Summary: This stewardship message challenges the listener to consider their need to move from viewing the church as a place to be served to embracing God’s call to be in service through the church.
From Serve-Us to Service
“Count On Me” Stewardship Series
January 5, 2003
Rev. Gary A. Shockley, Senior Pastor
How many of you remember the old full-service gas stations? My grandfather owned an Arco station in Milton, Delaware. My brother and I spent nearly every Saturday morning following him around while he worked. We’d pick up around the place and he’d reward us with chocolate milk and chocolate donuts.
I remember Pop Pop John and his crew of about four men wearing their navy blue pants and blue pin strip shirts with the Arco logo on the pocket. Each one had a pocket protector with pens and a tire gauge protruding from it. When someone pulled up we’d hear the familiar “ding ding” and watch the crew go to work. Those kinds of stations are mostly a memory these days.
There was a time, for many of us, when church was a place we went to be served. We went to hear an inspiring message. We looked forward to our favorite hymns, to listen to a well-trained choir, to have the pastor pray over us, to have our children taught and our faith encouraged and then, having been “well served” we went home. That’s how I remember it anyway. Little has changed in this regard. If we were honest we’d have to admit that when we were “church shopping” we had our mental list of things we needed the church to be for us. I know when I meet a new family they are probably making a circuit of the area churches. I know we’re being evaluated in terms of what we offer to their household.
In our earlier days I had many people tell me straight out that they wouldn’t be coming back because we didn’t have a “traditional” Sunday School; or cushioned seats; or stained glass windows; or a large enough youth group…and so off they went with their list. There are enough churches around us that eventually people can find what they’re looking for.
But, you know, somewhere in the journey of faith a transition has to happen. I don’t know exactly when it happened for me. You might not be able to point to a date or an event when it happened for you. But somewhere, somehow as Christians we need to find ourselves moving away from “serve-us” to “service”. Where the church is no longer a place we go “to be served” but “to serve”. You know what I mean? James writes in 2:14, “What’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions?” And in 2:17, “Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is no faith at all---it is dead and useless.”
I suspect that at this stage of our church’s development it’s more difficult for us to keep some people because it’s obvious when you come to a new church start meeting in a school cafeteria that this thing has a whole lot more to do with “serving” than being “served”. A church like ours requires a lot of helping hands and faithful hearts! And according to Jesus that’s a very good thing!
You see the Lord intends for us to be a full-service station equipped and committed to serving the needs of our community. What a beautiful metaphor for us! A full-service station for Cranberry and beyond! Right now God is looking for churches like that. The Bible says in 2 Chronicles 16:9, “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” Do God’s eyes land on us? Does he find us fully committed to him?
Jesus puts another spin on this with a story he tells, found in Matthew 25. Let me read it to you now from The Message. (reading Matthew 25:31-46) It’s a story about the final judgment when Jesus will return to separate his obedient followers from pretenders and unbelievers. The criteria he will use to determine which is which is whether we put into action the faith we profess with our mouths. And the service he seeks from us are basic acts of mercy we all can do everyday: feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, be kind to the stranger, clothe the naked, look after the sick.
According to God’s word we will be judged less on what we said or what we did in this life and more on what we failed to do when we had the opportunity to serve others!
A young couple from the hills of Arkansas got involved in a church where they were used to a lot of shouting and clapping and running down the aisles for Jesus. They were trying to convince Grandma that she should attend. “You should have seen,” the young man said to grandma. “The Spirit of God was really there! The music was rocking the place. It was awesome!” Grandma just kept rocking in her chair and didn’t say a word. “And grandma!” said the young woman, “You should have heard the preacher. He was really with it today! He was shouting and screaming at the top of his lungs and people were popping up like popcorn praising the Lord! It was unbelievable!” Again, grandma kept on rocking. Finally the young man said, “Grandma, don’t you like our church?” Grandma finally rose from her chair to speak, “Honey, let me just put it this way. I don’t care how loud they shout, and I don’t care how high they jump. It’s what they do when they come back down that counts!”