Two years ago, I wrote a post called “Permission to Service.” The post was actually the conclusion to a short series on the topic of women serving. However, this post is not just about women. It’s about all of us. In Christ, we are all part of the New Covenant priesthood, and through his Holy Spirit, we are all called and empowered to serve God by serving others. In other words, we all have permission to serve. We do not have to get permission from anyone else. Your permission and your commission comes directly from God – who also directs you and empowers you to serve.
This post is the final post in my series on “women in ministry,” or, as I like to say, “women serving others.” (see “Spiritual Gifts and Women,” “Spiritually Gifted Women,” and “Women Serving in Context“) However, this post is not about women specifically. Instead, it’s about all of us, including women.
Originally, this post was titled “Serving for the Rest of Us.” But, my friend Wes from “a mission-driven life” left a comment on facebook about some of the previous points in this series. His comment gets to the point of this post, so I took the title from his comment, and even changed a few things in the post to go along with his comment. This is what Wes said:
[W]hat I really liked about the post is that you distinguish between gifts and offices. I agree with you. And while your post is about women, its also about other people, like me, who isn’t serving in an office, like elder or deacon, but who believes that I can still serve the church with the gifts God has granted me, without feeling like I need “permission” to serve.
Women and men are gifted by God through the Holy Spirit in various ways for various types of service and various opportunities to serve. God gives these spiritual gifts according to his will so that we can serve one another. When we serve one another, we bring glory to God.
When we use terms like “ministry” instead of “service,” we often make service into something that only certain people can do. If this perception hinders us from serving others, then we’ve missed something very important – important to ourselves and to others. In fact, not only are we missing something important to ourselves and others, but we are hindering the growth of the church, because the church grows when EACH believer is serving one another.
Thus, someone who is a child of God has been gifted by the Holy Spirit of God. That person has been ordained by God as a minister of God to serve other people. Failure to serve others would be similar to any other act of disobedience.
Certainly, there are contexts for service. I’ve briefly mentioned some of the passages of Scripture that could (and I think do) limit the contexts of women serving. However, there are other passages that limit the context of anyone serving. Women are not lesser servants because of certain passages any more than others are lesser servants because of other passages. The church NEEDS the service of all believers.
So, as a child of God, we are ministers together, and each of us is a minster separately. We have permission to serve. We have license to serve.
Those of us who are leaders in the church must make sure that we encourage everyone to serve, not just other leaders. Similarly, we should give opportunity for others to serve. This would include both speaking and non-speaking acts of service.
We also must realize that we are not perfect. None of us individually is perfect and we are not perfect as a group – whatever group we’re talking about. We must give each other grace and offer each other mercy as we attempt to serve one another. We will get it wrong on occasion.
Eventually, as we attempt to serve one another, someone is going to serve someone else in a manner that is considered to be incorrect. While we can help one another learn through these times (and, remember, we both need help, not just the one that we think is wrong), let’s also recognize the intent and purpose. If they purpose is trying to serve in love for the purpose of building up the body of Christ, then let’s glorify God for it!
If we only allow perfect service… then we’re in big trouble. Thank God that he is merciful and works through broken vessels. (And, before someone says it, yes, we should never be satisfied with our current level of imperfection, but should instead continue to disciple one another.)
So, to end this post where Wes began it: We have permission to serve.