Another article for the Harvest Winter 2011 newsletter.  -PB

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When I was asked to write this newsletter article on “service” I immediately thought about asking people to serve in order to fill in the various ministry areas where I know we could use help. I think that’s what many pastors would think of when being asked to write on this subject. After some reflection I have decided to take a different approach. I would like to encourage you to let others serve YOU.

When was the last time you really allowed somebody to serve you? I know this happens each Sunday when you attend church. There are numerous volunteers who work diligently to bring ministry organization to our Sunday morning experience and beyond – this is definitely an opportunity to allow others to serve you as you attend church. However, what I’m really talking about is being served outside of our organized church activity.

There have been several instances in my 4+ years of being one of your pastors that are on my heart while writing this article. I won’t mention names or times, but I remember learning of individuals who were hospitalized for a number of days who didn’t contact the church office or a pastor to inform us of their sickness. I’ve also been in situations where I have offered to visit people in their home to pray with them because of tough situations they were in, only to be turned down. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to pick on people in my church but my heart is saddened when these situations come up because I know the power of the church to share God’s love to people who are in need. These experiences drive me to seek God’s will for our church and for my ministry as a pastor.

I know that privacy is important for many of us. But why would we deny ourselves the opportunity to have our church praying for us or offering to help our family in a time of need? I was hospitalized in August and one of the most comforting things was knowing that my small group and other friends at church were praying for me. Visits, phone calls, emails, and texts were very helpful in my recovery. I can’t imagine being ‘alone’ during a time of need or sickness and I personally welcome the church to provide care during these times – that’s what we’re supposed to do. But here’s the challenge from my experience and observations that is probably not talked about too often — if you are hurting, please let your church know and be willing to be served!

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:14 ESV)

Rather than an appeal to serve in various Sunday morning ministries (which is necessary and important) I’m appealing to you to reach out and ask for care and prayer. Expect the church to serve you in times of need. Additionally, those of us who are able should serve these brothers and sisters in need. Let’s make an attempt to truly bear each other’s burdens, to support, cry, laugh, and rejoice with one another as we travel this journey together – that’s part of being the church! I can’t think of a better way to bring unity and demonstrate love than to lay down our lives for one another and to sacrificially and mutually submit by serving and being served. The notes in my ESV Bible say the following about Galatians 6:2 — To bear one another’s burdens is the supreme imitation of Jesus, the ultimate burden-bearer (see Romans 15:1-3).

Harvest Core Value: Godly, servant leadership. Jesus came to not to be served but to serve. We desire to follow his example.

One of the best resources many of us have for receiving this care is our small group. Pastoral care through small groups is a great way to help one another. Of course, contacting the church office, a pastor, or an elder is also a great resource if you’re in need.

My family recently traveled to the La Crosse area for Thanksgiving. At the last minute we contacted some old small group friends to see if we could stay at their house for a couple of nights. The hospitality we received from these dear friends was off the charts. Wow, talk about being served, we were blessed beyond explanation…sleeping in their master suite (they slept on an air mattress on the porch), getting up at 9:30 am, gourmet brunches, movies, late night talks and fellowship, games, having the code for the garage for 24-7 access, and more. It was an incredible feeling to let these friends serve us for two days! And here’s something that I learned many years ago — it can be disrespectful to turn down somebody’s act of generosity. I’ve often thought about that when people have offered to do things for me and it helps me feel good about accepting help or gifts from others because they want to do it. A “thank you” card will be in the mail soon, but more importantly we were able to develop a deeper friendship by asking for help and gratefully receiving it – what a blessing for both of our families!

Harvest Core Value: Loving relationships. The Bible clearly teaches us that our first priority is to love God and our second is to love one another. Loving relationships provides the ideal environment for fellowship, spiritual growth, accountability and even outreach.

Are you ready church? Are you willing to let your church family know when you’re hurting or when you need help? Are you ready to answer the call and help those who are willing to be served? Can you imagine what staff and elder meetings would be like if we were overwhelmed with requests for prayer and laying on of hands? We don’t need to go far to answer this call, it’s in our own backyard, in our own church, it’s happening to the person you’re sitting next to on Sunday mornings. It might be a visitor, a missionary, your pastor, or maybe an elder who’s in need.

Fire up church, be encouraged…look for opportunities to serve and be served!

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