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What Service Is

Serving the Lord is often full of twists, turns, and turbulence

Throughout my life I've come to realize that serving the Lord is often full of twists and turns and sometimes even turbulence—and that how we serve him is multidimensional.

After seminary, I served on the staff of a church in Texas in a variety of ministries I loved. I worked with teenage girls, led a weekly Bible study, was involved with the music, and spent a lot of time in one-on-one ministry with young singles. Then my marriage transplanted me to Pennsylvania where, in order to support my husband's academic studies, I switched from ministry to hospital administration, and eventually worked my way into management, computers, and software development. Ministry opportunities were scarce. Much as I enjoyed what I was doing, it felt like a detour—as though I'd stepped away from my service to God.

When our daughter was three, we uprooted again and moved to Oxford, England, for a four-year stint while my husband pursued doctoral studies and I supported our family with my software development business. I was in the middle of what turned out to be a 13-year hiatus from official ministry. My energies centered on family concerns and working with my clients. I didn't have much time or energy left for anything else, and I still remember a sense of guilt that I wasn't really serving the Lord.

But during those years, the words of a friend freed me to think differently about what constitutes service to God: "sometimes your family is your ministry." Her words validated the significance of everything I was doing at that time. Even though I wasn't leading a Bible study or volunteering at our church, what I was doing was indeed serving God. It was a significant segue for me between official, recognized ways of service and a much larger vision of what serving God entails. In fact, her comment wasn't nearly expansive enough to encompass the vast possibilities God has in mind when he entrusts us with gifts and opportunities and calls us to serve him.

"Creating us as his image-bearers places us at the center of what God is doing in the world—not as spectators, but as kingdom agents and as leaders with responsibility for what is happening around us."

The call to serve God doesn't begin with Jesus issuing the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). It begins at the beginning, when God creates his image-bearers—male and female (Genesis 1-2). That single act elevates everything we do to the lofty level of service for God. As I wrote in my book Half the Church, creating us as his image-bearers "places us at the center of what God is doing in the world—not as spectators, but as kingdom agents and as leaders with responsibility for what is happening around us." Implicit in our identity as image-bearers is the call to represent him—to be his eyes, ears, hands, voice. God is counting on us to pay attention, to hear the cries of the hurting and the oppressed, to notice when things aren't the way he wants them to be, and to act on his behalf in putting things right.

Bottom line, it means anywhere we go, anything we do holds the possibility of service to God—from creating culture and stewarding the earth's resources to freeing the captives, feeding the hungry, relieving the oppressed, going to work, or rocking your baby to sleep at night. According to Jesus, the slightest, most mundane, behind-the-scenes act of kindness doesn't go unnoticed, even though the world may not detect anything significant going on. He said, "If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded" (Mark 9:41). The potential for ministry is limitless.

That notion proved true for an elderly friend when she was admitted to an extended care facility. After a life of active ministry and service in foreign missions, she lamented to me, "I thought my life was over when I came here." She felt she had been put on the shelf and was waiting to die. But then it dawned on her that, although she was no longer in a foreign land, God still had kingdom work for her to do. "I looked around and realized there is a mission field here no one is doing anything about."

My dear friend lived and died serving the Lord.

Excerpted from the Everyday Matters Bible.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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