“His servants.” The second sentence of our mission statement begins with that distinguishing statement about us. We are His servants. What does this mean?
It means that everything about church (even its very existence) is only a response to what God has already done for us through Jesus Christ. We serve Him because He acted first on our behalf, because we were totally incapable of acting to save ourselves. We live in a culture that wants to put human initiative, human wisdom, and human desire at the center of everything . From our earliest days we are trained to believe that our actions, our choices, our efforts at self-determination are what drives the universe. Don’t misunderstand me at this point: we do have free will, and our choices do matter. Part of what it means to become a mature human being is to recognize that we are free moral agents, and that we must take responsibility for the correct exercise of our wills.
But our choices and our initiatives can only happen within the context set by God in his sovereign grace. The biblical understanding of human nature is that everything about us, including our wills, is so corrupted by sin that we could never will our way out of the mess we are in. It takes something beyond us, a power and a love greater than us to rescue us. This is the meaning of the cross. On the cross Jesus atones for our sin because we cannot atone for it ourselves. We are set free from the curse of sin and death because of what God does for us, not because of what we do for ourselves. Jesus saves. We respond.
It is both humbling and liberating to know that I am set free from myself. The humbling part is to recognize that in spite of the high view I tend to have of myself, I cannot do for myself the one thing that is most important. I cannot save myself. The liberating part is to recognize that I do not have to. Jesus has already taken care of that. This is the definition of grace.
Church, then, is not a self-improvement society. It is not a club of religiously minded people who come together once a week to get motivated to “get out there and do better.” (Though if we happen to receive such motivation, so much the better.) Church is a gathering of people who have been called out of the world to worship and serve the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We cannot earn it, deserve it, or work for it. All we can do it is receive it. All we can do his serve Him.
We are His servants. There is no greater calling.