As we learned previously, all gifts are for building up the church. The gift of prophecy is one of the best (according to Paul) for edifying the church. But another gift that is just as important are the gifts of ministry or serving.
The word “ministry” comes from the Greek word diakonia, meaning “servant.” You often hear people within church circles say endearingly, “He (or she) has such a servant’s heart,” and in truth, people with this gift really do! They love to serve others. They take great joy in it. In fact, the first people to be recognized with this gift were those appointed in Acts 6:1–7.
What is the Difference Between the Gifts of Ministry and Serving?
The word “ministry” should not be confused with what a pastor does. The gift of “pastor” differs from the gift of “ministry.” While a pastor does “serve” his congregation, his principal gifts would be prophecy, teaching, and exhortation (although I’m sure they have more). But as the Apostles pointed out in Acts 6:2, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables,” so like the Apostles, a pastor would be more concerned with shepherding his flock. He “serves” the congregation better by preaching from the Word of God and not having to worry about the administrative aspects of running a church.
However, one would usually find that the two go hand in hand. If the word “ministry” literally means servant, then a pastor could not do his job if he did not also have the gift of ministry. So, to keep things simple and less confusing, I will refer to the gift of ministry as the gift of servanthood or serving for the rest of this post.
In Acts 6:1-7 we see the qualifications for someone with the gift of servanthood as given by the apostles:
- They must have a good reputation
- They must be full of the Holy Spirit
- They must be wise
From this passage in Acts 6, most people believe we get the office of deacon or deaconess. Mainly because this particular office employs the gift of serving. But we must not mistake an office or position in the church as a gift, as they are two completely different things.
Gifts are given directly through and by the Holy Spirit. Whereas an office or position in the church, such as a deacon or elder, is a man-made position that is blessed with the laying on of hands by those with the authority to do so (usually a pastor). While the office of deacon employs the gift of serving, it is not actually a gift of the Holy Spirit. To see a complete list of character traits necessary to become a deacon, read 1 Timothy 3:8–13.
Opportunities to Serve
There are many opportunities for those with a servant’s heart to minister in the church: visiting the sick in the hospital, as a deacon or deaconess, caring for the babies in the nursery, or as a Sunday school teacher, to name a few. There are also ways to employ the gift of serving outside the church: helping in the community, volunteering at hospitals, or even just reading to children after school.
Those with the gift of serving are usually very easy to spot in church circles. They are the ones who are generally right in the thick of things. For example, my best friend’s husband was an excellent cook, so he was our church “chef.”
He planned meals for hundreds of people and dozens of events each year. He regularly shopped for the best deals in town, often travelling to many different places for those deals. And while he had a church budget to get all the necessary food items and was reimbursed for gas, he spent much of his time serving this way. Even when he became very sick, he would still go out to do his weekly shopping runs. He was sharing the gospel with nurses and doctors until he died. He had a faithful servant’s heart.
Serving With All Your Heart
I have another friend who, many years ago, was our church janitor. He had the qualifications to be an ordained minister. He spoke three languages. He had even received his Master of Divinity degree and more, but instead, he chose to serve as our janitor. At the time he served our church, he was more qualified in credentials than our own pastor! But he loved to help more than he loved to preach. Why? He had the gift of serving.
He loved to study the Bible, and so he thought his calling was to preach, but he discovered that even with all his degrees, he could not dismiss the gift God had given him—that of serving others. And so he decided to use his gift of serving by becoming our janitor, and our church was the better for it. His gift shined on Sunday mornings when members came into the church and could see how well taken care of it was, and this dear man still managed to serve as a Sunday school teacher whenever needed. He had the true gift of serving.
Do You Have the Gift of Serving?
Are you always looking out for the needs of others, putting them before your own? Do you seek to please God by serving in ways that may be behind the scenes, where you might not get appreciated or even thanked for what you do? Then you may have the gift of serving.