Sunday, January 20, 2008

Stop Serving God

Dr. Michael Horton's lecture at Westminster Seminary's recent conference was quite interesting and the occasion for plenty of questions during the Q&A time that closed the conference. His basic thesis was that God doesn't need our service, but our neighbor does.

The reason many Christians rarely engage in evangelism, he complained, is that they are so busy with the myriad of programs and "service opportunities" their churches provide. The tremendous pressure to get involved in various church ministries stems from a rather novel interpretation of Ephesians 4:11-12, a passage that in versions other than the KJV seems to teach what has been called "every-member ministry" (the entire argument hangs on the presence or absense of the comma after "saints" in v. 12).

Horton argued that a proper view of the ordained ministry (which insists that it is God, through the officers he has ordained, who serves his people on the Lord's Day) will revolutionize our expectations concerning what church is all about. In a word, we don't come to church to serve God, but for him to serve us. When we do serve God throughout the week, it is not by means of offering him something he lacks, but by means of loving our neighbors.

This does seem to comport with Jesus' own insistence that "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve..." (Matt. 20:28).

So if this position is correct, we would be justified in saying that we should stop serving the Lord precisely so that we may begin serving our neighbors. The way we are prepared to do this is by being served by Christ through his minister on the Lord's Day, during which our entire existence is re-oriented according to the story that God is telling in Christ.

It is only when the marks of the church are given their proper attention that the mission of the church will flourish in the world.