Practicing the Power Serve

by Lt. Colonel Sharon Robertson –

I’m not exactly sports-minded–my idea of a good football game is kicking a tennis ball around (preferably in a small, confined area) so my cat can chase it. Be that as it may, inevitably– possibly through the process of osmosis, certainly not through any effort on my part– even I have picked up a few sports-related terms. Unfortunately, for the most part I haven’t yet figured out which sport most of the terms are related to!

Once in a while, though, I hear a term (maybe not the context, but the term itself) that really starts the mental gears grinding. “Power serve” is one such term. I gather it has something to do with hitting a tennis ball so hard and so accurately that it is in and out of your opponent’s court before he realizes it’s even on its way. (Or is it a volleyball?) Whatever, the term fascinates me! It defines, for me, the essence of servant leadership as modeled by Jesus during his earthly ministry. He was a master of the “power serve”!

Jesus exemplified the power of the servant-leader. He directed his “power service” to accomplishment of specific goals. He ministered to the hurting people of his world, identifying and targeting their deepest needs, even when they themselves didn’t recognize them. He probed the consciences of the stone-wielding executioners until the festering sin in each angry soul was drawn inexorably to the surface, so that each was forced to see and acknowledge his own guilt. He opened the eyes of their victim to her own worth and potential. “Go,” he said, “and sin no more.” And, God be praised, he believed in her; he actually believed she could do it!

Demonstration of power for its own sake was never Jesus’ aim. He placed every power serve! His every act had a purpose, and he used exactly the degree of power and the technique best suited to accomplishing that purpose. He waited patiently for the open slot, the teachable moment, and when it came, he made his move. Did he grind his teeth in frustration as Peter wobbled between impetuous commitment and cowardly denial? I don’t know– but I know that when the time was right, he spoke, and Peter became a rock, an eternal example of submission, commitment and courage.

Power service is not about winning because you’ve got the power, or losing because you don’t! Power service is about accomplishing God’s purposes in an ungodly world. Power service is about transforming the “losers” of this world into winners. It’s about helping them to recover a sense of their own worth by introducing them to the Suffering Servant, whose love caused him to sacrifice his own life on their behalf. It’s about living a life of transparent servanthood, a life in which the spirit of Christ can be clearly seen. It’s about being willing to be hurt, if it will help someone else to be healed. It’s about looking at the world through the eyes of Christ, thinking of the world with the mind of Christ, and seeing what can be accomplished–with the right application of the “power serve”!

Power service is what The Salvation Army is all about. I delight in the truth of Commissioner David Edwards’ right-on-target observation that “We are an Army like no other army. We are a church like no other church.” We (the Army is “we,” not “it”) have been called out of the crowd by God himself to engage in “power service” to the needy of this world. We have been called to bring Christ to the people, and to bring the people to Christ. There can be no distinction between ministry to the human spirit and ministry to the human condition for the Salvationist. The same Jesus who chose us to be a part of His ekklesia (usually translated “church,” the Greek word means simply the “called-out,” the “assembly”) made clear that human need is human need, be it emotional, physical, intellectual, social or spiritual.

The “power serve” of the Army is predicated upon its commitment to minister in the name of Christ to human need, whatever form that need may take. If our Army is to survive to carry out its mission, we dare not neglect practicing the power serve!

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