Servolution by John Burke

Today, John Burke spoke at Gateway Church‘s McNeil campus and to the Internet campus, and I spoke at the South Campus on the theme: “Servolution.”

To watch or listen to John’s message, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.

Here are some of the insights we shared:

“We never look so much like God as we do when we serve one another.

Those of you who give to Gateway Church may not realize it, but you’ve helped start 30 churches like Gateway in the last 10 years. One of those is in St. Louis. A guy from St. Louis was telling me about a woman he met one hot summer while passing out electric fans in a very poor neighborhood.  They walked up to what looked like an abandoned shack where it turned out Paula lived.  Several windows were boarded up because the neighbors threw bricks on a regular basis, and her landlord got tired of repairing the windows (they shot guns most nights as well).  The dark house was filled with cats, and other creatures that probably weren’t pets.  The smell was overwhelming as soon as my friend walked in.

Paula took the fan and invited them in, and for the whole time they were there, every other word out of her mouth was as foul as the smell (she later told them she was testing them to see if they were like “all the other churchy people.”  As they hung out, she sensed something different, and she accepted their invitation to visit their church.   At first, Paula did all she could to “test” the people she met at the church—trying to shock them and repel them, but after a while, she actually felt loved and accepted.  She opened her heart up to Christ, and my friend started to see a transformation take place before his eyes.

The more Paula learned about the God who loved her and served her, the more her old foul habits started to be replaced with a desire to serve and be generous toward others.  My friend said, “Most people never paid back the money I loaned them, Paula always did.” Though her father had been abusive, she forgave him and even cared for him when he became incapacitated. She began to love the hurting and broken on the streets, she invited gang members to stay in her home. Sometimes she had thirteen of them from rival gangs staying with her. She loved them and gave them strict rules to obey. Many of them never went back to the streets.

Paula used to brag to my friend about knowing the Police chief of St. Louis.  He would kindly listen and say “wow, that’s neat,” all the while thinking “You know the Police chief like I know the president.”  But she would talk about meeting him while taking law enforcement classes at a local community college. When the Police Chief was elected Mayor, Paula came up to my friend at church waving tickets in her hand saying “I have a surprise.  She held out two tickets to the Mayor’s inagural ball, and asked if he would escort her.  Still skeptical, my friend agreed.

At the ball, everyone was jockeying to be close to the new Mayor.  There was a mass a people fifteen deep trying to rub elbows with him.   Somehow the mayor spotted Paula through the crowd. With a huge grin on his face, he stepped down off his platform and squeezed through the crowd to get to her. When he got to them, he raised his arm and pointed down at Paula shouting to the crowd, “This is a great woman. I respect her greatly.  She has done amazing things to serve our city”  My friend said his jaw hit the floor.  He said it reminded him what God SEES– how everyone, no matter how seemingly worthless society may think they are, everyone can have an impact. Because Paula had been faithful in little ways, she ended up helping the Mayor multiply transition houses for kids.

So many times our society subtly tells us that fulfillment comes primarily through having power and influence to make others serve my needs.  To get what I want when I want it.

Jesus teaches us just the opposite.  On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus was in a second-story apartment room eating a last meal with his followers.  And scripture records this verse that seems like a contradiction in our societies eyes. “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”  John 13:3-5

In other words, Jesus knew that he had all power available to him.  That he could make anyone do anything he wanted to as the Son of God who had existed from eternity past—he had all power.  But then there’s this seemingly insignificant word “SO”—“So…” knowing he could have anything or do anything or make anything go his way…what does Jesus do?  Demand respect and service?  Make people do what he wants?  NO – it says “He grabbed a towel and water and washed his disciples feet.” Jesus was doing what the lowest servant in that culture would do…wash people’s feet. What an incredible mystery—it’s the Grand Reversal of all we are subtly told—Jesus shows us the love of God demonstrated in using power to serve rather than be served.  And he took this attitude all the way to the cross.

That night, after he did this outrageous act, he turned and asked his followers, and you and me who are part of his church to do something outlandish too.  Having washed and towel dried the last foot of his followers, he said these remarkable words:  “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  John 13:15-17

Will this be your posture in life—to grab a towel, and use your gifts, your time, your resources and power—to be Great in God’s eyes—to serve others? Jesus is telling us the way to greatest fulfillment (greatest sense of blessing—of fullness of your life experience) is not when you gain power or fame or fortune to get others to serve you—it’s when you pick up the towel you’ve been given and serve others.

I’ve counseled so many people over the years who are just miserable—but almost always, they are miserable because all their energies are focused on serving themselves (on getting people to like them rather than serving people, on gaining enough wealth to be worth something rather than giving to people, focused on meeting the right person for them, rather than being the right person for others). When you start serving others—all kinds of blessings come back your way like Jesus promised. Sometimes, one’s you couldn’t have predicted.

Bob wrote me this email:

“People may wonder why a 27-year-old single guy in Austin would ever want to spend one-hour teaching 20 5-year-old children each week.  It even sounds a little crazy to me, too, but I can honestly say that I love serving every Sunday. I moved to Austin four years ago to work for Dell in finance. I started going to Gateway soon after, and a man named Nate asked me to give KidsQuest a try. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I reluctantly said yes.  It took a small leap of faith, but from that Sunday on, I was hooked. God had a plan for me and just needed me to take that first initial step. I literally had no experience teaching children but soon learned. To this day, I still don’t even know how to change a diaper (I’m trying to not learn that skill for a few more years). My work days are filled with business process designing, financial analysis, meetings. None of my friends have children, so I don’t typically see any kids unless I go to Chick-Fil-A for lunch. But each Sunday at 11 a.m., I am surrounded by the most energetic and loving kids you can imagine. I transform from “Business Bob” to “Mr. Bob, the teacher dude,” as one child described me last week.  I get the opportunity to learn the art of a dolphin call, and keep up on the latest LEGO toys. I’m so fortunate to be able to teach children the greatest stories ever told. It’s hard to describe the feeling of teaching a child about God. It’s a chance to provide a child with unconditional love and support. It’s the best gift that anyone could ask for. At Kids Quest we get to spend one hour a week with these children and let them know that they are the most important people in the world.  We share high fives, laughter, prayer and even the occasional tear. It’s God’s love at work, and it’s the highlight of my week, even for a single guy in Austin!”

