What does a Biblical church plant look like? In this 8 part blog based on Paul’s summary of his church planting experience in Ephesus, found in Acts 20:17-38, we will see a Biblical portrait of church planting.
Read Part 1: Incarnational Ministry
Part 2: Leading by Serving: “Serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials…” (19) “by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (35).
Sacrificial, unconditional service is the most powerful apologetic for the Gospel in the life of any believer, but in particular, a church planter. More than intellect, charisma or marketing savvy; humble and compassionate Christ-centered service opens up people to the authenticity of the Gospel because it demonstrates a heart that has been radically transformed from its selfish and sinful default position. Paul describes four characteristics that should mark the manner of our service individually and as a church-
1. All Humility: Not just a little humility… “all humility.” This means that in no way do we seek our benefit or our glory in anything that we do in service. This is truly an expression of Christ as no other human being has ever done any act of service in “all humility” apart from Christ.
2. With Tears: We should be emotionally engaged with the people whom God has called us to serve. Whether tears of sorrow or tears of joy, we must be filled with compassion like Christ. Matthew 20:34 is one of many passages in the Gospels in which Jesus demonstrates the compassion with which we must also serve- “Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.”
3. With Trials: Gospel centered service nearly always comes at a cost and with opposition. In some situations, it can be severe trials and tribulations for choosing to serve in dangerous places or dangerous people. In other situations, it can cost us our “free time” (or “me time”), opportunities to do other more pleasurable things, or even financially from either working less in order to serve or contributing personally toward the service. We can experience criticism from those who do not understand our choice to serve as well as from the people whom we are actually serving. We must not be surprised by the presence of trials in our service to others, but rather, “consider it pure joy” (James 1:2) because God is using them to produce the Christ like qualities within us that only serve to strengthen our testimony of faith. In the case of Martin Luther King Jr, it was not his renowned “I have a dream” speech that most dramatically impacted the civil rights movement he led, but it was his steadfastness in the face of various trials (imprisonment, persecution, slander and ultimately his assassination) which most powerfully demonstrated the intrinsic value of his message or reconciliation, restoration and redemption.
Leading by serving involves “working hard” in order to “help the weak.” As a church planter, you are teaching and equipping your church family to embrace this countercultural ethic as a way of life, just as Paul did with the churches which he planted. Paul did not take the credit for this sacrificial lifestyle, but rather used it to point his people and his community toward Christ by connecting the service to the weak with the life and words of Christ who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This statement is more than a warm inspirational thought; it is a scriptural promise. As wonderful as it is to receive blessings from others, there is an even greater blessing available to those who give. A church and a people who are generous givers of their personal and corporate finances, time, service and resources will be greatly blessed. The blessings and rewards of giving are not always immediately experienced, but over time, the cumulative impact of a church that finds its greatest blessing from giving to missions, ministry, community and service will become beautifully apparent. * The next post will be on “Courageous Proclamation.”
I get the inner conflict… I love my Seattle Seahawks and I love my Washington Huskies. Just this weekend, I passed up free Husky tickets to serve with my church on Saturday, and I will be faithfully preaching the Word of God as the Seahawks game is raging on Sunday morning. As one who has a closet full of purple and gold and blue and green, I feel I have an opportunity to speak into this subject- What to do with the 10am Seahawks game? As a pastor in the Northwest, with all of the busyness and beauty that surrounds us, it seems like we have about 4 or 5 Sundays a year where we can potentially see a very high percentage of our people and potential guests participate in worship. In my opinion, the second and third weeks of September are two of those “prime Sundays” for a church to really see where it is at in terms of attendance and commitment. Accordingly, we planned our “Vision Sunday” on September 13th as an opportunity to share our upcoming vision for the church at a time when we would potentially have a high attendance day. This makes the 10am Seahawks game all the more challenging! Yet, if we truly know and love Jesus Christ, should there be any question whatsoever as to where we should be on Sunday morning? I am not speaking to unbelievers here, but to those who have professed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior King. As I was praying about this silly conundrum that many Christians are working through today, I was reminded of Joshua 24:15
“Choose this day whom you will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
It’s not that difficult. Each of us make a choice for ourselves and our families, and the choice reflects whom we truly have chosen to serve and worship. We either serve the Lord, or we serve something else. As we prepare for our Vision day tomorrow, I am reminded of these words from the great hymn “Be Thou My Vision” and I am challenged to ask if this is truly my hearts desire:
Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best thought by day or by night
Waking or sleeping Thy presence my light