As someone who has served in church for years, I’ve been through the different stages of serving as well as seen others serve. Sometimes, after a long while of serving, being behind the scenes and feeling under-appreciated, things can take a toll and some burn out or end up leaving church altogether. Some who have been called into ministry by their leaders may seem to find serving as a chore with no purpose. As for me, even after years of serving, I’m still loving every bit of my ministry as much as I did from the start. So here are the philosophies that I hold onto and remind myself to keep going what the going gets tough.
It starts simple. By taking initiative to offer to serve, we allow others to know that we are willing. There’s little worst than a passive bystander when it comes to serving. To enjoy serving, it first starts by being active, involved, and having a good countenance. If we are being called to serve in an area that we are unfamiliar with or have no confidence in, instead of backing away, the better option is to simply ask. That way we can not only be exposed to greater opportunities, but also learn in our serving journey.
Commit Time & Effort
I like to use the analogy of painting when it comes to serving. When we just scribble and splash paint for the sake of making a painting, we would never be able to appreciate our work and take pride in it, much less enjoy doing it. In contrast, when we put in thoughts of what we want our painting to portray, and we commit the time and effort to perfect every brush stroke, what comes out will be an artwork that is priceless to us. Similarly in serving, it’s difficult for us to enjoy what we do if we just look at doing the bare minimum of what we’re told. Instead, when we commit the time and effort to serve, sometimes regardless of our emotions or circumstances, we not only grow in our capacity to serve, but in our character and attitude as a person.
A big ministry starts with attention to the smallest details. Regardless of the size or scale of your serving, the small details that you think nobody pays attention to, will be what shines through when you serve. Excellence is not a standard of perfection, but an attitude in itself. It is making the extra mile to keep things consistently good and to give the best we’ve got. While our choice to serve is powered by our love for God and His church, our excitement in serving is fueled by our attitude of excellence. In the Bible, 2 Corinthians 8:7 it says “But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, and in all eagerness and in the love from us that is in you—make sure that you excel in this act of kindness too.” As we serve, we must have a revelation that God is not calling us to follow orders, but to put our heart and passionately give our all for the needs of others.
Comparison can destroy our love for serving. As people, sometimes we like to compare a myriad of things, from the way we’re being treated to the responsibilities we’re given. The constant comparisons can build up and eventually we forget why we are even serving in the first place. In John 21:18-22, it was a great moment when Jesus just gave Peter his final instructions to start the church and follow Him, but all Peter could do was to point at John and ask “What about him, Lord?” Sometimes we are doing powerful things – following our calling or serving by vision and revelation. Yet this spirit of comparison makes our sight inexplicably narrow, such that even when we are fulfilling our God-given purpose, all we see is ourselves compared to others. Jesus’ reply to Peter was simple: “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” If others are being treated better or have lesser responsibilities etc, what is that to us? As for us, we follow Jesus.
As with every other community or relationship, conflicts surface and disappointments occur. Just because we are in church doesn’t excuse the fact that people are imperfect and will make mistakes. Isn’t it true that when we’re in church, sometimes we tend to be more judgemental towards others? With phrases like “As a Christian, how could he/she…” or “They shouldn’t be doing that.” And we end up being so critical because of our own expectations that we forget the Jesus’ command altogether – So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. (John 13:34) And how Jesus loved us is that He accepted us while we were still sinners, shown grace and mercy for every mistake, and forgiven our every sin. When we learn to just let things go, our heart becomes lighter as we serve, and our serving becomes focused unto God instead of the grudges we have. Forgiveness is synonymous with love, and we serve because we love.
Another killer of a serving attitude is unmet expectations. Sometimes, especially after we have worked so hard and sacrificed so much, we’re just looking for some sort of appreciation, mention, reward, praise, etc. Yet more often than not, we don’t receive. God forbid if what we receive is feedback or criticism instead. Disappointment is the difference between our expectations and reality, which is why the lower our expectations, the less disappointments we will have. At the end of the day, our service is an expression of self-giving through the love that we have for God and His church. It’s better to enjoy serving knowing that we have given our best than to feed off the praises and self-seeking glory but get disappointed when we don’t receive. Expect nothing, because there should be nothing to expect when it comes to serving except the giving of your time and effort.
Being Driven By The Right Attitudes
Sometimes, we have to pause and ask ourselves: when we serve, are we driven by our ego or our genuine attitude of love for His House? When we are driven by ego, although we serve the needs of others, we gravitate towards purposes that are self-seeking. Do we look down on the efforts and attitudes of others? Do we have a sense of superiority when we serve? If it’s our ego driving us, sometimes we can be doing things right with the wrong attitude at heart. A personal dislike of mine is when others pretend to be humble and use words like “I just want to be a servant” or “I’m laying my life down” but yet complain when they are not given position, privilege, or praise. But when we are driven by a genuine love and purpose, our desires gravitate towards the needs of others. We tend to help and coach those who are weaker and fulfil the vision of the church over our own opinions. The difference between the two is that being driven by ego will disappoint us time and time again, but being driven by love will build up those around us and lead to a greater sense of fulfilment.
The last thing we can do to enjoy serving is to take a look around us and appreciate those who serve alongside with us. Understand that we’re not the only ones sacrificing, and many of the smiles we see all the time sometimes hide their own struggles and sacrifices. As we have this revelation to appreciate our privilege to serve and the people who are serving, it then becomes suh a joy. As Paul was serving in churches and writing his letters, he began each one with thanks and praises for all that they have done, despite him going through persecution due to his serving. This little attitude of appreciation is a little seed that will bloom forth greatness of character in us.
Every time we hit an obstacle, the key is always to remind ourselves the reason why we serve. Let it be a constant reminder that we love because He first loved us, and even the Son of God came to earth not to be served but to serve the needs of others, all while being treated unfairly, slandered against, and ultimately betrayed. Yet, His love never wavered because Jesus understood His purpose here on earth – to give of Himself for the sake of the world.