Letter from the Minister.
Rev Phil Summers
Holy Habits - Service
When I was going through the ‘interview’ process to become a Methodist Minister I was working in a toy shop. One of the questioners asked was about the similarities between working in a shop and being a minister. I got the impression that the questioner saw in the retail industry a need to promote product, to catch the buyers’ attention and he recognised a similar need in the church. My answer focussed more on the differences. We cannot be in the business of selling the Gospel.
If at any point we think of our calling to serve as a way of communicating the good news and thereby getting more people to follow Jesus then we are no better than the shop keeper who sells you a three for two offer simply to get you to spend more. We are called to serve. Full stop. Service to others, friends and strangers alike, is an enactment of love. We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). It’s not that evangelism is not an important calling placed upon us, we all have a part to play in the building up of the church; but to use service as a tool to get people to think about their faith seems to me to undermine the very nature of what service should be.
If I give something as a gift, but then as they receive it I grasp their hand and won’t let go until I’ve at least tried to convince them of their need to ‘join me’, then the gift is no more than a baited hook. Our calling to serve is pure and is simple. There are those all around us who are in need and because of love we respond to that need as best we can.
Now, the needs are manifold. There are so many that we could while away our time with weeping as we contemplate the worlds need. In various ways and at various times the church responds to need internationally, nationally, locally and personally. There are charities, campaign groups, action groups, systems, rotas and requests that so many of us are involved in at various levels. I don’t have space to discuss them all here. We cannot meet the needs of our own town, let alone the needs of the entire world. But history shows that things can change when individuals such as you and me, each in our own small way become aware. We can join the campaigns, highlight the need, give financial support, do our little bit and by our commitment to serve, the world changes.
Commitment is the key. Commitment to serve. It is an attitude of mind and a practical application of that attitude in all our relationships. How do we serve the person next to us? Our family, the stranger in the street, the waitress in a café, even the person cold calling us about an accident we never had. Everyone is our neighbour and in our dealings with them the attitude of service should be paramount. It’s not about being ordered around by anyone and everyone, it’s not about being blind to con men and the dangers of the world. As Jesus reminds us ‘I am sending you out as sheep amongst wolves, so be wise a serpents and innocent as doves’ (Mtt. 10:16). Our attitude should be one of love and love enacted is service, without the need for thanks or reward but in the knowledge that Jesus calls us to live life in all its fullness (John 10:10).
‘Brother, Sister, let me serve you,
Let me be as Christ to you’ (Richard A. M. Gillard)