How to End Service Myopia

Banquet Table

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I recently read a blog post by Seth Godin in which he wrote about banquet tables. Yes, banquet tables. According to Seth, it seems that banquet tables are the epitome of efficiency, designed to hold ten guests with plenty of space for table service, food, and elbows. However, the inherent weakness is that banquet tables are not conversation friendly. If a guest talks to his neighbor on the right, his neighbor on the left is left out. If he wants to connect with the neighbor across from him, he must shout, destroying conversational intimacy, to say nothing of privacy and discretion.

The problem is this, banquet tables were designed by people who put on banquets, which is to say people who need to seat plenty of guests and serve plenty of food. But what about the guests? First, it is inconvenient to reach into the center of the table or ask others to “pass” things. Second, it’s horrible for conversation, and good conversation is one of the benefits of having dinner with friends. So, it seems that banquet tables are designed to accommodate the banquet servers, not those being served. There is something wrong-headed with that kind of thinking.

Usually, it is left to those in ministry to design and deliver the ministry, and that is the problem. When we only see what is close-up we get ministry myopia. If we are not careful, we develop the opinion that ministry is about those who serve, not those whom we serve. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it approach. After all, we are sacrificing and we are serving; suddenly, before we realize it, His ministry has become OUR ministry. God’s people become my people. God’s glory becomes my glory.

I am familiar with a new church plant that recently rented a building for their growing congregation. One of the first things the members did was add two nurseries. It would have been much simpler to have only had one nursery, but many children in the same room means more noise, more stress, and less personal attention for the children. At first, the nursery directors were working 9 out of 12 services a month and some volunteers were working 4 services a month. Over time, the directors asked more volunteers to serve and the load was reduced for each individual worker. Also, during that time dozens of volunteers worked painting the building, installing lighting, building walls, repairing plumbing, cleaning the facility, and doing countless thankless tasks, all without complaint.

When the time came, the church hosted its first community outreach and over 20 visitors came. The hard work was put in so that the building would facilitate worship, not hinder it. Yes, they could have made do with what they had, but it would not have been as effective in reaching the community they wanted to serve. That’s when the church members decided to forego their ministry and exalt God’s ministry. I think Jesus was pleased.

Read my related post about an organization that missed an opportunity to serve. Read it HERE.