The most popular question that I heard while at the seminary, and even today when being introduced to people in a setting where professional clergy are present is: “Where do you serve?” and/or “Who are you with?”. The answer to this question is easy, for example, today the “proper” answer to this question is Bridge Church. I wonder if this is a “churchaneese” way of saying “Where do you work?”
While at the seminary I had no answer to this question. It has always bothered me that the answer to this questions is as previously stated. I never really understood how one could only serve at such and such place. I was taken back by the question, but later started to understand the language and respond in the sought after way. My answer was “nowhere at the moment”, which usually generated one of two responses; either, “Oh.” or “Well, He has called you to school first of all so focus on that.” The latter was the one answer I held on to for a while, all along being uncomfortable, kind of like holding in gas for a while because you don’t want to relieve it in present company. Slowly I began to conform to the idea of having to be located in a certain ministry setting, or congregational position in order to be serving the Lord. After all, that is my calling.
Just the other day while at a network meeting for pastors, I was asked the same question more than once. I must have sounded like an idiot fumbling over my words, while I labored to say “B..b…brrrriiddge Ch..churrch.” It was almost painful. This bothered me as I left the meeting. Not the fumbling over my words, but the answer in itself. I love the Bridge family so it was definitely not that, nor was it the fact that I fumbled over my words, but the content of the answer, and the expectation of a specific congregational body to be my “place of service.”
Today in a meeting with good friends discussing “living sent” my story was brought back into question. I realized how afraid I am to tell my story of “living sent” to my peers because of my leaving the seminary to transfer to a secular college. To most of my peers that seems backwards. Also, I am just unsure of the impact I have had in the kingdom of God, I mean, I am not really on staff at a congregation. So today, I spent every moment thinking heavily on what my answer to the aforementioned question is. Where do I serve?
I have come to the conclusion that my answer from this day forward will be the same; everywhere. Where I serve is not in a specific place, but I serve my Lord wherever I am. He has called me to serve in my home, at my job, in the market, to my brothers and sisters that I congregate with, and to the community that I live in. Why did I transfer schools? The answer is easy, that is where the hurting people of this world are. I transferred schools so that I can earn my bachelors of arts in social studies, instead of my bachelor of arts in Christian ministry. I plan to teach high school social studies so I can reach and influence more people in the name of my Lord. I coach cheerleading because I have the opportunity to influence the lives of so many people who I couldn’t influence while working at campus police for the seminary. I do these things, because Jesus sent me into the world as He was sent.
I am not discrediting the clergy, in fact I am here to encourage them. Do not be deceived into thinking that your place of service is in the congregation to which you preach, on the contrary, those are the people with whom you are to be serving the world around you. Though you may be a shepherd, do not forget that you too are a sheep. How can one be active in the harvest, if one never enters into the field? I am grateful to those who serve so diligently in preaching and teaching the word of our God, also, I am grateful to those who encourage, rebuke, console, and embrace the saints, but I am discouraged to think that we have limited the call of He who is in us to a local gathering of believers.
My dear friends, if the answer to the question of where you serve can be given simply by stating the “name” of an expression of God’s Church, I am afraid that you have missed the point. The service in which the Lord Jesus has called you is not limited to the fellowship of believers in which you have so graciously found yourself, but to all people who you encounter. I challenge you by saying that if those are the only people you encounter, shame on you. Jesus came to heal the sick, and He has given us the charge, power, and authority in His name to do the same.
So, where do you serve? As for me, my answer will be from now on, “everywhere”. What is yours?