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Servanthood: Your key to spiritual growth

If you really want to serve, you could trip over all the opportunties

By Scott Harrup, Hal Donaldson and John W. Kennedy

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,” Jesus told His disciples, “and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28, NIV).

It is a passage of Scripture most of us find difficult to internalize — especially in today’s culture that prioritizes personal independence and getting ahead. But Jesus would not have said it if He didn’t mean it. The truest road to personal success and fulfillment is found in serving others.

But where do you start when your own responsibilities and needs seem to demand more than 24 hours in a day? The key word in the previous sentence is “start.” You’re not going to become your town’s Volunteer of the Year overnight (and if that were your motivation, you’d be off on the wrong foot anyway). But if you look around you, you will discover there is a wealth of opportunities to touch people’s lives through practical strategies large and small.

If you barely have a minute to spare, you’ll find suggestions here that take less than a minute to carry out. You can also get more involved than this and choose your own level of time commitment.

RAOK your world

Re’na Garcia is a 24-year-old mother of two preschoolers, a full-time nanny to two other children and director of student ministries at a Nashville, Tenn., church plant. Her 26-year-old husband, Aaron, is worship pastor at the church, a full-time banker and a part-time waiter.

Garcia leads a busy life, but her favorite part of the day is when she goes out to “raok” her world. As in performing random acts of kindness.

“God puts people in our lives every day for us to touch,” Garcia says. “So many times we’re too busy and we miss those opportunities.”

Garcia believes that random acts of kindness — doing something nice for someone with no expectation of anything in return — is simply the giving and unselfish attitude that Christ expects of His followers.

“People were drawn to Christ not because He stood on a mountain and preached, but because He filled their needs,” Garcia says. “He fed them. He healed them. He touched lives.” When we model Christ’s behavior, Garcia says, recipients may be more open to hearing about the gospel.

Part of the fun, Garcia says, is not sticking around for a thank you. For instance, when she pulls up to a fast-food drive through window, she asks how much the bill is for the car behind her — and she pays it. She asks the clerk to pass along a roak business card to the driver. The card contains an explanation for Garcia’s motivation and information about the church plant. But there are no strings attached.

“But if someone is having a day in which their life is hanging in the balance, this could be their opportunity to realize what they have been missing,” she says. “You never know how it might change a life if you buy someone dinner and they don’t know who did it.”

A way to uplift a server in a restaurant is to leave a huge tip, Garcia says. “A little thing like that could turn an ordinary day into a great day for that person,” Garcia says. She also makes sure she has a good attitude toward the server during the meal and doesn’t leave a big mess. “The whole experience needs to be good,” she says.

Garcia is part of a growing network of Christians who exchange raok ideas with each other. Aaron Rudd, who attends another Nashville church, told her about the “pop raok” idea in which a raoker puts a dollar in a soda machine, a raok card in the change return and walks away. The next person who buys a soft drink gets the beverage and change back.

Biblical motivation that Garcia cites for the covert thoughtfulness includes Matthew 6:1-3: “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. … When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do. … Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (NIV).

Garcia also has convinced her father, Jim Sinclair, pastor of Church on the Move in Plains, Mont., of the benefits of raok. Many members of the congregation regularly display consideration of others by such acts as paying for the toll for the car behind them or leaving a roll of quarters and a no-pressure card about the Assemblies of God church in a coin-operated laundry.

“It gets people who normally don’t minister involved because there’s no need for face-to-face contact,” Sinclair says. “It’s a powerful evangelism tool.”

Garcia also likes to show gratitude to people who may be underappreciated for the volunteer service they provide. For instance, she recently brought a cup of coffee and a cookie to a school crossing guard who ushers children safely across a street an hour every day. “You would have thought I’d given her a hundred dollars,” Garcia says.

Your church: Grand Central Station for servants

A random act of kindness touches someone for a moment. It’s a great place to start in your journey to servanthood. Participating in an organized ministry gives you multiple opportunities to touch lives for eternity. Your local Assemblies of God church offers ministries large and small that don’t require putting “Reverend” or any other title in front of your name for you to be powerfully involved.

Sunday School has been a service gold mine in local churches for centuries. And today’s Sunday School often takes unique forms.

“Advance” is the Christian education department of Cornerstone Church of the Assemblies of God in Madison, Tenn., a northern suburb of Nashville.

“Cornerstone wants you to ‘Advance’ in the knowledge that the Bible is relevant to every situation,” says Dan Smith, Christian education director at Cornerstone. “We have classes for everyone. Whether you are young or old you will find a class that is sure to pique your interest.”

But at Cornerstone, no one really just attends a class. Pastor Maury Davis has promoted Sunday School as a key component to Cornerstone’s uninterrupted growth over the past 14 years. Each Sunday School class is broken into smaller care groups, and those groups are driving the church’s continued expansion in the community.

“You will often hear people say, ‘How can a big church feel so small?’” Smith says. “It’s because of our care groups.”

Specialized groups in local churches touch specialized needs and offer you the opportunity to do the same.