If all of us following Christ will don the towel and serve Like the One we claim to Follow, then no one will burn out serving too much, covering for those who aren’t stepping up.  And we can all have an open-handed serving policy.  That we don’t want anyone to feel stuck serving in a place that’s not really a good match with their Passions, Experiences, and Gifts. Instead, we can help each other find that place that makes you come alive.  That’s God’s heart for you—He created you unique for a reason.  And as we help each other discover how God’s uniquely wired each of us, we can serve each other together as HIS Body. So we want to help you PEG yourself:  Passions. Experiences. Gifts.

Think about your PASSIONS.   There are certain things you feel passionate about, others you care less about.  Sometimes it’s good to step up and serve wherever the need is greatest—sometimes like Bob found, you discover a New Passion. But long-term, we want to help people serve where they find passion. In the Bible, your passions are often talked about as the “desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37 says “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4   This means that as we pursue knowing God and following Him, we will discover passions—desires rising up in our hearts.  Maybe a passion to help a certain group of people- kids, students, homeless people.  Maybe a new spin on your passion for business or finance or strategy.

            God wants his church to be a place where that passion can be expressed to serve others as He would.  And when it works that way, that’s fulfilling for everyone involved.

That’s the reason we’ve started Networks—because we can all find passionate ways to serve together that changes lives. A very sharp business guy [who started Rudy’s] got involved serving in a Network, and found out about the Refugee community our Networks serve—well, one HUGE need of Refugees is finding work—so now He’s using his business to give Refugees work. He’s using a passion area to serve others through His church. But you may have to just start serving somewhere to begin to PEG yourself, discover passions.

Second Uniqueness you have is your EXPERIENCES.  God never wastes an experience.  Many of you have gone through some hellish experiences—things you think could never be used for any good purpose, but God’s intent is that the church would be a place where you can heal and redeem that experience and see Him use it for good.  That’s why he says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4 

God can take any experience we’ve been through, and he can use it for good – to shape us to be more like him, and we can use it to reach out and serve others who are going through the same experience. 

And then you PEG your unique contribution by discovering your spiritual GIFTS. “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a person’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”  Romans 12:4-8

This says that God’s intent for His church is to function like your body does.  All the different parts of your body – eyes, hands, ears, toes, spleen—some seen, some unseen, they all work together to allow you to present yourself to the world.  God wants to re-present himself to the world through a body made up of people he created, willing to be United by Him to be His hands, feet, ears, mouth—people who would function together to serve one another and the world around them just like Jesus did when he was on earth.  So diversity is a good thing – a God given gift, and unity in diversity is even better.

Scripture says we all have different gifts:  Some people lead well, others would just as soon do the behind the scenes stuff with their gift of helps, some can administrate and organize, others have gifts of mercy.  Some can teach, others have the gift of making money and love to resource the Church, others have gifts of encouragement.  And God wants to infuse these gifts he’s given you with power in order to serve His purposes— to serve people, and to show the world what He is like—to represent Christ’s body on earth through His church, the people who follow him.  Pretty wild concept, but that’s what God’s up to, if we will cooperate.

For a spiritual gifts assessment, go to  http://www.gatewaychurch.com/spiritual-gifts-test/.

We offer courses periodically to find your Strengths and gifts, today you can take an online assessment to help you start to see how God’s wired you. Then process that with others—in a Network, small group, or ministry. And try stuff—start serving and using those gifts to see where they can best align with your passions and experiences to make an impact through your church.

The gift of teaching can be used teaching in KidsQuest, or in our College Network (like Ben and Emily Sledge are doing), or teaching people recovering from divorce.  And the gift of leadership can be used in many passion areas—leading a Sunday Serving Team (about 300 volunteers serve so you can be here each Sunday). You could lead there, or lead a Network, or lead a new ministry out of a Network.  The gift of administration/ organization can be used to organize Network Serve events, organize our Food Pantry, or smooth out our check-in process in KidsQuest.

And here’s what happens, when you PEG yourself and serve together as the church. Have you ever seen Geese flying south for the winter?  They fly in a V formation, you know why?  It’s because the flapping of the wings creates an uplift for the bird behind.  By flapping in a V formation, the whole flock adds at least 70% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.  We go farther together, re-presenting to the world what Christ the Servant is like. When we serve each other and the world around us not as individuals, but together as His church, He changes lives through us. And as a result, He changes us.

Most people use their God-given gifts and passions to serve themselves–they use them to try to be remembered–to try to make a name for themselves, right? In reality, no one remembers. All we did will be forgotten most likely. Want proof of this?  What was your great-great grandfather or grandmother’s name?  You don’t even remember their names do you, much less what they did with their gifts and abilities.  Even the “Great men and women” from the past are quickly forgotten or of little consequence to us.

God will remember everything!  God sees every act of service motivated by love, every sacrifice in his name, and he solemly promises that he will remember and reward – it will never be forgotten.  “He will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”  Hebrews 6:10  He ever remembers those small, seemingly unimportant acts of service that even you have forgotten.”

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