One of the catchphrases of the evangelical movement is – “Saved to Serve”. I have heard this stressed multiple times throughout my life and heard it again in a meeting I recently attended. The principal and emphasis is easy enough to understand – one is “saved” primarily in order to “serve” – by means of works in the church, in the widest sense of the term.
Sitting beside me at the recent meeting I attended was a disabled woman – which prompted me to consider those, who for a variety or reasons, may not consider themselves able to “serve” in the normal understanding of the word. The verse used by the speaker to drive home this primacy of “service” was Mark 3:14 –
“Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach ..”
I noticed that the speaker almost missed the centre part of the verse – skipping over it quickly before emphasising the words – “That He might send them out to preach” – preaching being code for “service” on this occasion. So the disciples, he asserted, were – “Saved to Serve”. I am in no way writing this in condemnation of the speaker – but simply to make a case in point.
Over the years I have become very wary of [perhaps good] scriptural principles which ignore the context or, in some cases, twist the meaning of the text to suit the speakers agenda. The plain truth of the text quoted is not that the disciples were called primarily to preach and heal, in other words to works of “service” – but to “be with Him” [Jesus].
Some might argue that I am being pedantic here – but I don’t think so and for this reason. The whole concept of being “Saved to Serve” has so captivated the evangelical movement, it all its incarnations, that it has to a greater or lesser degree abandoned, ignored or forgotten the primacy of “being with Him”.
When someone comes to faith or is “saved” , in evangelical terminology, the driver is, in my experience, to get that person in to an area of service – rather that to encourage them simply “be” with Jesus for a while. The scriptural principle is, in truth, that before Jesus calls anyone to any work of service he calls them to to himself –
“Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle,humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me.”
Matthew 11: 28&29 TPT
Even the Apostle Paul who, if anyone could be, was fit and ready for service was drawn aside. Listen to his testimony after his “Damascus road” experience –
“After I had this encounter I kept it a secret for some time, sharing it with no one. And I chose not to run to Jerusalem to try to impress those who had become apostles before me. Instead, I went away into the Arabian Desert for a season until I returned to Damascus, where I had first encountered Jesus. I remained there for three years until I eventually went up to Jerusalem … “
Galatians 1: 16 – 18 TPT
Being with Jesus then necessarily precedes doing any work [service] for Jesus. And the life of service must never usurp the life of communion. The subtile danger of “service” in all its forms however, is that this is what so often happens. The Jesus who was once our intimate companion becomes the Jesus who finds himself outside the door of our lives altogether. It is then that we hear, if we are listening at all, a faint knocking at the door. And with the knock a lover’s voice –
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”
The truth is Jesus wants us as a friend – he wants us as a lover – more that he wants or needs our service! Some think, and I am inclined to agree, that Revelation 3:20 is a mirror of the Shulamite’s experience –
After this I let my devotion slumber,
but my heart for him stayed awake.
I had a dream.
I dreamed of my beloved—
he was coming to me in the darkness of night.
The melody of the man I love awakened me.
I heard his knock at my heart’s door
as he pleaded with me:
Arise, my love.
Open your heart, my darling, deeper still to me.
Will you receive me this dark night?
There is no one else but you, my friend, my equal.
I need you this night to arise and come be with me.
You are my pure, loyal dove, a perfect partner for me.
My flawless one, will you arise?
For my heaviness and tears are more than I can bear.
I have spent myself for you throughout the dark night.
Song of Songs 5:1-2 TPT