Sunday, July 20, 2008

Love-Motivated Service

Whenever we serve, it's always for someone else; real service is inherently other-focused. Just think about all the ways we experience service in our everyday lives:

  • The mechanic in your local garage is there to provide service for your vehicle--not his. His garage doesn't exist for him alone, but rather to offer a quality service experience to you and anyone else who needs help with their car.
  • The server in your local restaurant is there not just to serve you dinner, but in fact to serve all your needs while dining--your needs, not theirs. Their job is to provide you with an exceptional dining experience (and the food is actually only one part of that service).
  • If you have trouble with a product that you buy, most of the time you can call their Customer Service department. Their job is to do everything they can to resolve your problem to your satisfaction--they're there to serve the customer... at least, in theory. If they don't do a good job, you will say you did not get good service.
In truth, self-service is no service at all. When you drive up to a gas pump, swipe your own debit card, fill up your car for an obscene amount of money, check your own fluids, wipe your own windshield, and oversee all aspects of your own transaction, you've made a purchase, but you have not given yourself a service. No one leaves a gas station remarking on how well they served themselves. Service is always for someone else. To serve is to direct your talents and energies to the benefit of others.

But why would we do that? What could possibly be our motivation for serving others? Our capitalistic economy is designed to reward good service with money. That's the motivation for the auto mechanic, the restaurant server, and the Customer Service department; their goal is to maximize their bottom lines. The better they serve, the more money they generate for themselves.

Now, there's nothing wrong with that. I think it's rather ingenious that we've created an economic system where people are actually rewarded for doing something they're unlikely to do voluntarily, but which everyone needs and everyone benefits from.

But that can't be our motivation at PCC for serving others. We don't serve so that we can get money. We also don't serve in order to see some pre-determined result. As much as we want to see people come to faith in Christ, give their lives and hearts to him, and experience the life-transforming power he offers, we can't hold that out as a reason for serving people. Because what if they don't? What if they don't become believers? Does that mean we stop serving them? How would we know when we've served someone "long enough"? Service can't be used as a manipulation tool--that would make it something other than service.

Additionally, we don't serve out of guilt, duty, obligation, to fulfill our own needs, or to gain recognition. If we serve for any of these reasons, our service is not truly focused on others, but on ourselves. We're really only serving for what we can get out of it--much like the server at the restaurant.

At PCC, we believe that there can only be one good motivation for serving, and that motivation is love--love for other people. We want everyone who serves to recognize exactly how their service benefits others, and to be motivated by genuine love for those they serve.
  • Our ushers greet people and make them feel welcome every Sunday. They provide them with a bulletin, which is the main communication tool for our church, helping us all stay connected with one another. They answer questions and help direct visitors to the nursery or the children's wing downstairs. Our ushers provide a tremendous service, motivated by a sincere love for everyone who walks in the door.
  • Our lawn crew keeps the grass mowed and edged. This makes it safe for everyone who comes, so that we don't have snakes and other critters taking up residence in some long, weedy hayfield that occupies the space where our lawn used to be. It also makes it attractive to the community that drives by the church, rather than making an unkempt property that repels people. This is a love-motivated service.
  • And more could be said about nursery workers, children's ministry workers, sound & video techs, small group leaders, youth group volunteers, worship musicians, and others.

Every ministry of our church meets one or more needs with love. All of our ministries are about loving people, and those who serve hopefully do so out of a motivation of love. If you are reading this, and you have a ministry in the church, I'd invite you to think about what needs your ministry meets for people, and how you can demonstrate love for them through your service.

This week, we have a great opportunity in Soccer Camp to give love-motivated service to our entire community, as dozens of kids (and their parents) come to us for a week of soccer and fun. If you haven't signed up yet to serve, just contact Pastor Brent, our Soccer Camp Director, and he'll be happy to find a way that you can get plugged in (no soccer skills required!!!).

In the fall, we'll be launching a new ministry in partnership with the Northwest School District, called Kids Hope USA. It's a mentoring program for at-risk elementary age children. The principal will select the children who qualify for the program; our church will supply the mentors who commit to spending one hour a week with their child at the school. This program has had a tremendous impact in schools around the country, and it's one more way that we can provide love-motivated service to the people around us.

Every person is a person created in God's image. Every person is a person that God loves. Every person is a person that God wants us to love. But let us not love people with words only and vague notions, but with actions that actually demonstrate that our love is real. Let us love with service.

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