Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

Strange Service

Posted on 03 Feb 2014 in Christianity, Culture, Leadership, Ministry, missional theology | Comments Off on Strange Service

One of my morning rituals that I really quite enjoy, is getting to pour the first cup of coffee for my wife. There’s something about that simple act of service (and a nice steamy cup of coffee) that starts my day out right. Service, so it seems, doesn’t have to be extravagant, just heartfelt.

But amongst the routine, I’ve also noticed something else in the last week. You see, my wife likes cream in her coffee, while I take mine black, and as I pour us each a cup of coffee, I have to open the refrigerator, grab the cream, add it to her cup, and then put it back. And at times, I feel inconvenienced.

A pretty silly thing to be inconvenienced by isn’t it? That one extra step of pouring creamer into a cup?

English: Roasted coffee beans photographed usi...

Roasted coffee beans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But my thought process is something like, “Ugh. It’s just annoying having to do this when I don’t want it.”

Doesn’t make much sense. I feel inconvenienced because of something that she wants and likes, and sometimes it’s enough to make me not want to get her coffee.

And besides showing me how incredibly shallow I can be, it also showed me a lot about the church.

I think a lot of our service opportunities or ministries within the church are done from this perspective. Oftentimes our overriding question (whether we know it or not) is, “What kind of thing would I like or want to come to?”

Take a look at the majority of the programs within a church, and you could generally get the feeling that it was a program designed by Christians to target other Christians or who would hope that those they reach have some sort of background or previous experience with Christianity. Very rarely are our programs designed from the perspective of those that don’t know Christ.

And the problem is that far too many of us have been Christian for too long, and we can’t not think Christian. Our overriding perception and motive is that we want something that we enjoy, and think others should too.

Sort of like my morning routine with coffee. I become bothered at times when my wife prefers something different than I do.

And within the church, we become bothered when what we responded to in our Christian faith (AWANA, Sunday School, MOPS, Quilters Corner, or whatever it may have been) doesn’t resonate with others.

Essentially what we’ve done is we’ve lost our imagination, creativity, and diversity. We try to make people (a varied group of age, race, gender, economic status, national heritage, and philosophy) look and come to faith like we did, trying to create everyone to essentially look the same.

Our thought is, “If it worked for me it ought to work for them.”

Instead, I think we need to recapture our imagination, and when planning or dreaming of how to plan new ideas or events in the church, think like a non-Christian, or at the very least, as a Christian that hasn’t lost touch with society, culture, or the needs and hurts among their non-Christian friends.

Here are five ideas from the early Jesus followers that give us the impetus behind this and move us forward in our faith:

  1. The Incarnation. John 1 gives us the beauty and mystery of the Incarnation. We find that God’s love is so compelling and moving, that he couldn’t help but be with us, so he became like us. We, as God followers, should be doing the same. We do a disservice to this when we force everyone to be like us. God took the initiative and became like us, we should follow his lead.
  2. Becoming all things. Just like God became human, so Paul was willing to become whatever he had to do to win others to faith in Jesus (1 Corinthians 9). Paul, as has been said before, was willing to do anything (short of sin) to share Christ with people and help them come to faith. We need to do the same. Instead we’ve become tamed and afraid of the unknown. We don’t run from darkness, but as people of light go charging into it.
  3. The Lord is near. A lot of the time we are afraid because we like to be in control and when we pursue or enter into areas of darkness, we aren’t in control. Instead, we need to look at Paul’s words in Philippians 4, and the promise that the Lord is near. Often, we think of this as time based nearness (it’s almost time for him to come back), but really, Paul is talking about proximity. Why should we be afraid when Jesus is right here next to us?
  4. Overtaking Hell. Jesus’ Kingdom movement is offense based. We are on the offensive, storming down the gates of Hell (Matthew 16). In essence the question is not, will we win, but by how much?
  5. Being Jesus. Where do you want me to start? He hung out with tax collectors and sinners, talked with the Samaritan woman, and told us to behave like Samaritans in our kindness. He was actively involved with redeeming a world that was ‘outside’ of good Jewish relational value. His paradigm for following God was so much different than the traditional religious system of his day (and ours).

When we plan our services to be geared for or to Christians, all we are going to get are Christians from other places. Instead, we need to recapture a prophetic imagination that not only speaks to diversity within the body of Christ, but within the world at large. When we plan service opportunities based on what we can get out of it, we aren’t really serving, we are practicing self-glorification. When we pour others a cup of coffee, it should be a sincere act of service based on what they want, not our feelings or desires.

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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