Where does the Lord intend me to focus my service?
All service begins with devotion to the Lord; serving Him is the ultimate. The Law teaches us this principle: love for God is first and flows out in love for our neighbor (Mark 12:29-31; Rom 13:8-10). Never did an act of service bring such glory and honor to God as the death of the cross (Phi 2:6-8). Never has an act of service brought such benefit to others: “With His stripes we are healed” (Isa 53:5).
The sphere in which we express that service is the assembly. Believers are “to do good and to communicate.” This injunction is in the context of an assembly, with submission to elders following it and offerings of praise “outside the camp” preceding it (Heb 13:13-17; see also 10:25). The self-sacrificing love that is kind to others (1Co 13) was essential to the functioning of the Corinthian assembly.
Of course, our service is not limited to the four walls of an assembly’s meeting place. “Let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). When Paul wrote, essentially all “the household of faith” was in the various assemblies then existing. God intends for our service to focus on the assembly and to flow out from there.
Any service we render to others then must be consistent with the principles of the assembly and as an extension of the assembly’s testimony. That is true of every facet of our lives and will not keep us from serving, but it will channel our service. Joining in any other association or taking any other name than the Lord Jesus Christ in order to serve others denies the sufficiency of the design of God’s house to fulfill our Christian service.
How can I serve the Lord in the assembly?
Answering this could take many pages, but a few suggestions might help. As the question emphasizes, this is primarily service for the Lord. Therefore, honor the Lord by being at all the assembly gatherings (Heb 10:25). Come prepared to give something to the Lord whether you are a sister or brother (13:15; 1Pe 2:5). Live a godly life that manifests Christ (Titus 2:11, 12). Maintain separation from the world and sanctity from sin (2Co 6:11-7:1). Know the Spirit’s power through a life of communion (Eph 6:1-18).
But that is incomplete if the Christian life does not reach out to other believers and to unbelievers. Zeal for the gospel will inspire habitual, personal testimony to unbelievers. Working to bring unbelievers to the Sunday school or gospel meetings is a responsibility for all.
“Encourage (JND) one another daily” (Heb 3:13). “Consider one another” (10:24) so that we will perceive others’ needs. “By love, serve one another” (Gal 5:13). Some will appreciate a visit, which may include, as did the Lord (John 21:12-18), material and spiritual provision. Seek the restoration of wanderers. “Bear ye one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2) with a responsive, sensitive heart. Know when a “word in season” (Isa 50:4) will help and when a home-cooked meal will be more helpful. “Use hospitality one to another” (1Pe 4:9) for the furtherance of the gospel, the preservation of the young or vulnerable, and the strengthening of fellowship with all the believers in the assembly. Find ways to act and things to do that will increase the unity of the assembly around Christ (Mark 9:34, 50b). “Pray one for another” (Jam 5:16).
Serving in the assembly includes helping to maintain the assembly’s meeting place. Cutting the grass, planting flowers and shrubs, maintaining the grounds, painting the outside trim, washing toilets, sweeping floors, moving chairs, changing light bulbs, and organizing the storage closet are some low-profile ways to serve the Lord – and expend youthful energy.
What is the consequence of not serving others?
To a servant mind (Phi 2:5), meeting the needs of others is a way of life. Human nature being what it is, the absence of a servant mind introduces “strife and vainglory” (rivalry and conceit, ESV) (v 3) into the assembly. It creates a dead, difficult-to-define, negative atmosphere that causes the disenfranchised to go elsewhere and children to turn from the gospel. The existence of the assembly in Philippi was endangered because of the lack of a servant mind. By adopting a servant mind, the believers were to “work out” the salvation of the assembly (v 12). Only by this means could the believers be effective Christian witnesses in the community. Failure to serve others is totally foreign to the heart of God and therefore is destructive to testimony, personal growth, and gospel outreach.
How can I balance time for service and for communion?
In a busy world and with the multiplicity of needs among believers and unbelievers, time for communion so often suffers. The initial question of Saul, a new convert, was “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10). Servants look to their master for direction in their service (Psa 123:2). Their duty is defined by his word (Luke 17:7-10). So, while service for the Lord may beckon us to respond to a thousand needs, the only service of value is what the Master directs us to do. If we are too busy to commune with Him, we must be doing service He has not directed us to do. As Saul did directly to the Lord, so we must determine our service through prayer. We may see needs that others are not meeting, but that may not be the service the Lord has for us. We ought to pray about that need. Perhaps the Lord will show us that another believer is uniquely suited to meet that need. We can seek the Lord’s help to know how best to encourage that believer to do the work. Perhaps the Lord will do that Himself, use your word of encouragement, or even use you to do that work temporarily with that other believer who will then continue the work on his own. If serving the Lord leads to anxiety, frustration, worry, or spiritual decline, He did not impose that heavy burden, for he said, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Mat 11:30).
What the Lord gives us to do is our priority (John 21:21 with vv 15-22). He desires us to commune with Him as Mary did and to serve as Martha did – but without being anxious and troubled. (Luke 10:38-42). Maintaining that order, communion and then service, is the key.