Identity in the Church: Service
Here’s the final angle we’ll take for now at forming an intentional, healthy identity. To determine whom we are, and want to be, in our churches, we’ll look at our role in three areas: service, growth, and community. And yep, I'll drag this series out a few extra days so that we can digest these three areas one at a time.
So what is your service identity? When I start attending a new church (which, being a USMC wife, I do pretty often) I tend not to let on that I sing and play instruments. I just don’t bring it up, and I volunteer for pretty much anything else. I’d been at one church for several months when my [worship-leading] parents visited. I saw them talking to my worship leader in a hallway after the service and sure enough, later, she sidled up to me and gave me a smirk. “I knowww,” she said. And the next week I was on the schedule.
It’s not the hours (you have to get up early for Sunday practices) or the strain on Cookie (he has to braid hair and tie bows and keep the oatmeal off the polka-dot satin). It’s just that it feels self-serving to waltz in and put yourself up on the stage. I would gladly assert myself with a less spot-lighty gift, like sharpening pencils in the office.
“You gave me away! I was in hiding,” I complained to my parents. But Mother says my reasoning is stupid. It’s ok, she says, to serve where you’re gifted. In fact, we’re supposed to. That’s why God put arms, legs, necks, and spleens in the body of Christ. If we all sharpened the pencils, who would answer the phones?
That’s not to say that we can’t also serve in places we haven’t considered our areas of expertise. The best thing about small churches, in particular, is that the needs are greater, so you can serve in ways that really stretch you to your limits. I’ve worked with teens and preschoolers when there was a need, and I’m sure kids of every age could confirm that I have no gift for it. But I did learn a lot of patience and how to churn out piles of grilled cheese sandwiches quickly.
If you’ve been at a church for a while but still duck out without socializing after service, don’t be shocked if you feel a little underfed. The quickest way to feel purposeful and needed (and to make friends) is to serve. We all get gushy feelings about the Early Church, like it was a big artist’s colony of daisies and happiness. In reality, it was a sharing-stuff, dining-together, caring-for-widows group. Want that gushy feeling? I guarantee that you will not get turned down if you ask your pastor where you can help out.