In my Psychology 101 class in college, I learned about diffusion of responsibility—a phenomenon in which people are less likely to take responsibility to do something when other people are around. For example, if I send an email out to my students and ask that one person respond to let me know the message successfully went out, it’s very possible that I would get no responses because each student would assume another student sent a response.
Or maybe you’re driving down a busy highway and you see a family pulled over on the side of the road with a flat tire. It’s very possible that you might just pass them by with the justification that with all these people out, someone else will surely stop. Or say you’re in church and the pastor is preaching on serving in an effort to raise awareness that the church needs volunteers. There are hundreds, or possibly even thousands, of other attendees, so you don’t feel a real urgency to serve. The pastor is preaching to so many people that there must be some volunteers somewhere in the crowd.
My pastor in college once said, “Those who serve are served by serving.” (I can’t explain it without being overly verbose, so I hope it is self-explanatory.) I had never thought of it that way before, but it’s true. Serving feels good, and it fills that same service-shaped hole in our hearts that being served fills. In Galatians 5, Paul tells us to serve one another out of love (verse 13). Serving creates joy when it is done out of love.
I’ve experience this joy—indeed, this feeling of being served—from serving ever since I decided to follow Christ. Once I got serious about choosing a church, I got involved in children’s ministry, and I served with kids (both babies and middle/high school) for six years. The two churches I went to during this time period were large—thousands of people—but serving was something I truly wanted to do, so I didn’t feel the need to let my feelings of responsibility diffuse out to others. When we moved to Annapolis and joined a tiny church (comparatively), the need to serve wasn’t preached on; it was simply an expectation of membership. (When you have a relatively small (but growing!) church plant, you kinda need all hands on deck!) (And Sunday mornings spent with our best friends are kind of the best.)
So when we needed help with moving at the end of September, we had a church family who took it to the next level. When we had only a couple days left in our apartment and needed to finish stuff at the house and pack before we could even think about moving, our friends were there—switching out Bible study for a packing party, and even bringing dinner. The men stepped up and helped Andrew move that weekend, not only allowing me to go away for a night on a women’s retreat, but encouraging me to go.
That is biblical community. That is biblical fellowship. That is biblical, platonic love and affection.
That is what the church should look like everywhere, serving one another out of love.
When we bought a fixer upper, we (or at least I) learned the importance of asking for help. We have been showered with so much help, from painting, to ripping out the tub/shower, to rebuilding our shed, to spackling all of the million holes in the walls. We have had plenty. And now, with this house especially (when the basement is done, at least), I am hoping that we can give plenty: a meal, a hot cup of tea, a place to sleep, a place to talk, a place to share the Gospel.
Because sharing the Gospel is our responsibility, too, and it is the greatest thing that we can give. Don’t let your responsibility diffuse on that one.
If you aren’t serving in your church, why not? Even big churches need volunteers.
If you aren’t serving your friends and family, why not? We all need help sometimes.
If you aren’t sharing the Gospel, why not? Everyone needs it. It’s kind of a big deal.
And I’m not trying to harp on you, I promise—I’m just trying to get you to examine yourself! And I’m hoping to encourage you to possibly take a step toward serving. (We are to build each other up, after all.)
And trust me—you’ll be served in the process.