STUDY SEVEN: THE ROLE OF SERVICE IN THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2011
Contemporary society honours people who have ‘made it’: sporting greats, movie stars, TV personalities, top professionals, executives – anyone in high leadership positions. Even in Christian circles we find an exaltation of people in positions of perceived power. The servant heart of God and the servant example of Christ are far removed from this prevalent mindset. The commands to humility do not find a ready response.
Yet ‘serving’ is listed in Scripture as one of the spiritual gifts [Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28], and serving others is commanded by Christ. It is on this responsibility of servant leadership that this study focuses.
A. ‘SERVANT’ AS THE IDENTITY OF THOSE WHO BELONG TO THE MASTER
God is the ultimate Master. One of the Biblical pictures or images of the relationship between God and his people is that of a master and servants. God, or Christ, is the Master. We are the servants.
Task: Answer these questions from the verses listed. How do these verses reflect the servant identity of the people of God? What kinds of servant activities or attitudes are portrayed in these passages?
2 Timothy 2:24
B. SERVICE IS FOLLOWING THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST
Jesus called us to ‘follow’ him. To learn from him. To live as he lived. To love as he loved. This command to follow him is essentially a command to serve, for that is what he came to do, even to the extent of giving his live to secure our salvation. He was the ‘suffering servant’ prophesied by the prophet Isaiah, the ‘servant of the Lord’ who would accomplish the will of his Father.
Task: What do these verses teach about the example of service set by Jesus Christ?
Mark 10:35 – 45
In what ways do the above scriptures challenge you to a life of service to God and man?
C. SERVICE IS THE ONLY GREATNESS IN GOD’S KINGDOM
As mentioned in the opening comment, contemporary society honours those in positions of leadership and power. Yet Jesus set different criteria for greatness: the criteria of servanthood and humility.
Task: Answer these questions from the verses listed.
What is Jesus saying about service in these texts?
To what extent is this concept of greatness in servanthood evident in contemporary Christianity?
What do you need to do personally to  recognize this kind of greatness in those who serve the body of Christ? And  develop this kind of servant heart?
D. CHRISTIANS AS SERVANTS OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD
Just as Christ came to serve, even so Christian believers are portrayed in the Bible as servants of the people of God, the church, that is, servants of one another in the body of Christ. It is this kind of service and this kind of servant heart within the body of Christ that will contribute to the development of Christian community.
Task: Answer these questions:
What kinds of people are described as servants of the church of God in these verses?
What kinds of actions or attitudes are given as examples of their service?
1 Cor 9:19-23
1 Cor 16:15
E. SERVING GOD BY MINISTERING TO PEOPLE’S PHYSICAL NEEDS
Just as Jesus himself served people in relation to their physical needs, even so the people of God are expected to serve people in areas of physical needs.
Task: List the various acts of physical service mentioned in these texts.
Suggest why these servant roles are not popular in the church.
F. SERVING GOD BY MINISTERING TO PEOPLE’S SPIRITUAL NEEDS
Jesus did not only tend to people’s physical needs, he ministered to their spiritual needs as well; indeed, to meet our deep spiritual needs was the reason he came to earth. We also, as his people, are commanded to serve people in their spiritual needs.
Task: Read the verses. How do these verses describe spiritual ministry and its impact?
Task: Our study topic is ‘Developing Christian Community’. Read Ephesians 4:12-13. What is the intended result of service in the Christian community?
Discuss the role and importance of every-member involvement in service in your local church.
Discuss ways to improve the level of member involvement in service in your local church.
What is your personal involvement in service in your local church?
How does member involvement in service contribute to developing community within the local church?
Task: research opportunities for service in your local church, and in the broader community, including overseas. Gather this information from:
• Your local church office and news sheet
• Parachurch organizations and/or their news letters
• Mission magazines, reports, etc
• Mission websites
Discuss this information next time your group meets.