A quick reading of the New Testament will give you an easy answer to that question. The scene is Jesus with His disciples. The mother of James and John, identified in the text as “the mother of Zebedee’s sons,” addresses Jesus. She speaks boldly to Him: “Promise that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and the other on Your left, in Your kingdom” (Matt. 20:21).
Jesus quickly tells her that she has no idea what she’s talking about. Then the other ten disciples become indignant at James and John. It’s a fight ready to happen.
But Jesus calls a time-out. The text literally says, “He called them over” (Matt. 20:25).
Now read carefully Jesus’ response to all twelve disciples. It is powerful.
He began, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:25–28).
Did you get that? Did you understand the full import of Jesus’ words?
May I put the essence of these words in a modern vernacular for church members today? I hope you won’t be too offended.
“Hey church members: I know that the world says put yourself first. Look after number one. But that’s not the way you are supposed to do it. Stop complaining about the music style and what you want. Stop demanding church leaders to do things the way you would like them to be. Stop trying to get your way in church business meetings. Instead, put others first. Put your desires last. Become a servant instead of a whiner and complainer.”
Jesus then offers Himself as an example for serving. Instead of coming to Earth as a political king, Jesus came to serve. Indeed His service would go all the way to the cross. He became sin. He took on our sin. He was crucified on that bloody cross of His own volition. He served you and me by dying for us.
We church members must cease and desist becoming “I want” members and become “I will” members.
We must serve instead of demanding our way.
That’s what Jesus said. And that’s what Jesus would do.
Thom S. Rainer, I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian (Nashville: B&H, 2015).
I have just completed a series of lessons based on Thom Rainer’s book, I Will. They are available as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year. Lessons correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines as well as the International Standard Series.