The first principle that inspires service is to be like Jesus, said Adventist businessman Zuki Mxoli when presenting at the Inter-American Division (IAD) Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries (ASi) 2019 Convention in Nassau, The Bahamas, on August 21. “Serve as Jesus served; live as Jesus lived. That is our goal.”
Mxoli, a guest speaker who runs a successful architectural and construction firm in South Africa, is one of several plenary speakers who sought to train, encourage, and inspire Adventist laypeople from more than 16 countries attending the event.
How to Serve Like Jesus
Despite their varied life backgrounds and areas of expertise, most presenters showed remarkable agreement when it comes to the ultimate goal. For Mxoli, it is almost stating the obvious. Any attempt to serve should be based on the goal of being like Jesus, he said. And it is a premise, Mxoli emphasized, that changes our whole approach and life focus. Drawing on the convention theme “Reviving the Spirit of Service,” he reminded listeners, “Reviving the spirit of service is reviving the spirit of Jesus, not reviving ourselves. Jesus is the focus.”
It is that example, Mxoli said, that led Jesus to a life of service that prompted Him to even die for the object of His troubles. “Jesus loved the church so much that He died for the church,” he emphasized.
A second principle that inspires service, Mxoli said, is imitating Jesus by being willing to leave our comfort zone to meet people where they are. Based on the Bible story of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus, Mxoli said that when Jesus invited Himself to dine at Zacchaeus’ house, He was telling Zacchaeus, “I want to serve you by going into your comfort zone.”
Jesus goes to meet people where they are, mingling with them, Mxoli said, and it is an example we would do well in following. “Just like Jesus, we must tell people, ‘We don’t care where you come from; we care where you’re going to.’”
Mxoli also stressed that our service has to begin and end with our marching orders, which, according to Matthew 28:18-20, is “to make disciples.” “One of the issues we face as a church is that we continue to make members but not always disciples,” Mxoli said. “But a disciple is someone who will serve; is someone who is not comfortable in one place unless he or she is serving,” he explained. It is an approach, Mxoli concluded, that will transform our whole approach to service. “We shouldn’t hoard all the light in one room. Once we make disciples, we must send them out,” he said.
How to Live Like Jesus
In the same vein, North American Division ASi president Phillip Baptiste said that imitating Jesus will definitely drive changes in our whole approach to service. “What if you desired living like Jesus? What if it was your dream, your aspiration, your number-one desire?” Baptiste asked. “What is your most important achievement? Imagine if [being like Jesus] was your goal; how different would you be?”
Dwelling on the Bible story of David, Baptiste explained that being like Jesus does not necessarily mean being free from making mistakes. “David was not perfect; he made significant mistakes, but again and again, his prayer would be, ‘Lord, I want to be close to you,’” he said.
At the same time, Baptiste cautioned about merely dwelling on nicely expressed phrases that do not lead to lasting, life-transforming changes. “Living like Jesus is not just repeating common phrases but actually living like Him,” he said. “And how did Jesus live?” he asked before answering, “Jesus gave, served, and loved unconditionally. This is the gist of our selfless service for the Savior: give, serve, and love. It is an example we would do very well to imitate,” he said.
What Service Looks Like
Beyond definitions and statement of goals, many of the attendees to the IAD 2019 ASi convention are living proof that they are already implementing Jesus’ model of service.
Take the Berrys, for instance. Richard and Curlean Berry are self-described church planters who moved to the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas 26 years ago as self-supporting missionaries. When they arrived, there was only one Adventist congregation on the island. Thanks to their prayers and efforts, there are now four churches and a couple more congregations across the area.
“It is our first time at an ASi convention,” Curlean Berry said. “We have come to be inspired and encouraged to keep doing the Lord’s work in our place of service,” she added.
Other first-timers to an ASi convention are Trinidad and Tobago’s Michael and Rosemarie Walke. The Walkes are planning to build the first Adventist health-care healing lifestyle center in Trinidad. “After some recent challenges to my own health, I realized that people just don’t know about healthy life principles,” Michael said in explaining the rationale for his and his wife’s initiative. “So our first goal is educational, and also health promoting,” he said.
With their registered non-governmental organization, the Walkes have already been able to secure four acres of state lands at no cost, and now they are looking for additional funding options.
Rosemarie, a retired Adventist elementary school teacher and principal, explained, “There’s an open field to bring physical and spiritual health to the needy,” she said. “And we feel it is what the Lord is asking us to do.”