This is the last post in this series looking at how we grow. I was blessed as a young Christian to have a few specific tools given to me that helped me to not just sit through services but to really grow and learn more about God. Sermons challenged me in my walk with God. Devotionals taught me discipline and how to dig into the Word. Biographies helped me see life from a long-term perspective and to know that God is active no matter how difficult the moment might feel. Lastly, it was the opportunities to serve that the Lord placed in front of me that greatly encouraged me to grow.
When I first got saved I wanted to find ways to serve so I started with my church’s college ministry. I led worship, I set up for events, I went to any of the bible studies they offered. I eventually was hired as an intern because I was there so much. I would go on Disciple Now weekends or high school ski trips with youth groups that needed counselors. I also started serving in any ministries that I could. The point is, I looked for any outlet that would allow me to connect and grow with others.
Not Experts, But Qualified
We have this problem today where we think we need to be experts before we can do something. We take a backseat and let the professionals do the heavy lifting while we watch, soak up and grow until we become professionals too. But no one becomes a professional teacher, leader, basketball player or whatever else just by watching and soaking up. And besides, no one becomes a professional Christian ever. We grow by doing and learning. We need to get over this idea that we aren’t capable or qualified; if you are a Christian, you are capable and qualified.
You will only grow in your usefulness by exercising your gifts. You learn so much from trying and succeeding and even more from trying and failing. My grandfather used to ask me if I learned a lesson after I would mess something up. If I said yes, he would say, “Then it was worth it.” Don’t lose the value of learning, don’t lose the power of really growing, and don’t lose the significance of being an active member in the body.
Where should you serve and what should you do? Should you be serving or leading something now? I have had a lot of friends quote 1 Timothy 5:22 to me when we talk about this. They are well aware that there’s a verse that says we shouldn’t be quick to lay hands on an elder. Here’s the catch: you’re not an elder. No one is talking about putting you up in front of the church to teach doctrine and to lead out vision and direction for the body. We are talking about changing diapers in a nursery, leading a class at Vacation Bible School, teaching a room of middle schoolers on Sunday morning, serving food to the homeless. Being an elder and serving are not the same thing.
For two years I served in the pre-school ministry at my church. I was one of the only men serving there so I got the odd jobs. I did Friday set ups, where I would make sure juice was made and in the refrigerator, crackers were divided out for each room, wipes and disinfectant were in their proper places, and anything else that was necessary for the preschool was ready for Sunday morning. I also got the not-so-fun jobs of cleaning up when kids had accidents. Here’s the thing, while it was dirty and not so appealing, it grew my heart and understanding that ministry is built around serving. It also freed the ladies I served with to be able to love the kids and invest in their families. I didn’t need to be an expert, just willing to do what needed to be done.
Passions and Needs
So what can you do? Begin with looking for one of two things – a passion or a need. You may have something that you love to do or an area at your church that you would love to be a part of. That desire and passion is a great tool for serving. God has placed that ministry on your heart, so use that.
The other option is a need that you may either see or hear about. Every church needs more helpers in the children’s ministry. Your church may be a church plant and may need extra hands setting up and tearing down. Your church may be an established church that needs help greeting. The rule of thumb is that if you see a need, try to meet it. You will learn more than you could be prepared for just by being there, being open, and being available to serve.
I helped plant a church in California and I cannot tell you how life-giving it was to have someone say. “I’ll do whatever. Where can I help?” Having someone to help move tables, get coffee made, or even just someone to talk to while I did those things was a HUGE blessing.
Passion and needs are great places to start learning to serve. You will be able to role your sleeves up and get involved. You will be encouraging, connecting, helping, and growing. The masses of people who just attend and sit through church have no clue how much joy there is in serving. They miss out on the blessing of being a part of the work of God. To use the Apostle Paul’s illustration from 1 Corinthians 12, they are the atrophied part of the body that needs Jesus’ healing touch.
Loving Others Well
One of my best friends, Dean Plumlee, told me one time that ministry is relationships. Ministry is all about people; it’s about walking with, pouring into, and growing towards Christ with others. That simple phrase is unbelievable profound – Dean has this way of throwing wisdom out like that often. One of the most important things you can learn is how to walk with and care for people. You only get that from being around others. Serving, utilizing opportunities, looking for needs, and doing something with your passions are all avenues that put you around people to help you grow in knowledge, skill, and your ability to love others well.
If you want to grow spiritually, you need to serve. That could be a mission’s trip, helping in a Sunday School class or small group, plugging into a local ministry, or just looking for needs wherever you are. The point is not about what you do, but that you are doing something. God uses the situations and the people you’re around to grow and sanctify you. It’s not about being the best but being available. It’s not about knowing everything but being willing to learn something. Through God’s grace we grow by serving, so if you want to grow, go and serve.