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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Church - or the Christ?

A few days ago, I received an unexpected e-mail from the son of a couple with whom my wife and I had been very friendly, but with whom we had lost contact.  He was making some specific enquiries, but he also informed me that he had gone through a divorce, and "ended up back at church!".  Now, to be fair, he went on to state that he has "radically recommitted my life to Christ", but his initial comment reminded me of my days as a parish minister, and my attendance at meetings of the Synod.  For those without a Presbyterian background, the Synod (now defunct!) was the ecclesiastical court between the Presbytery and the General Assembly.

Anyway, I quickly noticed that, when a minster who had just retired into the Synod area was being welcomed, or when intimation of the death of a Synod member was given, the person in question was always described as "a faithful servant of the church"!  This always bothered me!  Of course, I knew that I was in ministry in order to serve my own congregation.  Indeed, I knew that "to minister" means "to serve".  However, I also knew that my prime service is to the Lord.

That was certainly how the early believers saw it.  Listen to Paul: "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle," (Rom 1:1; my emphasis).  He writes of others in the same way: "... Ep'aphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf  and has made known to us your love in the Spirit." (Col 1:7-8; my emphases).   Later in that same letter he writes that "Tych'icus will tell you all about my affairs; he is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord." (Col 4:7; my emphasis).  He advised Timothy that "... the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one," (II Tim 2:24; my emphasis)

And it wasn't just Paul!  "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ," (James 1:1; my emphasis).  "Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ," (II Peter 1:1; my emphasis).  "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ," (Jude 1: my emphasis).  Even when reference is made to the service of the church, it is in words like these: "... what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." (II Cor 4:5-6; my emphasis).

It is good to serve God's people in whatever capacity we are able to serve.  But it is important to remember Whose we are, and Whom we really serve; remembering that we serve, "Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:" (Eph 6:6-7; my emphasis).

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