The Baptist Beacon
SERVICE BRINGING IT
TO OUR NEXT LEVEL
By Deacon Travis W. Lewis
(Author's Note: For some time, I have pondered reasons for the obviously varying levels of dedication with which church members seem equally content in offering. All have at least once stood before our congregations, offering ourselves for membership, thus promising to support with "prayers and means." Surveys of our congregations' support show only a minor part actually stay the course, grow, and qualify for our next level of service to the Lord. Then came the article in the December issue of THE BAPTIST BEACON written by Brother John Keen, Jr. from Indiana, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting only on a couple of occasions. His article on Our Baptist Heritage, wisely urging us to reassess and realign our priorities, was certainly the preface I desired for this article, and to him I humbly and publicly acknowledge my thanks.)
In our contemporary business world, the buzz word describing the vehicle by which we expect to grow is better "service", i.e., moving our "service" to the next level. To many aspects of our businesses, limits exist beyond which we cannot go and maintain sound business practice, such as lower pricing, limited capitalization, etc., but to improve our "service" moving it to a level above which neither we nor our competitor has ever been, is a never_ending process and one which we are admonished to set and continually heighten as our goals. We accept this improvement process with the proper expectation that it will bring to us greater material success __ and almost invariably, it does. We reach our goal and find it easy to be excited. We reap and mostly consume those material rewards, only to reassess and realign our plans for an even greater season of profit __ all with the built_in mentality that we must never become complacent with the thought, "We are doing it as well as it can be done." We simply accept this process of continually raising our LEVELS OF "SERVICE", and consequently, raising our expectation of reward. It becomes more and more tempting to "spend more time at the office" in order to reach those goals. We purchase new gadgets. We add new and proven equipment, and we ponder new ways to improve our "service". With past experience in mind, we proceed with the presumption that there are even greater rewards further down the road. To us, it's "normal" for these expectations to be raised. It's "normal" to strive for the goals set before us, and we exert our energies and ingenuity to raise our LEVEL OF SERVICE in order to meet those expectations. That business, or employee, who becomes complacent with their present LEVEL OF SERVICE is among those who can invariably expect to be left behind, to slowly but surely become dysfunctional, and ultimately destined to become extinct.
WHAT ABOUT THE LORD'S BUSINESS? What about our employment with the Lord? What about those promises we made to Him and to His church when He saved us and when we petitioned His church for membership? Are we making the same fatal mistakes in our work for the Lord as many of our secular employees and businesses are making? Are we cognizant of what our competition (Satan and his hindering henchmen) is doing? How is our LEVEL OF SERVICE working presently and, more importantly, how it will affect the work long after we have moved from the scene? As the wise businessman would, do we stop and ponder not only where we are, concerning our LEVEL OF SERVICE to the Lord, but what we can do to move it to the next LEVEL? Are we making the best use of our resources? Is our production improving, declining, or remaining stagnant, and what are the reasons? If we should offer our employer the same LEVEL OF SERVICE as we offer the Lord, what would be the employer's response? Do we insist on keeping our LEVEL OF SERVICE the same with our employer as it was the first day we were hired and still expect him to respond with increases in our pay? To expect anything but termination in such a case would be naive. In the Lord's work, why then are we so naive as to expect a continued flow of blessings from the Lord with no thought of raising our LEVEL OF SERVICE? What would be our expectation of raising the favor of our employer if, after years of service, we almost never had shown interest in learning the details of the trade or in honing a skill to be used in our vocation? Just doing enough to "get by" in the secular world reaps increasingly less rewards, even though we may "get by" for a long while. Our employer may even misjudge our true worthlessness and liability as having some value. DON'T EXPECT THE LORD TO MAKE THAT MISTAKE! He knows our true level of service. He knows if we still give only, or little more than, token service. God watches as we steer out of the main stream and begin to enjoy the still, calm, comfortable waters in a nice cove, safe from the increasingly swift current which requires us to continually exert our best efforts if we progress upstream __ to our next LEVEL OF SERVICE. He knows the effort we exert in learning more so we can be of greater use to His cause. He knows the real motives behind the giving of our time, our talent, and our material offerings, or lack of the same.
He knows why we assign Him a second_fiddle slot on the Lord's Day, preferring a family reunion, or to nurse a headache, or staying home with "company", or going to see granny, or to get various other make_believe "ox out of the ditch." He knows when we excuse ourselves from Wednesday night service by being "too tired", or because "the service is boring", or if in reality a short time of spiritual refreshment with our brothers and sisters in the middle of the week is just not as important to us as what we obviously consider the much more wholesome stuff served up by ABC or ESPN. He knows why we spend so much more time consuming garbage gushing into our homes through the TV pipeline than we spend studying His Word and things pertaining to His work. He knows when we think nothing of spending more money on Cokes and chips, golf clubs and water skis, hard_rock CD's and health_robbing cigarettes (God forbid), than the small amount we give to the missionary struggling to keep his kids in school and their doctor's bill paid. He knows why we enthusiastically spend our time and money to be entertained by current celebrities, sports figures and sports teams, while seldom considering that, because of our selfish misdirection of those dollars, our pastor is forced to spend time doing secular work, thus depriving him of needed time to pray and prepare a sermon that will actually nourish us instead of putting us to sleep. WE MAY PACKAGE A FALSE IDEA SO BOTH WE AND OTHER MEN ACCEPT IT AS AN EXPLANATION __ GOD IS MORE THAN INTELLIGENT ENOUGH TO KNOW THE REAL REASONS!!!
THOUGH WE ARE NOT HIRELINGS TO THE LORD AS WITH A SECULAR EMPLOYER, OUR LEVELS OF SERVICE TO HIM ARE INFINITELY MORE IMPORTANT. COMPLACENCY WITH OUR LEVEL OF SERVICE TO THE LORD GUARANTEES DENIAL OF HIS BLESSINGS. THERE SURELY COMES A TIME IN OUR LIVES WHEN GOD EXPECTS US TO HAVE MATURED ENOUGH TO CEASE BEING FOLLOWERS AND BECOME LEADERS __ A TIME WHEN WE ACCEPT THE BASICS AS BEING AN ESTABLISHED PART OF US, THEN MOVE ON TO OUR NEXT LEVEL OF SERVICE.
THE LORD KNOWS THE ANSWER TO ALL THESE QUESTIONS OF SELF_EXAMINATION. DO WE? AS WE QUESTION "WHY?", AND SEARCH OUT THE TRUE REASONS OURSELVES, OUR SHAME WILL SURELY DRAW US TO OUR KNEES. SUCH SELF_EXAMINATION WILL DO ALL OF US GOOD __ FROM SEASONED PASTORS TO NEWLY_ BAPTIZED LAY MEMBERS. TO VOW AND TO RAISE OUR LEVEL OF SERVICE TO THE LORD WILL BE THE GREATEST CHOICE WE COULD EVER MAKE. IT GUARANTEES BLESSINGS ON EARTH AND UNTOLD REWARDS IN HEAVEN __ IT'S A PROMISE, IN WRITING, FROM THE KING OF GLORY!