I remember when I first heard about a pastor who had his own personal chef, chauffeur, and tailor. My mind was blown. Wow! Holy cow! So…. THIS is success. THIS is what arriving looks like. THIS is a thing of beauty and I want to get there some day too.
I thought: I need to build my platform so that I can be somebody important – someone others will serve.
Around that same time, I had read books like “Under Cover” and “God’s Armor Bearer” – books that emphasized how important it is to serve the “man of God” (the pastor or leader or top dog in your organization). The message was clear: we should aspire to carry his briefcase, his Bible, wash his car, mow his lawn, run his errands… you know, really serve the big guy.
There was another message too, and it was a motivating one. It went something like this: serve your leaders well because they will notice and one day promote you. The favor on them will eventually rub off on you – so stay close and serve faithfully.
I was learning the WHY behind service. Why serve the “man of God?” Because serving the big guy will put you in line to be the next big guy.
This created a whole gang of power-hungry “servants” who were putting in their time while dreaming of promotion. I was one of them… hoping I could be the armor bearer’s armor bearer (and eventually, when the armor bearer is promoted to big guy, I also get promoted to one-step-away from being the next big guy).
Praise the Lord, I’m on my way! Building my platform so that I can be somebody important – someone others will serve.
Slowly I began to realize that platform-building isn’t very beautiful. It looks less like Jesus and more like a multi-level marketing scheme that uses lots of hungry people to make a few big guys bigger.
Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, says: “I used to think that God’s gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the easier we should reach them. I find now that God’s gifts are on shelves one beneath the other, and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower, and that we have to go down, always down, to get His best gifts.”
This does not sound like my earlier plan of building my platform so that I can be somebody important – someone others will serve. But it does sound like Jesus, doesn’t it?
Voskamp writes, “You can see it in the anatomy of a soul: we weren’t made for standing on platforms, but were formed to serve from the beauty of bent knees—the servant lowering into the glory of the upside-down Kingdom.”
Cease striving to get a higher, greater platform—and start praying to go lower and serve greater. —Ann Voskamp
On my first trip to work with Metro Ministries in Brooklyn, NY, some of the staff prepared us for a big day of ministry with thousands of impoverished kids from the projects. They told us it might be overwhelming. They said our hearts would break. They said we will want to do something big, like adopt all the kids or fix all their problems… but we can’t. Then they told us what we could do: sit with the kids, talk with them, listen to them, love them. And tie their shoelaces.
They explained how many of the kids don’t have parents who are present (because of drugs or other issues). The majority of these kids don’t know how to tie their shoelaces, so the Metro Ministries staff told us to kneel down and tie their shoelaces.
They said, “It’s something you CAN do. Get down and tie shoelaces for these kids. It’s an expression of love.”
We can always go lower – and that’s where God’s best blessings are.
Earlier this year, my daughter and I went with a team from our church to serve at the Dream Center in Los Angeles. The Dream Center sent us to Skid Row with hot dogs, chips, and ice water. We handed out all the food. The Dream Center staff told us to walk around the streets and offer people what we had left: ice water. So that’s what we did. We stooped down to where addicts were on the sidewalks of Skid Row and handed them some ice-cold water.
I think sometimes we just need to remember that stooping and serving is beautiful.
Not platform-building. Not dreaming of having my own personal chef, chauffeur, and tailor. Not arriving. These things are intoxicating, but they don’t look like the Savior who wraps a towel around his waist and washes the feet of his followers.
We can always go lower.
Jean Vanier says, “Love doesn’t mean doing extraordinary or heroic things. It means knowing how to do ordinary things with tenderness. We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.”
We need to remember that stooping and serving is beautiful.
QUESTION: What are some experiences you’ve had that helped you remember stooping and serving is beautiful?