…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14

How to serve in church … without hurting others and ourselves

Dear bro Guang 弟兄,

We had a quite an unexpected lively lunch discussion, after last Sunday’s sharing, where the group leader strongly shared about serving the church, and being committed to the church.

I fully agree with your views, and flagging your concerns.  Ultimately, its about Jesus and serving Him.

2 Corinthians 8:5
And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord,
and then by the will of God also to us.

Our commitment is first to the Lord.
Jesus invites us to follow Him.
Jesus invites us to a living relationship & fellowship with Him,
not blindly follow Him.

Rather than dwell on this, perhaps it may be good to share some  thoughts and experiences about serving … hopefully in a way that builds people.  I am far from perfect, and this sharing is a timely reminder for me too 🙂

I can also see that God has blessed you with great gifts,  and you have a heart for people.  Soon, leaders will come knocking at your door with opportunities to serve or lead.

Over the years, one of the most common reasons I’ve found as to why some friends leave church is due to  … leadership issues
(… leaving things best unsaid)

Some go to serve in other churches, while others move to large churches and … still others have no more interest to serve anymore, and …. sadly some become unchurched, or attend virtual church, or attend church normadically.   I remember a dear friend once shared, “better don’t get too involved, or else end up leaving, like those we’ve seen”

As the saying goes in corporate business, “people don’t leave companies, they leave bosses”.

(A Google search about problem, click here)

Such problems not only happens at the ground level, but also to dedicated, visionary pastors working with overbearing elders/deacons who have clipped their wings.

Depending on one’s point of view, some may say “stay and not look at the failings of man“, while others may say “character building, get on with it“,  others may say, “move on, shake off the dust from your feet, and find good ground to grow in“, and others “just focus on serving those in need“.
Whichever case,  all of us caught in such friendly fire do feel that leaders, who are mature in their faith, ought to be more Christ-like.

Let’s be honest, we ourselves may have consciously or unconsciously stumble others with our words or behavior in the past, eg a spontaneous humorous comment that unexpectedly went wrong :-(.  Lord, forgive us.

Matthew 20:25-27 (NASB)
25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

John 13:14 (NIV)
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet,
you also should wash one another’s feet.

Jesus demonstrated focused visionary leadership, clothed with humility and relational servanthood … practical, compassionate and full of wisdom.
He invites us to join him.   A kingdom of God attitude.

Jim Collins in his book Good to Great confirms from his intensive research that leadership of humility and fierce resolve  is highly successful in the business world.  He calls it Level 5 leadership.  Here is his Harvard Business Review article, and interview with Christianity Today.


Along life’s way, thankfully I’ve been blessed by some outstanding, caring and loving leaders in churches, ministries and para-church organisations. Brethren who have a tangible touch of Jesus, having been touched by Jesus themselves.  And when I meet them, I’m inspired to whisper a prayer, “Lord, there’s something in this person that I pray you will bless me with.”

However, there are some places where I’ve met leaders who ….
after they find out what talents, gifts, abilities or finances you have ….

they are only interested in you as a
a brother or sister in Christ

what you can do for our ministry
instead of
what can we do with you or help you,

“Come and join us … and be part of our ministry, you’ll be a great help to us.  Let’s meet to talk how you can help.”
rather than saying
“I would like to know you better, when are you free to meet ? Lets talk about you, I’m interested in what’s happening in your world.  May be we can collaborate, partner together to serve”

“Did not see you at the meeting last week? Where were you ?”
rather than saying
“How are things going with you ? Is everything ok ? Can I help or pray for you in anyway?”

“Please pray for A …. B … C …. Z in the ministry”
rather than saying
“Is there something we can pray for you or your family?”

are we

are we
activity or event driven,
Christ centered

Possibly the
greatest spiritual deception
we can fall into is to think
we really love the Lord
while having little concern
for his people
– Jim Cymbala

are we
building ministries/churches/projects
building people

do we see
people as they are now
what people can become in the future

do we see
people always being in our ministry
one day soon
… they will grow into bigger, more influential ministries
than our own, may be somewhere else

are we concerned about
ministries/church cares
caring about people

are we concerned about
the needs in the church/ministry
the needs of the people
in the church/ministry

are we
building a goal-oriented ministry
or building a loving community

are we focused on
visible numbers, results,
instant outcomes, growth, 
spiritual fruit, growth,
which sometimes may mean no visible results or slow growth

are we concerned about
the reputation of ourselves, our ministry, church,
rather than
what is right and biblical, honoring Jesus

do we see
people through shades of  labels and stereotypes like ethnicity, education, status, background, etc
clearly as unique individuals made in the image of God with potential for good fruit

are we concerned about
having people fill up vacant positions in ministries
helping people discover their gifts, talents, abilities,
nurturing their gifts, talents, abilities,
which sometimes may mean
supporting the person to start a totally new ministry that does not exist in the church
help or support them find another church/ministry where their gifts, talents, abilities can be developed, used and flourish

do we see
a static organisational chart
rather than
a dynamic organic body
which is small part of a collaborative international, dynamic multicultural world-wide body of Christ

are we more interested in
what I want to get done
what do we want to get done

is it only about
my idea, my plan, my way
what do you think ?  suggestions, ideas ? 

