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A New Definition of Service

April 12, 2012

Right now I am visiting Jakarta, Indonesia.  This city of fifteen million people can be impersonal and easily bring on feelings of claustrophobia because of the mass of people.  I am on a quick four-day trip to Jakarta to visit two projects run by Christians: One a printing company and the other a group of schools.  I was expecting to fly in, visit a few schools, a factory and leave. I asked my contacts to book me in a cheap hotel; something I could afford.  My hosts put me in a five-star hotel.  This is quite unusual for me.  My experience here made me ponder the fact that as Christians we are called to service, but we hardly see real service.  In Jakarta, I found a great example of service!

A five-star hotel is given their rating because of the service they provide. There are four doormen (concierge is the French word they use to elevate their position) just to help you in and out of vehicles and call taxis.  Even when I checked in at 2 am (my flight was delayed) there were three people there to greet me and check me in.  The entire check-in lasted about 2 minutes.  Upon entering the elevator, I had to use my digital key card to access my floor on the elevator.  My room faces a beautiful lake, has two large beds, a couch, lounge chair and beautiful mahogany desk with a comfortable work chair.

Everything is available for me to freely use.  Swimming, work out gym, huge buffet breakfast with cooks to special make any item I would desire to eat. There is free coffee and tea in the room.  Three restaurants are ready to make any food I desire. For those who want it there is also a onsite spa to relax. They even provide a free shoe-shine at the end of the day!  Every single staff member you come across will greet you, no matter if they are a repair person, cleaner or manager of the hotel. They try to anticipate your every need and desire. It’s quite overwhelming to be served at the “five-star” level. This is the highest service the world offers. Of course, it comes with a price. Every smile, every service is part of the package you paid for when they swiped that plastic card.  No card, so service!

Yet, this “five-star” service is nothing compared to the service that Christians are called to. Unfortunately, most believers can only hope to receive a single star at best.  Kind of like a Motel 6 which offers a free breakfast which turns out to be an old stained coffee pot and squashed packaged donut sitting next to the front door of the hotel, and just opposite the entrance to the restroom. Real service, especially in the West, is quickly evaporating.  And I am clearly talking about myself here too! Service is not natural for me, or anybody I think.

In Jakarta I have experience true Christian servant hood. From the moment I arrived the believers have organized and arranged my every step according to my every desire. We are visiting the believers here because they have experience in printing Bibles and multiple levels of Christian education from day care to university level education. They provided complete access to us from teachers to principals, curriculum and explanation of all methodology involved. The printers helped us learn more about our own equipment and provided us with supplies and technical information, usually kept secret by printers.  They did this in order to help us, a fellow Christian printer, improve our printing quality because our books and Bibles benefit the Kingdom of God. In the world’s eyes we would also be considered their competition, but in Christ we are family. They transported us hour after hour through city traffic to show us all we desire.  They fed us the best meals of whatever we wanted to eat. They anticipated everything before we would ever say it out; including purchasing of gifts for our families. The two Cambodians I took with me, a print shop owner and a principal of a school, were overwhelmed by the service they received.  One commented that we were being treated as if we were the Prime Minister!

The Christians we met in Jakarta were part of multiple different Christian persuasions; they were from Charismatic to Reformed, Catholic to independents who were not aligned with anyone.  But it never mattered to anyone because all of us were one in Christ.  We were all family.  Too often, the service we experience has an artier motive. Usually, it is to get us to join their church.  This is not true service; this is not true love; this is recruitment. Christ’s teaching of service has nothing to do with growing our group or network, but only about unconditional love. We should serve others as if we are serving Jesus (Matthew 25:40-45).

Let’s not make a cheap one-star hotel our standard of service. One star service is like being nice on Sunday, or once a year for the annual church “service” day.  That’s not a lifestyle; it’s only a project. Let’s not let a waitress working long-hours with a few catchy lines and a compulsory 15% gratuity charge be our understanding of what service is. Servanthood has nothing to do with livelihood.  We don’t serve others to get a benefit for ourselves; we need to serve others simply to demonstrate love to others.  We, as “servants” of the Almighty King need to strive for the “beyond five-star rating”.  We need to strive for the God-standard. Not serving only those who can help us back, but serving those who could never help us. Real servanthood comes out of an overflow of love from the heart.  It is service which is unconditional and does not expect anything in return.  Your plastic card is no good here.  We need a service which strives to help others excel; service which honors others above ourselves.

Thank you Indonesian believers for demonstrating Christ’s standard of service.  It is far superior to the world’s five-star service. I will try to be a better servant.  Thanks for being a model for the Body of Christ about what true servanthood is.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 12, 2012 10:12 pm

    Excellent Steve, excellent article….the “whole Church body” needs to read this.

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