Week Five: Shaped for Serving God aka “You might be a servant if…”
Confession time: I obviously am familiar with a certain country comedian, Jeff Foxworthy, whose fame skyrocketed when he introduced a comedic line “You might be a redneck if…” as a segment on one of his shows that later turned into a book, comics, and countless internet memes and spin-offs. And while some of the additions have not been incredibly tasteful and even offensive at times, the majority of the descriptors associated with this phrase are actually quite funny, especially for those of us who grew up and take pride in being from the country (like myself).
So, although not a song, this one liner came to mind as I was reading through the fourth segment of this book where Rick focuses on our fourth purpose for living: being shaped to serve God and others. Much like the redneck predecessor, Rick takes the time to paint a picture for us of what being a servant truly looks like, and how we can know if we are operating from a servant’s heart or just waiting around to be served.
You Might be a Servant if…
One thing I love about Jeff Foxworthy’s comedy on rednecks is that his witty one-liner allows listeners to determine whether or not they would be considered rednecks based on the respective descriptors and just how much they do or do not have in common with such a group. I remember listening to many of the things Jeff would mention, like “your mother has ammo on her Christmas list” or “you have ever mowed your grass and found a car” and laugh because I knew it was a perfect description of the way I grew up and my Southern roots. Other times, I would find myself laughing because it was in no way descriptive of me, but I definitely knew someone that it fit right on. Regardless of if it fit me or not, it was both funny and helpful to use his little “test” to determine where I stood in terms of my own redneck status.
Although not as humorous but much more important, I can imagine Rick walking on stage with a thick Southern accent and starting his own segment of “You might be a servant if…” Much like Jeff, he would present descriptors of being a servant that we can apply to our lives as well as those around us to determine our own servant status. As he noted in this week’s reading, you might be a servant if:
- Your Actions Say So (Day 33): As we all know, our actions speak louder than our words, so whether or not you call yourself a servant really does not matter if your actions do not say it as well. Actions you can be on the lookout for to let you know that you are truly operating from a servants heart include: being available to serve, being attentive to areas of need/opportunities to serve around you, doing your best with what you’ve got, being dedicated to the task at hand no matter how big or how small, being faithful to the finish and completing the task no matter how big or how small, and being ok with being in the background versus the spotlight (and vice versa depending on your comfort level; I hate being in the spotlight but have ended up there on several occasions as a part of my service).
- Your Thoughts Say So (Day 34): While our actions are helpful in determining our servant status, they do not give a complete picture when it comes to fully understanding the servant heart. I think all of us have met a few people out there who serve with their actions, but the rest of them would really like to be elsewhere and they have no problem letting everyone know about it. Instead, you know you are a true servant if: you intentionally put others ahead of yourself both on the inside and outside, you seek to steward and not own the resources you are given (open, not closed hands), you intentionally focus on your own work and choose not to compare yourself and your work to others, you intentionally base your identity and worth in Christ and not the actual service, and you intentionally see service requests as opportunities, not obligations.
- Your Weaknesses/Limitations Say So (Day 35): As Rick encourages, it is important for us to maximize our strengths in serving, but sometimes this is not possible and regardless, due to our lovely human condition, we will always be faced with our limitations. Like other things though, it is really how we deal with our weaknesses and limitations that shows our true colors and helps us determine our servant status. In this case, you might be a servant if: you readily acknowledge and admit your weaknesses instead of trying to hide or deny them, you find contentment in recognizing you are not perfect and that God can often show Himself more in our weaknesses than in our strengths, you intentionally seek to share your weaknesses with others as a means of encouragement and testimony when appropriate, and you intentionally view your weaknesses as an opportunity to watch God work and give Him the glory (when I am weak, He is strong; 2 Corinthians 12:10).
If you have ever been around a true servant, you can tell that their actions, thoughts, and use of their weaknesses are aligned in such an incredible way that it leaves a lasting impression. There is no doubt in your mind that they might be a servant… YOU KNOW THEY ARE. I am confident this is what it was like to be around Jesus, the ultimate servant, as He spent time continuously investing in the lives of those around Him and humbling Himself even to the point of feeding them and washing feet without grumble or complaint. What an encouraging and yet challenging role model!
How does this apply to me?
Once again, while this is nice material and yes, I can ask myself all of these things to determine my servant status, I still get stuck when it comes to the practical application and actually acting out my ministry and finding my niche for service. What does that look like? If I have determined that I am not currently a servant (and my answer to “you might be a servant if…” is a definite NO), what do I do? How do I determine where I should be serving so that I can move towards embodying all of those wonderful descriptors above?
Once again, I am so thankful for Rick and his practical, purposeful (pardon the pun) approach. In this case, he presents us with the SHAPE acronym (I LOVE ACRONYMS!!!!) to figure out how we were shaped for service and what that looks like. Let’s take a deeper look at what our SHAPE consists of:
- Spiritual Gifts: These are the “special God-empowered abilities” (p.236) given to us for His service and are to be used in acting upon the spiritual world around us. They typically are spiritual in nature and there are some great spiritual gift listings and assessments out there that can help you determine what yours might be (but you might want to check with your pastor or spiritual leader on this one). We often have more than one spiritual gift, although there might be a primary one, but none of us has all of the spiritual gifts. For instance, I know that I am called to evangelize through the Great Commission and I do seek to do so, but it is not one of my natural giftings. In contrast, I am drawn to and passionate about discipleship, and love walking through life with others teaching them and encouraging them in their faith. This is definitely one of my gifts, and I feel like I am on fire when I get the chance to do that.
