Why does Quest focus on service?
Hollywood loves filling movies with theology. They can’t seem to help it, and people can’t seem to get enough of it.
My wife and I recently re-watched the first Avengers movie (that was originally released the weekend of our wedding, which I’ll admit may add to how much I like it), and I was struck again by the deep insights that are woven into all the action and humor.
In particular, there’s a powerful scene where the villain Loki forces a crowd to kneel in front of him.
Then, as Hollywood villains love to do, he monologues: “Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity: that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled.”
I don’t know how those lines sit with you, but for me there is what I will call a disturbing resonance. Disturbing – because I don’t like it. Resonance – because deep down I know that I live it out every day.
I look for causes to support, people to please, injustices to reconcile…things outside of me that will give my life meaning.
Because I know that if all I pursue are my own interests, I come up empty and hungry every time.
I was made for something more than just me.
Now, there are definitely problems with Loki’s speech. His understanding of freedom is pretty twisted. His solution is just as bad: “Everyone should serve me.”
Unfortunately, my “disturbing resonance” is even stronger here.
How often do my actions show that I treat my parents, my wife, my employer, my kids, and my friends as if they are all the supporting cast in a movie that’s all about me?
How often do you do the same thing?
Thankfully, God is calling us into a more complete (and more compelling) story. I imagine our invitations to sound a little more like this:
“Congratulations! It’s not all about you!
“I’m producing an amazing story, and I designed you for a special role: my servant.”
You get to contribute to the greatest cause ever: my kingdom, where everything will be made new and right (Rev. 21:5).
Don’t worry, because in this kingdom servanthood is a sign of greatness (Mk. 10:43). You don’t have to fear being abused or taken advantage of as a servant, because as your King, I am so invested in your flourishing that I died for you (Mk. 10:45) and am working everything for your good (Rom 8:28).
I want to give you a lot of responsibility and reward you handsomely when you handle it well (Mt. 25:23). I have given you special gifts and talents and abilities so that you can meet the needs in front of you in ways that no one else can (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:12).
And you don’t have to do it alone…actually, you can’t do it alone! You will have others to encourage you and to serve with (Heb. 10:24-25), and I will be with you the whole time (Mt. 28:20). Come, follow me!” (Mt. 4:19)
Not your typical invitation!
This is why in Quest, we emphasize service as a major component.
It’s like the natural conclusion and consequence of engaging in discipleship. All the course work and coffees and adventures contain loads of input, filling us with knowledge, ideas, connection and encouragement.
But, like in so many other areas of life, when there is input there needs to be output in order to be healthy. I mean, imagine if you ate and ate and ate, but never engaged in activities that would use the energy, and dispose of the waste. You would become fat, bloated and constipated, your muscles would shrivel, and that’s just the start.
The same is true spiritually.
Service is the exercise that our spiritual muscles have been designed to need.
So when we go camping at places like Chilliwack Lake, we spend hours engaged in cleaning, fixing, building, chopping, and digging. When we go to Costa Rica, we devote ourselves to sweating, laughing, working, and playing with our friends there.
And it’s not that we take time out of our programming to do those things: service is the program.
It’s the life we have been called to, and it is life giving!
We have indeed been created to serve, but the God who claims the right to our service has graciously designed serving him to bring us the joy, satisfaction, and purpose we could never find anywhere else.
Matt Kliever is the Quest associate. He’s an alum of Columbia’s Outdoor Leadership.
Quest is now accepting applications for Fall 2018. Learn more about Quest’s one-year discipleship program.