are we
following a set playbook
or are
open, to listen,
flexible, adaptable to change, open to new ideas,

is it about
what God spoke to me, therefore we should xxxxx
what God is speaking to you as well
(events in history teaches us to be careful in using the name of God)


Honestly, none of us like to be taken for granted,
or decisions made without consulting or consensus,
or be spoken at … rather than be spoken to.

attitude … tone … words …
people do feel our words 

 … all of us prefer to be treated as thinking, responsible adults,
not micro-managed or herded
(ask any teenager 🙂 )

At the heart is … respect others

… be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
… be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.
(Titus 3:2 ESV, NKJV)

common …  ‘please … may I … thank you‘,
be punctual’
courtesies we teach our  children

 … ask politely first, … avoid presuming or assuming,
listen attentively, before answering,
acknowledge & reply messages in a timely manner,
be appreciative, thankful,
make the other person feel important,
be inclusive,
avoid an interrogative attitude

come to think of it,
…. this is nothing new,
it’s what we do
at the workplace, & amongst friends

As Jesus wisely advised,
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31 NIV)

As we nurture Jesus’ reflective attitude,
we’ll develop empathy, compassion,
and our listening, and collaborative environments enriched.

The wise are known for their understanding,
and pleasant words are persuasive.

Kind words are like honey— sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.
The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.
(Proverbs 16:21, 16:24, 15:1,27:9)

Respect is earned through trust, authenticity, accountability, consistency & competence;  never assumed (even more so with volunteers).

Matthew 20:26,28 (NASB)
whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, … just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

… be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.
(Matthew 20:26,28 NASB, Titus 3:2 NKJV)

Let’s follow Jesus leadership style,
serving/caring others first,
… lead by living example
The motivation & inspiration of Kingdom leadership/ministry
… serving others,
… ‘who may we serve/help?’,
not spurred by ego, vision, gift, position, rewards, fame.

The heart of a servant … humility

… those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12 NIV)

I think its good to clarify that I’m also not saying we build a wall around ourselves.

There have been occasions, when due to various urgent reasons, I’ve jumped in to help after whispering a quick prayer and asking the Lord to direct.  With eyes open and a prayerful heart, and parachuted myself in.  Managing the situation, through managing the expectations of the ministry group, and our own expectations, discerning the landscape, and by communicating clearly ….

* I’m not sure what you have in mind, but this is what I am able to do and will do over this time period … is this what you have in mind?  By the way I have background in this, but not in that.
* What am I empowered to do ?  Who is in charge ?  Who’s doing what ? What’s the plan ?
* When in doubt, don’t assume ….. always ask.

There have also been other occasions, where …
like so many wonderful brethren who have served quietly,

its about Jesus
and serving Him

… just faithfully perservere  ….
… depending on His always sufficient grace …

focus on serving those who come,
moved by their needs, ….
Jesus loves them so much
that He gave His life for them

Someone wrote this prayer:

Change me Lord,
make me a man who asks of You and
of others,
what can I do for you?

what can I do for you?
Ministry is all about serving others in their time of need.
Its about “You”,
and “me” hopefully fades into the  background.

Mark 6:34 (NKJV)
34 And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things. 

2 Cor 6:4, 8-10 (NLT)
In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.
We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. 10 Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

1 Cor 15:10 (NIV)
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

On a practical note
… focus on sustainability over the long haul, … rather than just a sprint.
… be patient, it takes time to build anything well
… partnership, collaboration, caring relationships
… For every meeting formal or informal, draft a meeting agenda.  This helps those coming to be prepared, and also for everyone to know whether such a meeting is required or important.  End the meeting with a set of minuted actions assigned to folks responsible for delivery, and due dates.
… it would be helpful for full-timers to consider the constraints of lay volunteers when planning activities.  Monday is not a rest day, but the start of another scheduled filled week of work, family, kids, home, etc.

At a personal level,

 1 Thessalonians 5:12 (KJV)
“… know them which labour among you …”

I am more at ease to serve God in a project or ministry
with people whom I personally know,
and have a healthy friendship,
real people who are real and caring … authentic.

