I was exhausted. When I boarded the plane all I wanted to do was bury my nose in a novel and hope that no one would bother me. That’s
when it happened. A young woman, maybe 30, sat down in the seat beside me and ‘wanted to talk.’ I tried to ignore the girl at first,” Bombeck writes, “but I just couldn’t. So, I put down my novel and for the next hour tried to keep my eyes open as I listened to the young woman tearfully talk about many difficulties she’d been experiencing in her life. Finally,” Bombeck writes, “the plane landed and I quickly stood to get off.
“When I did, however, the young girl grabbed me by the arm and said, ‘Thanks for listening.’ Then, she handed me an envelope and said, ‘I don’t think I need this anymore.’ ‘It was nothing.’ I said. Stuffing the envelope and in my coat pocket, I de-boarded the plane, picked up my luggage, hailed a cab and headed for home. On the way home, however, I became curious. So, I took the envelope the young woman had given me out of my pocket and opened it. When I did, I was shocked. Inside the envelope was a suicide note! That day,” Erma Bombeck writes, “I learned something important. I learned that act of service is too small.”
Jesus said, “A mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” Perhaps he meant to remind us that even our smallest acts of service to others can make an incredible impact.
So, to be a church that is helping people learn to serve others, we need to constantly be reminding ourselves and everyone else who comes into this place that no act of service is insignificant. We need to remind people that every act of compassion service we commit is like a pebble cast into a pond. It has a ripple effect on the world!
The final barrier to service is ignorance. Sometimes people fail to use the gift of their lives to serve because they just don’t understand that that there are great benefits to a life of serving. They don’t understand that when they use their lives to serve, to be of help to others, it has a ‘boomerang effect”.
They don’t understand that when we serve others they get blessed, and so do we—physically, emotionally, spiritually! They don’t understand serving other lifts our spirits, brings joy to our lives, helps us grow closer to God. Years ago, psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger gave a lecture on mental health at Harvard Medical School. At the close of the lecture, a medical student raised his hand and said, “Dr. Menninger, if I came to you feeling dejected and really down in the dumps what would you tell me to do?” Without hesitation, Dr. Menninger smiled and said, “I would advise you to go into the city and do something good for somebody else.”
Proverbs 11:25 says, “Whoever brings blessing on others will be enriched. Whoever waters others, will herself be watered.” So, if we are going to be a church that is helping people serve others we need to help people overcome their ignorance. We need to remind them that when we serve others, we often end up getting blessed!
At Christ Church, our main thing, one of our core values, is to help people use their lives to serve others. And we do that by being a church that’s constantly helping people break through barriers that can keep all of us from a life of service—the barriers of inferiority, insensitivity, insignificance and ignorance.
If we can do that, if we can get passionate about that, I believe God will not only help us be a highly effective community of faith today, God will continue to help us be a highly effective community of faith that God is using to to transform the lives of people in Greensboro, Guilford County, and the world for years to come!