The Spiritual Discipline of Service

Rarely will one find service in a top ten list of the spiritual disciplines. Yet, this lesser-known discipline isn’t to be overlooked.

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Deborah Haddix

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If asked to contribute to the creation of a list of Spiritual Disciplines, which disciplines would you offer? Would you suggest prayer? Engaging with the Scripture? How about worship or maybe fasting? These responses are the most common because these are some of the more well-known disciplines.

What about the Spiritual Discipline of service? Why is it not generally included in such a list? I wonder if perhaps it might be because service doesn’t have quite the same appeal as the others. Prayer draws us to God as we give Him our burdens. Engaging with Scripture satisfies our desire for spiritual depth. Corporate worship unites us with other believers, and fasting presents us with both personal challenge and promise.

But service. What is its appeal? It sounds so ordinary, so mundane. And for some, service may even sound demeaning.

Yet, we are not at liberty to use this lack of appeal as an excuse for not serving. Ephesians 2:8-10 and Hebrews 9:14 very clearly tell us that we are saved for the purpose of serving God and glorifying Him. In other words, every Chrisitan is expected to serve. God calls no one to idleness.

Service Defined

Christian service is the sincere worship of God with our whole lives. Several weeks ago, we explored the Spiritual Discipline of worship. And we concluded that worship “is a response, an action. One that isn’t limited to singing or attending church on Sunday morning.” Therefore, for a believer in Christ, all of life is worship.

Service is part of our whole-life worship of the God who created us and redeemed us through Jesus Christ. We are called to serve, and the service we are called to is obedience motivated by faith in Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.

The Test

In identifying the Spiritual Disciplines, we have determined that we will always test the discipline in question against Scripture. Is the discipline taught in the Bible? Is it modeled? Let’s give service the test.


Service is Our Obligation

In Romans 6:22, we read that we are a redeemed people who have been freed from our bondage to sin. As Christians, we now serve a new Master. We belong to Christ. This means that we no longer live for ourselves because we are no longer the masters of our own lives. Our direction and our purpose are now radically changed. Our obligation is to live for the One who bought us with His own blood (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

There are many examples in the New Testament of how Christ’s disciples understood this. Paul (Titus 1:1), James (James 1:1), and Jude (Jude 1) all saw themselves as servants of God.

Service is a Right Response

In our test regarding the Spiritual Discipline of worship, we cited Romans 12:1. Here again, in the test for service, we find this verse helpful.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Romans 12:1

Our only right response to the mercies we have received from God is to offer our entire lives to the Lord. This is our spiritual worship (or service). God asks for our life. Service is costly but it should be a priority.

Service Involves Serving the Church

Believers in Christ are to contribute to the good of the body in whatever way the Lord has enabled them (Ephesians 4:11-16). This is how healthy church growth comes about. One of the most pressing needs for the church currently is to recover the concept of the working church, where every member is actively serving.

Additionally in this passage, we see that the leaders are not the only ones responsible for growing the church. In fact, Paul here places that duty squarely on the congregation. The duty of the elders is to equip God’s people for service, so that the church members themselves can build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12).

We all have a part to play in building up the church. None of us is exempt from this responsibility. Verse 16 of this passage encourages us all to serve in whatever way we can. A body grows in a healthy way when its various parts carry out their different functions in unity. No part of the body can say that it is too small or insignificant – each part does its work.  So, it is with the church and its members. There is healthy growth when all of us work together for the good of the body.

Clearly, this passage teaches that we cannot claim to serve Christ if we are indifferent to the welfare of His body. It confronts the “What’s in it for me?” mentality and challenges us to consider, instead, how we might serve others in the church and be a blessing to them.  


The Bible is filled with examples of Jesus serving others. He healed the sick (Luke 4:40) and restored sight to the blind (Mark 8:22-26). Jesus fed the hungry (John 6:1-14). He taught His disciples to pray (Luke 11:1-4), and He washed their feet (John 13:1-5). And during His earthly ministry, He even raised the dead (John 11:11-26).

Ultimately, Jesus performed the greatest act of love and service when He gave His life. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Christ paid an exceedingly high price to ransom us from sin. That price? His life. This is the gospel. And God works through the gospel of Jesus in part to grow us in Christlikeness. As we are transformed into His image, our hearts look more and more like His – servant hearts.   

The Goal of Service

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Paul’s prayer for those at the church of Thessalonica was that Christ would be glorified by their service. This is the goal of Christian service.

Understanding the goal is important. After all, service is hard work. And we all know that our acts of service often go unappreciated and unnoticed by those around us. Laziness, apathy, and pride can also hinder our service. Without discipline, we can fall into the habit of serving only occasionally. Without a goal, our acts of service may happen only when it benefits us.

Understanding the goal keeps us going. It keeps us serving for God’s glory!


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About the Author

Deborah Haddix

I am a child of God, wife, mom, grandma, daughter, sister, niece, and friend who loves nothing better than spending time with those I love.

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