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Reflections: Chapter 11, “TOV Churches Nurture Service”

Sarah and I were in Ireland a few weeks ago and did a driving holiday. It was wonderful, beautiful and terrifying. Yes, driving is driving, no matter where we are in the world. But driving in Ireland in a right-hand-drive car, on the left side of the road – and narrow roads too – made for a sense of apprehension. Now, I love driving, but this was hard. Scott McKnight likens toxic ministry to driving in a foreign country. It is still driving, but it is totally terrifying.

I like to think that McKnight is saying service to Christ in a TOV church is born out of love, and a passion for others and Christ. For a pastor in a toxic church service is born out of fear, and a desire to garner praise for themselves. The Bible is full of examples of people who served others, both inside and outside the church. Tov churches teach their members about these examples and encourage them to follow suit.

Tov churches offer a variety of opportunities for their members to serve, both within the church and in the community. This might look like serving in kid’s ministry, greeting newcomers, working in the church kitchen, or helping new Canadians with their taxes. It doesn’t matter what you do, it matters the heart that your service is born out of. If service is done out of love, just watch what Christ can do through you, and your TOV church. Jesus put it this way to the disciples. “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be the first among you must be the slave of everyone else.”  Matthew 20:26

A culture of service is not easily created, it takes modeling and humble leadership, or as Jesus said we need to be the “slave of everyone else.”  Tov churches create a culture where service is valued and encouraged, some churches call it every – member – ministry. This is done through preaching, teaching, and example. Part of creating a Tov culture is honouring our church members and their service. It is seeing their service through the eyes of Christ – particularly the quiet, background ministries that often get little attention. We need to be alert to the temptation to serve in order to be seen or celebrated. True TOV service is ordinary people, doing ordinary things, that Christ blesses extraordinarily.

Here are some specific examples of how Tov churches can teach, train and model Christ-like service.

  • A Tov church might support missionaries who are serving around the world, and send teams to support the ministry there.
  • A Tov church might have a monthly service day where members help out at organizations and charities in the community.
  • A Tov church might have a ministry that provides meals to people with food insecurities.
  • A Tov church might have a team that visits the elderly and sick in their homes, ministering to people who are neglected and forgotten.
  • Tov churches also provide opportunities for their members to serve and create a culture where service is honoured, valued and encouraged.

Here are some of the benefits of serving others:

  • Being good to others helps us to build relationships. When we serve others, we are spending time with them and getting to know them on a deeper level leading to strong and lasting relationships.
  • Being good to others helps us to grow in our faith and live the values of Christ. When we serve others, we are putting our faith into action. We are also learning to love others as Jesus loved us.
  • Being good to others helps us to make a difference in the world. This gives even ordinary, small acts of service the potential to make a big difference in the lives of others.
  • Tov churches nurture service because they believe that it is an important part of what it means to be a Christian, and this is an essential part of the character of Mennonite Brethren churches. They teach their members that they are called to serve others, in ordinary ways both in big and small. Tov churches also provide opportunities for their members to serve and create a culture where service is valued and encouraged.

Lord help us to develop TOV churches where service is honoured and encouraged.


Reflection from Rob Patterson, Lead Pastor at Scott Street Church

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