Called to Serve

feet washing

s believers, God has “created us anew in Christ Jesus” to serve by doing “the good things he planned for us long ago” (Eph. 2:10 NLT).

Jesus said the “greatest among you” is the one who serves (Matt. 23:11). He demonstrated this as He chose the towel over a title by washing His disciples’ feet (John 13:5).

According to Galatians 5:13, our love for Christ should be demonstrated by serving one another. This is an admonition to all believers. However, some members in the body of Christ have been empowered by the Holy Spirit with the gift of serving. This gift is identified in Romans 12:6-7: “God in his kindness gave each of us different gifts. . . . If your gift is serving, then devote yourself to serving” (GW).

The Greek word for this gift is diakonia, from which we derive the English word deacon. The basic meaning is “to wait tables,” but it is most often translated in the Bible as “ministry.”

The gift of serving is a supernatural gift from the Holy Spirit. It refers to any act of service performed with genuine love for the edification of the church. Those who have the gift of serving should recognize there are no menial tasks in the body of Christ. Whatever we do for God is significant to Him, whether it is preaching a sermon or stacking chairs.

Do You Have the Gift of Serving?

Those who have this gift usually manifest the following characteristics:

  1. They readily recognize practical needs and are quick to meet them.
  2. They derive great joy and fulfillment from serving others, especially when it releases others to more effectively carry out their ministry. Consider Phoebe, whom Paul said “has been helpful to many, and especially to me” (Rom. 16:1-2 NLT).
  3. Servers are usually more interested in meeting the needs of others than in meeting their own needs.
  4. They are usually compassionate and empathize with the needs of others.
  5. They would rather serve than lead others or spearhead projects.

What Are Some Potential Weaknesses of Those Who Serve?

  1. They may become preoccupied with “much serving” and neglect spending time with Jesus (Luke 10:40).
  2. They may become critical of others who sit before they serve, or those who do not readily detect and meet obvious needs.
  3. They may find it hard to accept being served by others.
  4. They can become easily hurt when not shown appreciation.
  5. They may have real difficulty saying “no” when called upon to serve.

Why We Need the Gift of Serving

The primary purpose for this gift is to aid in the spreading of the Gospel. When this gift is in its fullest manifestation, the whole church is energized and others are released to maximize the use of their ministry gifts. The result is the continued strengthening of the church, which leads to growth and expansion even beyond its walls.

When this ministry gift was in manifestation through the first seven deacons, it enabled the apostles to give more time to the Word and prayer (Acts 6:2-4). As a result, the Word of God spread, the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith (v. 7).

In order for the Church of God to help finish the Great Commission, we need Spirit-filled believers who demonstrate love for God and love for neighbor by meeting practical needs through acts of service. This cannot be done through mere human ability.

In Encountering the Holy Spirit, French Arrington writes: “When the model of the church is institutional rather than charismatic, there is a strong temptation to rely on ourselves, replacing reliance on the Spirit with our native abilities, education, and personal skills. Without questioning, all of these have their place in the life and ministry of the Church. None of them, however, are adequate replacements for gifts of the Spirit.”

Spirit-filled believers who are gifted to serve can be catalysts propelling the local church forward, thereby advancing the kingdom of God as they minister through the Spirit’s power.

How Should This Gift Function in the Local Church?

To fully equip the saints to do the work of ministry, church leaders should be intentional about discovering, developing, and deploying believers in the area of their gifting. Discovering and functioning in our spiritual gifting brings us into divine alignment with our purpose as believers.

Those who have the gift of serving need to identify ministry areas they are passionate about. A person who has the gift of serving and a passion to work with children will serve well as a helper in children’s ministry. Meanwhile, someone with the gift of serving who is outgoing and hospitable might best serve as a greeter or usher. A person who has the gift of serving and a passion to see people come to Christ might best serve as support person on the evangelism team.

The Gift of Serving in Operation

This gift encompasses various kinds of service─such as preparing church meals, assisting the needy, preparing for church events, compiling weekly church bulletins, and doing cleaning and maintenance in the local church.

A lady in our church needed a washing machine and dryer. As the members networked, there was someone who had a new washing machine and dryer he didn’t need. Men in our church who had the gift of serving quickly transported the washer and dryer to the woman’s home and installed them. The following Sunday, this woman came to the house of the Lord rejoicing because of those who used their gift of serving to meet her need. She experienced God’s provision, and her faith was strengthened.

The gift of serving can operate beyond the church walls by feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and visiting those in hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons. These types of ministries can be characterized as serving, according to Matthew 25:34-40.

Deeds such as delivering meals to those who are convalescent or mowing a disabled neighbor’s lawn can even become a tool of evangelism.

In Acts 10:38, Peter preached, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good” (NKJV). As Christians, we should go about doing good. This is more than performing random acts of kindness, but it is the supernatural gift of serving. I believe God is pleased when we demonstrate His love by serving people.

I am deeply moved by 1 Corinthians 16:15, which says the household of Stephanas “addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” Stephanas and his household were Paul’s first converts in Achaia, and they devoted themselves to serving the Lord’s people; this was a work of the Holy Spirit.

Those who are endowed with this gift must serve with character and practical wisdom. The early church’s first deacons were chosen based on the following qualifications: they had a good reputation, they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they were wise and full of faith (Acts 6:3).

If you are blessed with the gift of serving, do not become “weary in well doing” (Gal. 6:9). Your gift is vital because it helps your church to remain charismatic instead of becoming institutional. Your faithfulness over what you have been given will make room for you (Prov. 18:16) and is the doorway to receiving more gifts from the Father (Matt. 25:23). Keep serving!

Glen Colley is pastor of the New Covenant Church of God in Plainfield, New Jersey.