- Heart: These would be the “bundle of desires, hopes, interests, ambitions, dreams, and affections you have” (p.237). In other words, they are the things you like and want to do instinctively; sometimes you do not even know why, you just know that you love it!! I know this might seem crazy to some, but God actually created us to LIKE serving Him and others! So, if you are dreading your current service or begin serving in a ministry and absolutely hate it, it might be that it does not fit the desires of your heart and it is outside of what your creation is. When I read this, I think about serving in the children’s ministry, which I currently do on a monthly basis. To be quite honest, and not because of anything specific to the ministry (I love our children’s ministry), I dislike my role in it. I was not meant to serve in children’s ministry, and although I try my best to make it fun for the kids and be as useful as possible, it is draining and I dread it each month. If there was not a substantial need for safe volunteers, I would not be doing it, but sometimes the need trumps our desires and I do like being able to help. In contrast, my husband and I have served in youth ministry in some capacity ever since we were youth ourselves. This is totally in line with my heart’s desires and I get energized hanging out with teens and walking through life with them (again, discipleship 🙂 ). I would hate not being able to be a part of this ministry, and this confirms for me that it is a part of God’s specific heart and service design for me.
- Abilities: These are the natural talents we have that can be used to act on the physical world around us (p.241). Just like the spiritual gifts, there is a wide variety of abilities available to humans, and we typically have a sampling of many although one or two may be primary and no one has all of them. These abilities often influence our career or hobby choices, such as being able to sing, build things, work with words, fix things, work with blood or medical issues, dealing well with heights or water, being athletic or academic, etc. For me, this one is obvious. I have never had athletic abilities (I am very good at watching sports, but anytime I try to play I usually get hit by something in the face :)) and I get queasy at even the thought of blood. However, I have always excelled with academics, loving to learn and write and teach. These are my natural abilities that have been maximized throughout the years, and now I can use them both for my career as well as my ministry.
- Personality: These are the unique character traits that would be used to describe who we are, such as introverted or extroverted, and that often fall in line with what we like to do (p.245). Again, there are a variety of personality traits available, and each of us has our own unique combination that makes us exactly who we are. While we might have things in common with one another, I am the only me that exists and you are the only you. When looking for ministry opportunities and figuring out what service looks like for us, we should consider our personality and what is or is not a good fit for us. For me, I tend to be more introverted than extroverted, and so I flourish in service opportunities that allow me to be one-on-one with others or even serve all by myself 🙂 I still participate in big group ministries that are great for extroverts, but this is on a limited basis and more due to need than preference. Again, as you learn more about your shape, you will be able to determine a good service fit.
- Experiences: These are the moments and events that create your history and have influenced your unique life story. Rick categorizes these into six specific types: family, educational, vocational, spiritual, ministry, and painful (p.246). When we look back on these experiences and glean from them any lessons we can learn about ourselves and our likes/dislikes as well as how we can relate to God and others, we can use all of this information in our service. Specifically, we can share these experiences as a testimony or use these experiences to open doors for further ministry. The main thing that comes to mind for me is my educational and vocational experiences that have allowed me to serve on mental health missions trips to both India and Africa. When working with these cultures, I was able to help train medical staff and missionaries as well as provide counseling services to people with leprosy or who are HIV positive because of the training and credentials God has orchestrated in my life. I love being able to use my education and training for Him and see the doors that have opened because of them!
When we take a practical look at each of these elements, it gives us a great starting point for finding our own ministry/service outlet as well as confirming that we are or are not in the best ministry for who we are. I love the way Rick says it: “Using your shape is the secret of both fruitfulness and fulfillment in ministry. You will be most effective when you use your spiritual gifts and abilities in the area of your heart’s desire, and in a way that best expresses your personality and experiences” (p. 248).
With all of this in mind, the challenge this week is two-fold:
- Determine one thing you can do to experiment with your SHAPE in the coming month. I love that Rick encourages us not to try to discern our perfect ministry from the very beginning, but to just get out there and start serving and then see what works and what does not. I am all about this trial and error process, and have tried out several different ministries to get to know where I really thrive in serving (youth versus children). What is something that sounds like fun? Would you like to be a greeter? Would you like to sign-up to make meals for someone who is sick? What about serving as a small group leader or a Sunday school teacher or a nursery worker? The local church is full of ministry positions that need to be filled, so I challenge you to get out there and try something now.
- As you are experimenting and/or if you think you have found your ministry niche, use the above information to take inventory and see if there is legitimate alignment. Is your current service in alignment with your shape (round peg in a round hole)? Can you see the descriptors of a servant’s heart active in your life? Why or why not? And if why not, what is something that needs to change?
As we continue on our service journey and living out our shape, I do not believe any of us will really “arrive” this side of heaven, but I do believe that we can find our God-given place in His body, experience the amazing fit when our shape and service aligns, and pursue the servant’s heart we have seen in Jesus. Then, we too can laugh and smile when we hear “You might be a servant if…” because we know that we are. ♥
***PS: I know we are SOOO BEHIND!!! I am working on catching up! 🙂 I have one more posting for Purpose Driven Life in the works and should be posting my first posting on the Strategy of Satan ASAP 🙂 Thanks ya’ll!!! :)***