“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Service -- A Dead Idea?

In the U.S., we live in a society that is completely self-absorbed – everything is built around us, and if it isn’t, we are upset (I suffer from this as much as anyone). We can get on the web and create entire environments that focus on us (witness the success of MySpace, YouTube and FaceBook). We can write anything we want on our Weblog, thinking that it is important, and calling ourselves ‘published’ authors, We can put a camera on our every action and broadcast ourselves on YouTube. Our young folks are feted by marketeers from the time they can walk and talk; telling them that they 'deserve' whatever product is being hawked; that, at the end of the day, its all about them.

All of these things have created an environment where service to others (much less thought about others) has been relegated to nothing more than a quaint old-fashioned concept. If you doubt this, go to a restaurant and see what the service is like – I recently went to a restaurant, and one of my friends had to practically beg to get a cup of water, all the while the wait staff stood behind the counter yakking. When was the last time that you saw someone give up their seat to an older person, or a pregnant woman? When boarding a plane, how many times do you see a so-called professional running over small children, older people, or anyone else foolish enough to get in their way; and all the while they are talking on their cell-phone, checking their PDA, some other self-absorbed activity; completely OBLIVIOUS to everyone else!

Watch a professional football player – when he scores a touchdown, he goes into some elaborate dance as if he had done something really special, but in reality, these people are paid quite well to score touchdowns, in other words, he celebrates when he does his job! Could you imagine a bagger at Wal*Mart going into a touchdown dance once they had successfully bagged your purchases; we would consider them a little touched, but yet we cheer these overpaid, self-absorbed men playing a child's game!

The football analogy is a good one for us to look at. When a ‘superstar’ scores a touchdown, it is the result of many men doing their job – no one, not even T.O., (I live in the Dallas area), can walk onto a football field and take on the entire opposing team by himself. Without the unsung service of the offensive line, he, or the QB gets squashed every time! It is the same in a church – yes, the pastor may deliver a powerful message but first and foremost; the message is God’s Word, not the pastor’s! Secondly, in our case, there are people who pray for me before every service, and there are people who ensure that I am able to come up here and do what the Lord has called me to do. There is no Lone Ranger in ministry – we need each and every person to do what the Lord has called them to do.

Sadly, the pervasive and insidious narcissism of the world has snuck into the church. Instead of God’s people gathering to worship and serve a Sovereign King, we have become a people who gather together to get be entertained, coddled and amused.

We, in the modern church, have created an entire generation of people who think that church is all about them and their needs, rather than about God and His Glory. And it shows: church-hopping is very common in today’s world; people will attend a church as long as it fills their needs, but the minute another church offers something more ‘interesting', or caters more to their needs, they will bail on their church where they may be needed, in order 'be served' as opposed to 'serve'.

Membership is something that people do not understand very well, even those who may belong to a church. Some may even belong to a different church every year or multiple churches at the same time, all the while chasing a feeling.

Tithing has always been a struggle, but even more so nowadays when we have far more things to spend our money on. Some even withhold it as a sort of ransom to get the pastor to preach on their favorite subjects. Lest you think I am immune to any of this, I just want to ensure that I am not. I struggle with self-centeredness as much as anyone else.

What I found as I studied the Word is that Christian service is not a nice idea, or a suggestion, rather it is something that the Lord Himself commands those called by His name. Those called by His Name are to be a peculiar, caring, service-oriented people. Sadly, we are not very peculiar – we are as self-absorbed, as worrisome, as caught up in consumerism as the next person.

As I work through this series of posts I am going to examine whether or not we are servants in our hearts, or if the church is simply consumed with itself. Are we peculiar, or do we look just like the world around us? How do we get back to the ideals of Christian Service? I am under no allusion that this series of posts in a far corner of the blogosphere will change anyone, except, hopefully me. As a pastor, I am ashamed of my own self-centered attitude, so maybe this series of posts is a catharsis for me, who knows?

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