The Servers and the Servicers in Every Church

Every church is made up of different kinds of people. There are extroverts and introverts, for example—people who are on the outgoing and sociable side and people who are on the shy and pensive side. There are leaders and there are followers—people who love to lead ministries within the church, and people who are content to be led. There are evangelists and disciplers—people whose passion is sharing the gospel with unbelievers and people whose passion is equipping existing believers. In every case, each side of the equation brings unique strengths to the congregation.

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Of course we are a sinful bunch and more than capable of ruining any good thing, so we have to battle the temptation to look down upon those who are different from us. Extroverts are prone to judge introverts for not being outgoing enough. Leaders are prone to judge followers for not aspiring to leadership. Evangelists are prone to see disciplers as apathetic about the salvation of the lost. Then, of course, introverts, followers, and disciplers each battle their own temptations toward judgment and condemnation. But in our best moments, we know churches thrive when there is diversity rather than uniformity, when each of us embraces our unique strengths.

I’d like to tell you about another pair of “kinds” I’ve observed and to explain why I find it helpful to draw a distinction between them. They are the servers and servicers (a word I made up to fit the role). Give me a paragraph or two to explain myself, and I think you may be able to identify that these people exist in your church as well and to understand them a little better.

As Christians we have been brought permanently near to God. Once alienated from him through our sin, we are now near to him through his Son. He is our kind and loving Father and we are his grateful children who abide in a state of relational nearness to him. But we also know experientially that there are times we feel that nearness in special ways. There are times when we have a more tangible sense of our nearness to God.

This is where I find it helpful to distinguish between servers and servicers in the life of the local church. Servers are people who tend to feel closest to God when they are serving others; servicers are people who tend to feel closest to God when they are in the worship service. Servers are identifiable by their willingness to miss the worship service if it means they have the opportunity to serve others by ushering, caring for children, helping with parking, or whatever else needs to be done. Servicers are identifiable by their willingness to miss serving if it means they have the opportunity to be present in the worship service. In both cases, they are doing the thing that makes them feel especially close to God. In both cases they are offering a form of worship to God and one that fits with their unique make up.

But, again, humanity being what it is, we need to be very careful that we do not judge others for failing to be like us. Servers are prone to see servicers as lazy or uncaring—people who take their shifts or do their tasks only with reluctance. Servicers are prone to see servers as spiritually cold or immature—people whose willingness to miss the service indicates a spiritual apathy or malaise. The reality, though, is simply that God has made us different in the way we relate to him.

So while these are not categories the Bible lays out, I have still found it helpful in my own life and ministry to distinguish between them. Of course they exist on a spectrum more than at two poles, so it’s not like every person neatly and fully fits one of the two sides. But I do think most people lean one way or the other. When we acknowledge this, we better understand why some people seem loathe to miss a worship service while others are loathe to miss a shift in nursery. We better understand why some people seem to come alive through worship services and shrivel when called upon to serve too often while others come alive when serving consistently and wilt when they go too long between opportunities.

It’s important that people on both sides of this equation stretch toward the opposite behavior. After all, acts of service and corporate worship are both keys to expressing love and growing in holiness. While servers love to serve whenever possible, it’s important that they regularly attend services; while servicers love to attend services, it’s important that they regularly serve. But if some serve more than others, and serve with a little more joy and freedom, don’t take it as a necessary sign of apathy. And if some are occasionally hesitant to serve, don’t take it as a necessary sign of selfishness. In both cases, they may just be expressing who God made them to be.