3 Signs You Aren’t Actually Serving When You Serve At Church

Just about every Christian would and really should agree that we’re called to be servants. Most of us would even self-identify as servants. 

After all, Jesus came to serve rather than to be served. The idea of servanthood is noble and we view it as a sign that we’ve reached maturity as a believer.

And it’s true that we’re called to be servants. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Servanthood goes against our very nature. 

Within the Christian community, to be labeled as someone with a servant’s heart is a badge of honor. But isn’t that the opposite of how a servant would want to be labeled? In our efforts to be known as servants, we can actually do the opposite. We fall into the temptation of meeting our own needs while hiding behind the noble cause of servanthood. 

It becomes easy to leverage our serving in church as a means of status or an area to boast about. It may have started as a true desire to serve others, but somewhere along the way it became a place of great pride. 

This has happened to me and I’m sure it happens to others. Even in ministry we have to check our hearts and gauge our true intentions.

Here are three signs you aren’t actually serving when you serve at church. 

1. You want acknowledgment.

We all want acknowledgement. And you might not notice that you have this deep desire…until you don’t get the recognition you think you deserve. 

How does it make you feel when someone else is acknowledged for their hard work in the area of service you’ve already been serving in year after year? 

If we’re modest, we might think we just want some acknowledgment. It’s not like we’re asking for all of it. Even if we deserve all of it.

When we begin to invest our heart, mind, and energy into something, it makes sense that we would want a bit of credit for our efforts. But that logic only works if your efforts are for your own gain. 

Our work in serving is rooted in our love for others and to see the glory of Jesus proclaimed. Not our own glory.

Which means that when it comes to acknowledgment and credit, whether it comes our way or not, it shouldn’t hinder our service. It shouldn’t stop our zeal for the work we’re doing. It shouldn’t dictate the time, energy, and heart we put into the ministry we’re a part of. 

It’s comforting and encouraging to see the fruit of your labor. But in the end, our reason and drive for serving should not come from the acknowledgment it brings us personally.

When our desire for credit overtakes us, it causes us to lose sight of the purpose for ministry. It moves our hearts away from being servant-oriented and puts the focus back on us. This is a temptation every single person in ministry needs to be aware of, regardless of your role.

Our desire should be to genuinely spotlight the work of Jesus and not the work of our own hand.

Our desire should be to genuinely spotlight the work of Jesus and not the work of our own hand. Click To Tweet

2. You can’t relinquish control.

When we’re seeking to build into Jesus’ Kingdom, we can often get distracted by trying to build our own little kingdoms. This ugly truth reveals itself when someone tries to change something about the area in which we serve.

Throughout the lifespan of a ministry, there will be change. This can look like a complete reorganization, a subtle shift, or even a new person overseeing the ministry. For many, these changes are hard. Especially if you’ve been serving in that ministry as long as you can remember.

Change is never easy. But sometimes we become a little too attached to the way things are. We’ve been part of a particular ministry, and to change that seems to be the end of the world. And when you dig into this a little more deeply, it becomes far less about the benefit of the ministry and its service to others and far more about its service to you.

This is a hard realization to come to. Because it showcases an area of your heart that you would rather not see. If you’re having difficulty relinquishing control or allowing the ministry you’re part of to change, then maybe you’re not as servant-oriented as you thought. 

This doesn’t mean your opinion doesn’t matter or that you don’t have valid points. But maybe just maybe, you’re holding on to the way things are because of the way that ministry has served you.

Our desire in every ministry should be serving others rather than serving ourselves. As hard as change is, we need to stay focused on the purpose of our service and detach from our own agenda.

If you’re resisting the change of a ministry or fighting tooth and nail to maintain control, then that might be a sign your involvement in that area of service isn’t as servant-based as you thought. 

And this doesn’t mean you leave the ministry or just abandon ship. But you should acknowledge the state of your heart and allow God to show you how you can still be part of what he’s doing in the new season of the ministry.

If you're resisting the change of a ministry or fighting tooth and nail to maintain control, then that might be a sign your involvement in that area of service isn't as servant-based as you thought. Click To Tweet

3. You have misplaced your identity in your ministry.

There is a difference between giving a ministry everything you have and becoming obsessed. If the ministry you’re involved in has become your identity, if apart from it you don’t know who you are, then it’s very likely your attachment to that ministry has become unhealthy.

As the body of Christ, we’re all working together in different areas and capacities. This is a beautiful thing, especially when you realize that the ministry you’re involved in is a true gift from God. 

Ideally this is how it goes: the members of the church serve in an area where they’re gifted, this allows the church to function at its highest capacity, and it allows each member to serve in the way God designed them to.

But sometimes, when we find our perfect niche, we become a bit obsessed. That becomes our ministry and it becomes our entire world. We slowly move away from the heart of serving others to the heart of serving ourselves. 

Our role in a ministry is never meant to become our identity. Only Jesus can do that. 

If you were stripped of the ministry you are involved in, how would you respond? Would you feel as if your world was taken out from under you? This might be a sign that the ministry you are involved in has become your identity rather than a place you can be utilized by God. 

Each and everyone of us must be cautious of this. We can’t make ministry, no matter how good it is, into our identity. Our ministry is not us. God is allowing us to be part of his work. He’s not showcasing our work.

Our desire to be used by God should be fueled and led by our heart for others. Our passion fuels us to use what God has given us to serve others. 

If we aren’t careful, what starts as a desire to serve can become a desire to only serve ourselves–whether it’s serving our own egos, our needs, or our identity. We must be cautious and constantly ask God to remove any ill motivation from us. 

God is allowing us to be part of his work. He's not showcasing our work. Click To Tweet

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