This is a blog from the series, “Loving Freely“.
DAN CRAIN HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF SPEAKING AT DESIRE STREET’S “THRIVING LEADERS SERIES” HTTP://WWW.DESIRESTREET.ORG/PARTNERS/THRIVING-LEADERS-SERIES/ . HE SPOKE ON A TOPIC CALLED THE “UNDERBELLY OF SERVICE: WHY THE FALSE SELF PLAGUES SO MANY MINISTRIES.”
YOU CAN WATCH THE PRESENTATION HERE: HTTPS://VIMEO.COM/219781733
THIS IS A BLOG SERIES BASED ON THE CONTENT HE PRESENTED AT THIS WORKSHOP. WE HOPE YOU FIND IT BENEFICIAL AS YOU LEARN TO SERVE OTHERS FREELY!
“Get in the van if you want to change your life right now.”
The woman could only stand there and look at the young man and van loaded with well meaning church people. The church group had come down to Fulton Industrial BLVD (FIB) on the Westside of Atlanta, where the majority of sex workers are being trafficked and exploited. This group had come to serve the community for the day and then leave.
This was a story told to me by a close friend that walks with sex workers on FIB. His team embodies what it means to live out dignified interdependent relationship from Dignity Serves extremely well in this neighborhood of the city. As he shared this story, he talked about the frustration at how outsiders will come in his community and not understand the dynamics happening in the lives of the people he cares about. This particular group didn’t understand that this woman was working a couple different jobs so she could support her young family. To hop in the van right then and in that moment would mean leaving her kids behind.
After discovering that the way the church in America was not serving the marginalized well, Phil Hissom wrote Dignity Serves in 2009 and said this in the training, “The current culture of service in the American church tends towards dysfunction mainly because we sacrifice relationship for the sake of efficiency.”
We sacrifice relationships because we want to get things done, and this is driven out of the false self. My false self wants control when loving and serving others. The false self want to serve others when it’s on my agenda, beneficial to me, and makes me look like the hero rather than Jesus.
It’s true of me and it might be true of you. Robert Mulholland says in The Deeper Journey that one manifestation of the false self is the, “Self-promoting self: The best of our behaviors become stained with the need for approval; the ultimate goal of the action is not the purpose integral to the action itself but the promotion of our value. But always our focus is on how such activities will enhance our prestige and solidify our identity.”
Here’s oftentimes the reality; people that serve in this type of way want the control. They want the prestige. They want to do things on their own time and their own agenda. They will help, but only when it’s convenient for them.
Do we want people to be fully who God’s called them to be and get out of destructive patters? Of course. But, God also wants us to escape unhealthy patterns in our own lives, thus the importance of dignified interdependent relationships when we serve.
Bob Lupton, a legend in community development says it like this, “There is blessedness in this kind of giving, to be sure. But there is also power in it—which can be dangerous. Giving allows me to retain control.”
And control was not something the Good Samaritan had in Luke 10 as he finds the half-dead Jewish man laying in the ditch as he was traveling. He didn’t put together a special service project day to go and serve the marginalized. It was as he was living his life. He was called to serve when it was not convenient to him and when he had no control over the situation.
As believers in the resurrected Christ, this is the way Christ calls us to serve and love others. Because of what God has done in the deep interior parts of our lives, we are called to give up control to those we serve. This is the case Paul is making in Philippians 2 with the “if, then” statements.
In this text Pauls says, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, THEN……seek the interest of others.
If we are rooted in Christ, then we can now seek the interests of others. Because of the deep work that Christ does in our own lives, we can now give up power and control to those we serve, thus allowing us to love freely.
If we are the beloved children of God and have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, then, we are able to give up control, because we realize Christ has come to destroy the control tendencies in the deep interior parts of our lives. We are now able to give our lives away for the other, because Christ has given his life for us. We can now seek the interests of others, because Christ seeks our best interests.
We want quick fixes when it comes to generational poverty, homelessness, racial-reconciliation or in this case, sex trafficking. But those that have immersed themselves in these worlds know that quick fixes don’t work. It’s long term, committed dignified interdependent relationships, with a full reliance on Christ’s Spirit where the most fruit happens, both in the lives of those we’re called to walk with and in our own lives.
What if we asked different question when we love and serve others?
What if we loved others with their best interests in mind and not our own?
What if we discovered that God was already present and at work in every place and relationship and we simply listened to what Christ’s Spirit is saying?
What if we checked our motives (because they matter), when we love and serve others, and are honest about what our false selves want?