Article by Teresa Chang
Whenever I meet new members at our church, I like to ask them how they found us, and why they chose to stay. What I’ve been hearing lately as I talk to new members is that they’ve found our church either through social media, our church’s website, some program we held in the community, or through word of mouth. But what I’ve noticed is that many of them say the reason why they stay is because of how our church leaders serve our congregation.
This is a shocking concept when you think about it at length, but God is the Creator of all things—and yet servanthood is a deep, intimate part of His heart. Jesus reiterated this idea again and again:
“He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.”
— Matthew 23:11
“Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.”
— Luke 12:37
“I am among you as the One who serves.”
— Luke 22:27
When we demonstrate Jesus in practical ways by serving other people, not only do we make a difference in their immediate lives, but we also gain the right to lead them.
The world will listen to a person who is a true servant.
In John 13 when Jesus was with His friends in the upper room, He humbled Himself and washed their feet. Scripture indicates that His ability to model servanthood was based in His absolute security in His identity. Jesus knew “that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God” (verse 3). Later in verse 14 He said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Servanthood is the foundation for all leadership and influence; servanthood and leadership are two sides of the same coin. As Bill Johnson, senior leader of Bethel Church in Redding, California, says, “Rule with the heart of a servant. Serve with the heart of a king.”
Paul also made the servant heart of God very clear:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
— Philippians 2:6-7
Jesus emptied Himself to be a servant. He is a servant God. Servanthood is the basis of all true leadership.
Different Types and Times of Servanthood
Administration and deaconal ministry are two different things. Administration involves looking after resources, the calendar, facility, finances and technical and media issues.
Deaconal ministry, on the other hand, refers to the various servant aspects of the church. This is anything that falls within the practical care of its members: greeting and ushering, running a coffee house or bookstore and any other ministry that provides services for the people. Deaconal ministry is sometimes called non-people ministry because it oversees people’s practical needs.
We see deaconal leaders in Luke 8, where women looked after Jesus’ practical needs. Later in the book of Acts, deaconal ministry becomes much clearer when seven men were appointed to see to widows’ needs. As a side note, it is interesting that several of the “deacons” in this passage eventually ended up moving into other powerful ministries. One became an evangelist, and another was Stephen, who some people believe became a prophet, based on the defense he gave just before his death.
The point is that some people are called to serve the church long term and become senior deacons or workers in the Body of Christ. Others, meanwhile, are called to serve as deacons only for a season as they develop into their full ministries.
A quick note about serving: Unfortunately, many people serve out of duty when there’s a higher motivation: delight. Though honorable, duty isn’t a sustainable long-term motivator, but if you can find the pleasure of God in the midst of serving others, you can go on to transform the world.