by Paul Batchie
Dino Rizzo’s write-up of his church’s Servolution experience has become increasingly more engaging. We’ve watched as he started Healing Place Church (HPC) led by a vision to serve by simply doing “whatever, whenever”. We saw how two odd, spontaneous decisions – to accept and distribute two palates of rat poison and to give away articles at a tag sale – brought the church into the far reaches of the community and established it as an ongoing, well-known presence in Baton Rouge for helping people in need.
We watched how the outreach grew in scale until HPC had adequate supply and distribution channels in place to provide providential help at the Pentagon and Twin Towers sites immediately after the 9/11 attacks. And then we saw how ministering at the funeral of a fallen local policeman opened a vital line of trust with the authorities, which would enable the church to step in with lifesaving aid in the wake of Hurricane Katrina just one week later.
It’s been an impressive story of faithfulness with what is given and of ever-willingness to ‘take it up a notch’ when opportunity knocked. Servolution’s repeated positioning at just the right time makes it clear that the Lord has guided the process all the way.
But now we’re going to see a very different aspect of Servolution’s maturing. We’ll see the perils of recognition, and we’ll see the Lord guarding the ministry’s critical focus.
Thus, Dino, casually watching TV one night, takes a call that turns out to be from… um… the White House. That’s the White House – you know, where the president lives? Overcoming his shock, Dino becomes coherent enough to learn that the president is interested in learning about HPC’s outreach to people with addictions. Media coverage of the church’s activities had increased over the years, to the point that the Servolution now had found its way onto White House radar, and the president was considering giving HPC recognition.
Washington pols absolutely cannot chance a backfire, so the head of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Jim Towey, first asked a ton of questions, and then everyone involved at the church was given careful background checks. Then came the callback saying that Healing Place had been selected for a mention in George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech. Could the church please send two representatives to be present in Congress that night?
That probably wasn’t a difficult question to answer, and the game was on. But little did Dino realize he had just won a free ticket on a spiritual Dragon Coaster.
On the night of the speech Dino was shocked when only one church was lauded – HPC. That solo mention in turn led to an absolute media onslaught from around the world, lasting several weeks, with everyone inquiring about what the church was doing and how and why it was doing it. 70 news organizations called within three days. And still they came.
It’s easy to imagine the elation. We all want to be used of the Lord, we all would love to start a positive trend, and let’s face it, we all love recognition for work well done. But recognition can become too important. We begin to focus on ourselves rather than the Lord – that’s called pride – and forget the real reason for what we’re doing.
The headiness was brought into check a couple of days later. Just as Dino prepared to take Communion, the Faithful Voice of the Lord spoke a sobering warning to him: Do not touch the glory.
That’s the kind of word you don’t ignore. It was time for an assessment of motivations. Dino convened a meeting where the situation was discussed, and everyone reaffirmed that they were there for the Lord’s purposes only and that all the glory belonged to God. They then reconsecrated themselves to that end.
This was the defining moment of the chapter, if not the book, and it serves as a waymarker to all of us. We dream of making an impact for the Lord, but sometimes success is hard to handle, and the danger can creep up on us. Our adversary will use either the iron hand or the velvet glove; it makes no difference to him how we fall, so long as we fall. We need to keep in close touch with the Lord regarding our motivations.
After that episode the chapter expands on the theme of how the ministry carefully stayed on course. The observations were:
1. Everything about Servolution must point to Christ. He is the reason for the whole thing. The church is not in competition with anyone else, it just serves Him.
2. Learn to say No to good ideas, so you can say Yes to God ideas. The good can be the enemy of the best. Know your resources, know your calling. If possible let others lead in areas that are not your strength. Stay close to God’s leading for you.
3. Some outreaches are seasonal. Know the nature of the task. Some needs crop up for a limited time, then disappear. You must recognize when it’s time to move on, or you’ll waste time and resources and lose your focus.
4. Know your place in the spiritual chain. Learn to do your part and then leave the rest up to God. It’s great to lead someone to the Lord, but your job on a given day may be just to serve a physical need and walk away. Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. Always be looking for spiritual opportunities, but never force the issue.
Dino sums the chapter up with the practical notes, stick to the plan, learn to say no, and do things during their season.
This chapter is an essential part of the Servolution story, and comes at just the right time after a long string of successes. To the earlier lessons of being faithful with what we have and being open to new opportunities, we now are reminded that it’s all about serving God. Our vision comes from Him, is empowered by Him, and is ultimately for His glory. If we stick to those basics, we will be spiritually safe and will bear good fruit.
I also appreciated Dino’s willingness to recount his struggles as well as successes. At one point when he almost “missed God” this pastor admitted feeling like he needed to get saved! This kind of transparency adds to the richness of the story. It allows the reader to relate more intimately to the narrative, and it gets him thinking about the realities he too will face as he steps out into service for the Lord.
Seeing the success of the Servolution has convinced me of the scale of needs that remain unmet in our society. And seeing how it was used to extend the loving hands of Christ into unreached corners of the community has convicted me that I need to get out there and do more for God. The words of Isaiah concerning God’s True Fast haunt:
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
“Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
“Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard… – Is 58:6-9 ESV
In the higher calculus of God’s Kingdom economy, it is in giving that we receive, in setting others free that we find our own breakthrough. Seeing how the Lord used the Servolution outreach to exponentially grow Healing Place Church has affirmed to me yet again that His paradoxical principles of church growth, and of success and promotion in general, are indeed higher than ours.
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About the contributor:
Paul Batchie bowed the knee to Jesus 28 years ago. He enjoys the written and spoken word, leading worship, a good challenge, and any other activity that invites the glory of God. Currently living in New York, he is in employment transition and looking for new ways to be of use to the Kingdom. He blogs his thoughts at http://onfollowingchrist.wordpress.com