Thursday, February 08, 2007

God’s Swag

Before I left for the conference, a colleague of mine asked if it was the kind of conference where you get “swag.” For those of you who haven’t attended a professional development conference recently, “swag” is that stuff that vendors and companies give away free to get you to buy more (see: I laughingly replied that they probably would be giving out t-shirts with “Zondervan ROCKS!” plastered across them. (Again, for those not “in the know,” Zondervan is a very large Christian publisher, and the primary sponsor of the National Pastor’s Convention. They don’t, in my experience, give t-shirts.)

It turns out, we got swag! Sure, it’s no magic-8 ball to give you all the answers you need to your common technical problems (“reboot”, “user error”, “it’s a new feature”), but it is swag nonetheless. So far, I’ve collected a book on Spiritual Marriage, a classic from William Wilburforce, a kids story-bible, a CD of collected hits from Todd Agnew. We were too late for the limited number of Contagious Christian kits (don’t worry, it’s an evangelism primer – interesting points, not for our context).

We got the second round of swag before hearing Phyllis Tickle give a feisty 10 minutes on prayer, and before Ruth Halley Barton’s talk on the importance of keeping our souls fed and connected to God in ministry. They both left me with nuggets to take home and ponder: “When the shepherd is starving, he will feed on his sheep.” “If we name the truth in God’s presence, God will come.” “We aim for servanthood, not to be a service provider.”

It’s the last of those that I will chew on more, and not just tuck into my growing good reminder pile. What is the difference between servanthood and providing service? I think it’s something about attitude, relationship, and heart. The service provider serves the people above all. The servant serves the master, and in so doing, serves the people. The service provider gives of what he or she has, or owns, or controls. The servant is sent with that which the master has. The service provider is responsible for what is provided. The servant is responsible for serving the master.

I believe it is part of our call to use our hearts, minds, spirits not just to follow Jesus, but to help others experience the joy of doing the same. But sometimes its comforting to be reminded that at the end of the day, when we are the best we can be, as classy, as articulate, as polished, as sincere, as relational, as caring… well, we’re still just the swag, enticing others to invest in the creator.


Pastor Bran

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bran mentioned elephants in the room. The big elephant this year is Ted Haggard: largely unmentioned, but looming. It's not like people are saying, "don't adulter, don't use drugs", but everyone is feeling the pain of a divided life, of being a very public face with a very private secret. No one's talking about integrity, but there's a lot about making sure you're connected to the God you're serving.

Or, in my terms, the God you're in love with. For me, that's another of the differences between "servanthood" and "service provider". When I am at my best, I am striving to be God's servant: to submit wholly to the One I love so much, and to love that One more. As a service provider, my goal is not to serve my beloved, but to get the service out. To be a vending machine of religious service.

Vending machines break down, eat your money, and dispense the wrong product. Lovers love, and try to please the Beloved.