“And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (Luke 22:25-27)
In my opinion, of the seven gifts that are discussed in Romans chapter 12, there is one that makes a person look and act so much like my Lord that, sometimes, when I watch them in action, they bring tears to my eyes. The gift that is the subject of this second in a series of seven articles is that of ministry or serving.
We tend to think of the word “Ministry” by itself, immediately forming a mental picture of our Pastor preaching in front of the congregation but, in reality, the real purpose and manifestation of the gift goes far deeper than tending the flock on Sunday. There is a multitude of believers out there that are ministering in ways other than from the pulpit.
Minister-servants tend to be the most humble of all believers, focusing almost all of their energy outward toward those in need – sometimes with too little consideration for themselves. They experience tremendous joy from recognizing a need or a hurt in someone and then immediately filling that need with gladness in their hearts. Their helping hand is always accompanied by a genuine smile or a warm hug. Those who are blessed with the gift of minister-servant are not inclined, but are compelled, to help those in need – and their response isn’t usually calculated, it is immediate.
As I stated, the servant heart is so focused on the needs of others that it may ignore its own needs. This is an important discussion point because it is one of the potentially negative aspects of the gift. Minister-servants do not like the responsibility of delegating, thus they have the tendency to assume much, much more responsibility than they can possibly handle alone. That tendency, if not monitored by church leadership, may actually result in the person suffering physical problems. Unless the church leadership seeks to identify these people, and attempts to influence their workload, they will quite literally run themselves into the ground. I cannot stress this point enough. Servants cannot say “No” so leadership must make an effort to protect them, rather than over-burden them. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
The one gifted in ministry or serving wants only to be able to help others and to be sincerely appreciated for what they do within the body of Christ. Because they are truly humble, they absolutely don’t want public accolades for their efforts. They do, however, want – and need, true appreciation for what they do for the Body of Christ and the church they belong to.
Minister-servants are drawn into the type of situations where they can work with others toward a common goal because they love people. They don’t necessarily appreciate being under someone else’s supervision or control because they are “free spirits” and will want to do things much faster and more efficiently than policy and programs allow. An example of their “rebellion” (if we could politely call it that) would be paying for materials or food for a project out of their own pocket rather than going through normal channels and administrative delays at church.
They are the natural “stand-in” for the Pastor who is probably in overload, visiting the families who need him. That’s why those with the combination of minister-servant and mercy are a perfect match for “Stephen’s Ministry” or Care Group leadership. When you see someone carrying a meal to a family that has a loved one in the hospital or home sick, odds are they have been gifted in the area of ministry-servant. If someone is transporting kids to and from church or taking ministry teams to the airport, they’re probably minister-servants.
Their homes are usually full of their own and other people’s children. They seem to just radiate love and compassion in every direction. Adults, children and animals follow them everywhere they go and I know that’s the truth, because I have been blessed and I’m married to a wonderful woman who is gifted in this area. No matter where she goes, children and animals try to follow her. One way to show your appreciation is to step in and force them to take some time off for themselves (well – at least you can try).
People are naturally attracted to their unconditional love, understanding and compassion. They are very much like Christ. The ones gifted in this area look at all people as God’s children. They are the ones who will reach out to any person, no matter what they look like, smell like, or where they may be. They don’t look at the person that’s in need, but at their need.
Although the gift of minister-servant is one of the most noticeable, sadly, it is one of the least appreciated. If we are going to reverse that trend, there is a requirement for the members of the Body of Christ to strive to understand the giftedness of their brothers and sisters in the Lord. There is also a more specific need to be sincerely appreciative of the minister-servants that the Lord has given us, whether in our families or in our churches. Far too often, we take them for granted, failing to show our appreciation, and sometimes actually treating them with disdain. In my opinion, some of our negative behavior toward these people is the result of misdirected false guilt.
From afar, we watch them serve faithfully over the months and years and we eventually begin to feel guilty because we aren’t doing the same. Even though it may not be our gift, we try to compare ourselves to them. In the end, the result of our false guilt is a lack of genuine appreciation and thankfulness toward these wonderful servants. The root cause of our failure to react properly and show sincere appreciation is our lack of understanding. If we aren’t gifted in that area, then we aren’t gifted in that area. Simple! You don’t beat yourself up every day because you’re not a brain surgeon, because you know that it isn’t your gift. Why is it different in the Spiritual realm? If we remember that we are all gifted in different areas and start to show an appreciation for the uniqueness, spiritual purpose, and necessity of one another’s gifts, many of these problems will go away automatically.
The minister-servant gets along with everyone. Only in cases of specific disagreement will they show any negative behavior. Some negative triggers might be a church leader deliberately overloading them to the point where they can’t minister effectively; a prophet because they perceive them as unfeeling; or a giver who they might perceive is trying to buy his or her way out of some decent work.
If you feel as though you are gifted in this area, you must work very hard at taking care of yourself. Your compassion for others may actually override your natural instinct to survive. If you aren’t careful, you will take on a workload that is impossible for any one person and you will make yourself physically sick. Take the time to relax and let others take care of you once in a while! Recharge your Spiritual batteries and get the rest that you need – and may God bless you richly for what you do for all of us every day.
I would like to thank Doug Small for his contribution in helping me to deliver this message to you today. God bless you.