By Rev. Dr. Cecelia GreeneBarr, 4th Episcopal District
One of the principles of a spiritual protocol is servanthood. With the amount of travel and denominational meetings that we attend, the most common visual of servanthood is that of the waitstaff in restaurants. It is a servanthood profession that is too often abused by the people they serve. High demands, curt requests, token tips, and the rare expression of thanks after the dining experience are commonplace for these servants. My mentor, the late Rev. Dr. Samuel Dewitt Proctor, was particularly kind to waitstaff and taught me his perspective about the connection between their attitude toward diners and our attitude toward those we feed spiritually.
Servants are those who attend to others and all servants are equal in the eyes of God. Each rank and position is nothing more than a servant in lateral positioning. If we look at service upwards, we might perceive service or servants as underlings, subordinates, or inferiors on the bottom of the pack. If we look at servants from divine order, however, God has absolute authority and we can correctly perceive everyone as a servant in lateral positioning. From this biblically accurate perspective of servanthood, social, ecclesial, or familial positioning becomes properly aligned and executed with holy integrity.
Pastor, consider the directive found in Ephesians 6:7-9 in how you render service and exercise your authority to those you feed spiritually. The biblical criteria direct you to serve with enthusiasm, which at its core is a mental model that establishes your mindset in divine order with God. Our task as pastors is often exhausting and our sense of personhood can be diminished by the treatment of those we seek to serve. For this reason, we must harness the fortitude to render our service with enthusiasm and with a mental model that God knows the quality of our work and will directly give back to us accordingly.
The passage in Ephesians speaks to slaves (employees) about their mental model of servanthood but also speaks to a level admonition to the masters (employers). Ascribed or delegated authorities are also directed to serve with enthusiasm but especially to stop threatening those under their authority. Pastor, threats are the weakest method of leadership. It tarnishes your record of service. The greater threat, however, is the collateral damage it does to your relationship with our absolute authority in God. My advice for those situations where you may be tempted to threaten those God has sent you to serve, just don’t do it.
The spiritual protocol of servanthood requires you to be enthusiastic. It requires you to maintain the mental model that all your service is unto the Lord.
Lastly, allow the wisdom of this spiritual protocol to inform your memory that God is not partial. Therefore, render your service and your authority with enthusiasm, remembering that we are all servants in lateral positioning in the divine order of God.
Rev. Dr. Cecilia GreeneBarr is the pastor of Saunders Memorial AME Church in Detroit, Michigan. You can learn more about her ministry and publications at http://ceceliagreenebarr.com.