Manassas Assembly of God in Bristow, Va., has been reaching out to Northern Virginia for 67 years. Transforming Ministries is one avenue for the church’s compassion, involving a group of men and women from Manassas who visit the Prince William County Detention Center. Two services are held at the detention center on the third Sunday of every month. On any given Sunday approximately 40-50 inmates attend the separate services for men and women. Manassas volunteers also grade Bible study test papers, teach inmates in the drug dormitory and take inmates books and other materials. Most importantly, they mentor inmates both in the detention center and after release.

“Every Tuesday evening at 7, Life Enrichment support groups address the issues that matter most to you,” says Pastor Paul Thompson, on staff at Capital Christian Center (Assemblies of God) in Sacramento, Calif. “Childcare is provided for ages 0-12. For many, Life Enrichment has helped restore a broken marriage. Others have been helped to gain freedom from life-controlling issues or addictions to pornography, drugs, alcohol and other issues.”

Churches are always looking for volunteers to help staff their Sunday School classes and outreach groups. Talk to your pastor to find out what you need to do to become involved.

Assemblies of God churches also offer many age-group and people-group ministries.

“If your church doesn’t have Royal Rangers, you are missing out on one of the most effective ministries to young people available,” says John Benda, New Jersey District Royal Rangers commander. “Royal Rangers has a very high success rate of reaching, teaching, and keeping boys for Jesus Christ. It is part of a full program of ministries available to help your church grow.” Benda encourages churches to learn about starting a Royal Rangers program and connecting boys in their community with the outdoors activity-driven ministry.

If you have a desire to minister specifically to men, women or girls, your avenues of outreach in your local AG church would be HonorBound, Women’s Ministries and Missionettes, respectively. All of these groups are looking for volunteers and offer the training needed in order to serve effectively.

Serving your community, discovering partnerships

You’ve performed a random act of kindness. You’ve volunteered to teach a Sunday School class or lead a Missionettes group. But perhaps you still feel God tugging you in another direction for service.

Volunteer — Like anyone else, you’re bombarded with more pleas for financial support than you can begin to honor. But even if your checking account is emptied each week to pay your bills, you still have a valuable commodity you can share — your time. Give of your time to help at local food banks, rescue missions, homes for unwed mothers, after-school tutoring sessions, and more. And participate in the community outreaches of your local church (e.g., food pantries, Convoy of Hope, block parties, etc.). There are so many specialized assistance programs in the average community that you should have no trouble finding one that connects with your God-inspired area of compassion.

Give — If you have not begun to tithe faithfully, recognize your responsibility to do so. Then look for ways to save some of your income each week to give additional gifts to support your church’s efforts to touch your community. Remember, generosity is not based on a dollar amount but on the sacrifice you make in order to write that check. As you enlarge your vision for meeting others’ needs, you will discover that God brings more resources into your hands to allow you to be a greater blessing.

Support — Become informed on the issues facing your community, and become an advocate for the right causes. Read your local newspaper; watch the evening news; check out your town’s public announcements on the Web. Then put your convictions into action by voting whenever the polls are open, writing to local leaders about impending legislation, and volunteering your time when a vital issue needs to be communicated to your neighborhood or community at large.

Recruit — Church leaders are wisely wary of people who view congregations as resource pools to meet their own ends. So, when you see a great need in the community, be sure to seek your pastor’s permission to encourage others to work with you. You may be surprised at the number of people in your church who have a similar burden but haven’t acted on it. By working with your pastor, you can approach others with your vision strengthened by your church’s endorsement.

Attend — Attend meetings of city and county government and your local school board. You will be surprised at how your local leaders can be influenced by just a handful of concerned citizens. You might ask your pastor if you can attend public meetings as a representative of your church. Report back to the local church any issues that may have an impact on the community. Too often, churches raise a public outcry over issues that have been openly discussed by local government representatives yet completely ignored by believers until unfortunate decisions have been made.

Lead — God may encourage you to share your gifts and vision with others in order to meet a greater need. Accept opportunities to serve in leadership positions in the local church, civic organizations and charities. Yes, leadership requires going the second mile and helping to shoulder the challenges that others encounter. Leadership will call on reservoirs of patience and wisdom and commitment you never knew you had — or such qualities you don’t have but learn to receive as you put your faith into action.

Pray — This is last in the list not because it is the least important but because it is the foundation for every item noted above. Ask the Lord to give you a burden for your community and to give you opportunities to be Christ’s hand extended to people in need. His passion must motivate whatever steps you take to transform your community. His limitless love must energize your relationships with the people you touch. You need His insight to take advantage of every opportunity to connect your acts of compassion with His gift of eternal life.

Pray about your concerns today, but determine to act on them as well. Servanthood is really Christ’s love being expressed through your deeds to meet others’ needs. Being a servant is an empowering experience — you are living in obedience to Jesus, the greatest Servant of all, and you are positioning yourself to experience the fulfillment of His greatest plans for your life.

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