The Pitfalls of Serving
Written by: Daniel Tay (Photo by: Ronald Lim)
Through the past seven years of serving on various ministry platforms, I’ve become so used to doing ministry. I take pride in honing my craft and in exercising leadership in several ministries. I currently serve in the cell ministry and as a vocalist in the worship team. I also run leadership development courses for youths and occasionally lead church-wide prayer meetings. I’ve become familiar with these platforms of service.
Things started to change at the start of this year when I attended a Christian conference. Lou Engle was preaching and those words he spoke left a deep impression upon my heart: “Posture before platform. If you desire the pulpit, you got it wrong.”
I was stunned. I came to realise that I had been so caught up with the serving platforms rather than taking the time to posture my heart as someone beloved by God.
The Mirage of “The Platform”
The grandeur of the platform is often deceiving. When elevated on a platform — whether it is leading the congregation to worship through song, preaching on the pulpit, or leading Bible study in the living room — the person that is worshipped can be that man on stage and not Jesus.
I have found that as much as I believed that I was serving God, the reality was that I was more concerned with my image rather than correctly representing Him. The spotlight shifts away from God and onto man when we feel the need to impress others, try to find validation of our self-worth, or try to appear as if we had it all together. In that instance, the very act of serving has become a means to fulfil one’s carnality. We can seize our platforms of service to build ourselves a pedestal for self-glorification, rather than utilising this opportunity to rally others into deeper intimacy with God. Regardless of our platforms, we tend to fall into the trap of preparing for a meeting out of duty rather than intimacy.
Mercenaries or Lovers?
John Mark McMillan captures this tension brilliantly in the song, Holy Ghost:
Who are we sometimes I wonder
Mercenaries or lovers?
But on this side of the thunder
It can be awful hard to know
Oftentimes, as I serve on various platforms, I find myself serving with the mentality of a “mercenary” — a hired hand that receives his due wages for doing a job well and someone who craves for the affirmation of man.
I had attempted to establish my identity on the praises of man by portraying “godliness” and by hiding my insecurities behind carefully calibrated sentences and well-rehearsed melodies. Till today, I still struggle whenever I prepare for Bible study as I often find myself trying to appear and sound more “spiritually mature” than those I lead.
The toxicity of such a living is that the focus shifts to living like a mercenary rather than living as a lover of Jesus. Mercenaries find purpose from their actions, while lovers find theirs in their identity as His beloved. It is of little wonder that the Pharisees and Sadducees — teachers of the law — failed to reach out to those they had influence over, as they were obsessed with their titles and image. They even manipulated the act of prayer to serve themselves (Matthew 6:5).
Jesus was not the same. He taught from a place of knowing that He was loved by His Father before He did anything (Matthew 3:17). His heart posture made all the difference; wherever He taught, “the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29).
While both the teachers of the law and Jesus taught from the Torah and the ancient scrolls of the prophets, Jesus’ ministry was indubitably superior because Jesus recognised that the purpose of leadership is to lead others to the Father. This axiom caused him to take time to converse with the Father, and thereby learning His heart and His divine assignments (Matthew 14:23, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12).
Jesus leant into the Father, and found rest and identity. He refused to let His ministry — regardless of platform — define Him. He served from the understanding that He was deeply loved by the Father, and not one of a hired hand who was primarily concerned with himself.
The Purpose of Posture
Jesus’ ministry teaches us a very important leadership principle: in leading others to the Father, one must first lead himself towards the Father’s heart. It is of paramount importance that before serving others, one must be intentional about knowing God personally and intimately. It is from that place of recognising that you are the Beloved — just like how John identified himself and lived as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23) — that you will successfully steward the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelations 1:1-2) and represent Him well in the various platforms entrusted to you by the Father.
As we prepare to fulfil our divine assignments in the marketplace or serve our communities this coming week, may we resolve to be like Jesus and recognise the wisdom of “posture before platform.”