January 2, 2018
Rich Nathan
Why Serve?

Why Serve?

Corporations understand how powerful service is in developing a faithful clientele. This has been the secret of corporations as diverse as Neiman-Marcus and Frito Lays. They serve their customers.

Service is the hallmark of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel chain. Each staff member is mindful of one thing: we are here to serve our guests. The hotel’s corporate motto is this: “You are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” The stories describing the lengths to which staff members have gone to serve customers are legendary. And when a guest thanks a waiter, a maid, or a concierge, rather than responding, “Hey, it’s no big deal;” or “It’s no problem,” the employee is trained to look the guest in the eye and with a smile, respond: “It is a pleasure to serve you.” Ritz Carlton is a perennial recipient of the hotel industry’s most prestigious awards.

Jesus, of course, taught us about the power of service 2000 years ago. In Matthew 20:24-28, we read:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Why did Jesus consider service to be essential to our discipleship?

Service is essential for Christian growth.
If you were to ask most Christians how people grow spiritually, most often we would say that you need to connect with God through personal devotions and connect to other Christians in a small group. But we’re missing an essential ingredient to growth if we stop there. In addition to personal devotions and fellowship, Christians grow only if they get involved in meaningful service to others. In fact, apart from service to others, it is very difficult to motivate people to have a devotional life or join a small group.

Once people are involved in service, they experience a need for a closer relationship with God. People return from service asking: “Can you teach me how to pray, how to understand the Bible or how to share my faith? I was helping out at the food pantry and I had to pray for someone and I realized I didn’t know how to pray for their needs. Can you teach me?” “I was helping out in an ESL class and I realized that I didn’t know how to share my faith. I need to learn.” Serving creates a hunger to learn which is essential for growth.

Service is essential for connecting with a church.
Erwin McManus, who pastors Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, wrote a book some years ago titled An Unstoppable Force. He said, “A person who attends, but does not begin to serve, will drop out within a year. One can ponder all the research…on how to assimilate…new believers in the Body of Christ, but it comes down to one simple variable, if people begin to serve, they stick. If they don’t they won’t.”

People deepen relationships not only by sitting in a circle in a small group discussing the Bible but also serving shoulder to shoulder next to each other in a ministry. Serving together deepens our connection to the church.

Service is essential for experiencing fulfillment in life.
When people say they feel empty or unfulfilled, they are often told in church, “You have a God-shaped hole. You need to read your Bible more. You need to pray more. You need to worship more.” All of that may be true.

But the Apostle Paul wrote this in Ephesians 2:8-10,
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10 is almost always neglected in our understanding of what a person needs. It is true that every person has a “God-shaped hole”, as the philosopher Pascal put it. But there is a second hole inside of every person, a purpose-shaped hole. And the purpose-shaped hole cannot be filled by more prayer or Bible reading. Until we do the works that God prepared for us to do, we will remain unfulfilled. In other words, we must find a place of meaningful service to feel fully alive!

Service is essential for promoting emotional and physical health.
How do we increase our joy? Through acts of service and self-giving! This is the change that you see in Charles Dickens’ story of Ebenezer Scrooge. With every new expression of giving and benevolence, Scrooge becomes more buoyant, more effervescent, until we find him dancing in the streets and laughing. By serving and giving he became the most generous man in England, and the happiest.

Psychologists talk about “helpers’ high.” Acts of helping measurably boost a person’s happiness. Medical studies suggest that as a person cultivates healthy emotions through self-forgetful activities and giving, they actually prevent aging at the cellular level.

For example, there was an early study done some 30 years ago comparing retirees who volunteered with those who did not volunteer. Volunteers scored significantly higher in life satisfaction and the will to live and had many fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety, and bodily pain. Non-volunteers spent more days in the hospital, took more medication, and were generally sicker.

In another older study, families of recently deceased loved ones reported a major psychological benefit, a mood lift from the decision to donate the organs of their loved ones.

Why is serving so beneficial to older adults? Serving leads to enhanced relationships with others. It helps distract people from their own problems. Serving enhances one’s sense of meaning in life. Serving increases a person’s perception of their own competence. And serving improves a person’s mood and improves our immune system leading to fewer illnesses. The bottom line of all of these volunteerism and helping studies is that serving is significantly associated with better physical and mental health.

In the New Year, 2018, why not find a place of meaningful service at Vineyard Columbus? Serving is good for you, it’s good for others, it’s good for the world and it glorifies God!

To find a place of service here at Vineyard Columbus, contact Diane Bauman at diane.bauman@vineyardcolumbus.org.

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