And to be honest,
I’ve been in ministries where the focus is
about doing things when we come together, activity-oriented,
and everyone quickly runs off, after the meeting, till we meet again the next time,
rather than
knowing, loving and supporting each other personally,
a sense of community.

is about
serving others
in their time
of need

hence, the heart of the matter is

Perhaps the test is :
what is our attitude towards
people who leave the church or ministry
do we still keep in contact with them as a friend,
and are happy that they found something better for themselves
call only just to ask “when are you coming back ?”
or sadder still
… no call,

then …
loyalty and commitment … (in ‘ministry’)
loyalty as caring friends
beyond doing things together
loyalty to a ministry or church

loyalty to leadership can sometimes be blinding,
be careful with folks who put a premium on loyalty,
or ‘buy influence’,  or cause people to feel obligated to them

our loyalty is only to Jesus, he died for us to save us.

Judges 5:9, 14 (NKJV) (Deborah’s song after defeating the king of Canaan}
“When leaders lead in Israel,
When the people willingly offer themselves,
Bless the Lord

My heart is with the rulers of Israel
Who offered themselves willingly with the people.
Bless the Lord!

1 Chronicles 29:3,9 (NKJV) (David said to all in the assembly)
Moreover, because I have set my affection on the house of my God, I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house, my own special treasure of gold and silver:

9Then the people rejoiced, for they had offered willingly, because with a loyal heart they had offered willingly to the Lord; and King David also rejoiced greatly.

Nehemiah 2:18 (NASB)
18 I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king’s words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, “Let us arise and build.” So they put their hands to the good work.

Notice in these instances, when the leaders willingly lead and set the pace,
the people willingly followed, inspired by God.

Psalm 110:3
Your people will offer themselves willingly in the day of Your power

Its only by spending time with people
that …
we can hopefully
go beyond the christian packaging,
to hear and know
what is in their heart,
their hopes, dreams, aspirations,
fears, struggles,
…. and
whether there is a resonance,

… we can go away for a hike together
share a trip together,
or minister alongside each other

In general, people like to partner or follow
others who are up-front, authentic, real,
having their best interest at heart.

And when unexpected avalanches happens,
“when I get out … I’ll make sure you get out as well”.

Fellowship is about a few believers on an all-weather ship.

Its similar in corporate business where we talk about
aligning personal goals of the people
with goals of the business,
in order to get the best performance

by listening, we are saying
“You are important to me”
“I would like to spend sometime with you”

Recently, spent a few hours with a China underground church pastor who was here to share at a series of meetings.  During our time together he was curious about our everyday lives as he patiently listened to us … when he could have easily share about his exciting work in China.  That day, as a layman, I felt I met a new friend, rather than a ministry.

At the end of the day, things sometimes do unexpectedly go wrong,
even under the best intentions and planning,
but friends can always ‘pick up the phone’ and talk,
and resolve things amicably.

Proverbs 27:6 (NIV)
Faithful are the wounds of a friend

Proverbs 17:17 (NLT)
A friend is always loyal,
    and a brother is born to help in time of need.

A ministry is only
as healthy as
the people
involved in it

Its also about trust,
carefully, preciously earned … a little at a time,
which can become
as strong as steel,
and brings out the best in us through any storm

fragile as a clay pot
which when once shattered
its difficult to put back together again.

Trust is a priceless and fragile asset.

On another note, I noticed that those who are resourced-minded types tend to be administratively concerned about
** having enough resources or the lack of it,
** about numbers and goals
** about getting things done (a lot of things on their mind)
(like Martha?)

and lose sight of the people,
and sometimes God
which is what ministry is all about.

Let’s be patient …

Matthew 16:18 (NIV)   Jesus said
I will build my church

1 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV)
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.

James 5:7 (NIV)
See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.

Psalm 127:1 (NIV)
Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.

A ministry is only as healthy as the people involved in it.

John 21:16 (NIV)
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

Proverbs 27:23 (NASB, MSG)
Know well the condition of your flocks,   And pay attention to your herds;
Know your sheep by name;     carefully attend to your flocks;

Let’s be prayerful, humble always, dependent on the Holy Spirit, sensitive to His timing, so that we can grow to be trees that bear good fruit.

Matt 7:19-20 (NIV)
19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 10 (NIV)
To everything there is a season,  A time for every purpose under heaven …
He has made everything beautiful in its time.

Thank you for listening 🙂

Have a blessed week ! God bless you !

bro Lim 林弟兄



 Serving Quietly | Ministry

by 林弟兄, bro Lim
June 27, 2014

Copyright © 林弟兄 bro Lim, Laymanointing, 2014-2016 – All Rights Reserved
Creative Commons License



This entry was posted on June 27, 2014 by in Ministry, Music, Serving Quietly and tagged .

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