Servanthood & Love – a lesson from China

May 1, 2012

Years ago a friend of mine had a dream about the end of the age and the coming revival. He saw many things, but the key message of the dream was that the church at the end of the age would be known as a church of servanthood and love. These two charateristics would be important keys that would enable the church to operate in the power of God and see massive revival.

Over the years I have reflected on this dream and wondered how and when would this happen. There have been moments when I thought, this is it, servanthood & love, the church is finally loving and serving others without regard to herself. However, I don’t think servanthood and love has taken root the way that it will in the days ahead. To be honest, I think we still have a ways to go. I’m praying for myself that I would be one that lives this way, loving & serving, without regard for “what I get out of it.” Still, I am expectant that these truths will become commonplace in the church.

During my trip to China I believe I got to see, maybe for the first time, what the Lord was talking about regarding servanthood and love. The Lord used the example of the Chinese believers to instruct me as to what it looks like when believers selflessly serve out of a heart motivated by love for Jesus.

While I was there, I had the opportunity to spend several days with some leaders of the Chinese house church. These leaders have been imprisoned, beaten, and suffered greatly for their faith in Jesus. They have also been instrumental in perhaps the largest revival the earth has ever seen – to this day, 30,000 people are coming to Christ daily in China! Several of these leaders oversee churches whose members number in the millions. Yes that’s millions, with an ‘M’. Needless to say I was humbled and honored to be able to fellowship, pray with and minster with them. They are absolutely precious men and women of God.

The outstanding and striking characteristic of each of them was that they are incredibly humble. None carry themselves in a way that makes you think they are anything more than an average person. They have none of the trappings that accompany successful ministry in the West. No titles, entourages, custom suits, or “rock-star” personalities. Just brothers and sisters who love Jesus dearly.

What’s more all of these leaders serve in menial ways just as any other believer. In the West, most leaders of large ministries don’t do any ‘meaningless’ work. It might be considered below them to even carry their own bag. With the Chinese it was completely different. They had no problem clearing a table, taking out garbage or sweeping a floor. In fact it became evident to me, that they considered it an honor to serve in this way. These leaders were so servant-hearted that I was personally embarrassed at times.

After a week of being over-served by them things came to a crescendo. I was getting ready to depart China for Central Asia. I was taken to the airport by a key leader of several million believers. I got out of the van and grabbed my 50lb, American vacation-ary, suitcase. Before I could actually pick it up, this leader wrestled it out of my hand and insisted upon carrying it for me. Earlier that week a wheel had broken so the suitcase no longer rolled. He would have to lug it around this huge metropolitan airport. I protested and tried to take it back. He would not have it. In that moment it was as if something broke inside of me as I realized that this man, who leads millions of believers, has suffered incredibly for Jesus, considered it an honor to carry my bag. It was too much to take and my eyes began to fill with tears. Humiliated, I yielded, walking behind him like a dignitary behind his servant.

Later as I replayed that scene in my mind, the Lord began to teach me the secret these wonderful believers understand: In the Kingdom, privilege and honor is in serving, not in being served. It seems so simple but it is completely the opposite of how the world thinks and, to be honest, how many in the church think.

Consider these two options…sitting down to eat a four course meal or serving the one who sits at the table to eat. Which has the greater honor? Jesus used this example(Luke 22:26-27) to explain that though the world esteems the one being served, heaven esteems the one serving. From heaven’s vantage point serving is the privilege, not being served.

Take a moment and consider Jesus’ claim, He came to serve not to be served. The mentality that you work your way up the ladder until others clamor to serve you is exactly the OPPOSITE of the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom you work your way down so you can serve as many as possible. The privilege in the Kingdom of God is on serving, not on being served.

The Chinese exemplified this truth and it rocked my paradigm. What in the world was a leader of millions of people doing carrying my bag? He was taking the position of privilege – servanthood.

What could possibly motivate someone to go lower, when he clearly has the ‘right’ to go higher? Love. Jesus became our servant, in His death, burial & resurrection, and still today He serves us by interceding for us and enabling us with grace.  Why? for Love. He loves us, and therefore, to win us, He serves us. Isaiah calls him “the servant of rulers (Isa 49:7).” Jesus said of Himself that he was among us “as one who serves (Luke 22:27).” Love is the chief motivator to service. Love for Jesus is what compels the heart to esteem another above yourself. When we see Him as the Servant of all, our hearts are moved to serve as He does.

The King is the Servant, our Leader has become the Slave. How much more shall we take the lowest place? But beloved, this is where our paradigm must shift…in the Kingdom the lowest place is the highest place. Privilege in the kingdom is in servanthood, not being served.

I believe the Lord is going to transform us into a church of servanthood and love. He is going to conform us to His image.  And when we look like Him in humility, servanthood and love we will operate like Him in compassion and power. Oh to be one who truly loves and serves like Jesus. This is our portion, this is who we are called to be; a people who embrace with wild abandonment the privilege of servanthood from a heart motivated by love. This is our privilege, our honor.

“But the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant” Luke 22:26


4 responses to Servanthood & Love – a lesson from China


    early in ministry to youth, I was on my knees cleaning the toilet in our home and praying in preparation for the large boisterous group coming that evening and I wondered if anyone really cared and He broke in and gave me a picture of me washing their feet and said that’s how He saw me when I cleaned the toilets, etc. for them (as well as for my family) .. and it really mattered to Him .. so incredible how a simple paradigm shift changed everything in my heart from then on …

    Marie Knudsen May 2, 2012 at 8:05 am

    As I learn more of the Chinese believers, by reading “Living Water” by Brother Yun, “The Crimson Cross” by Eugene Bach & Bro Zhu, and “The Heavenly People” by Eugene Bach & Bro Yun, I am ashamed that I have not seen or understood “suffering” for the sake of the Gospel. Today the word “suffer” is jumping off the page at me!

    Their experiences in prison shows there is”Great Power” in suffering for the Gospel. Every disciple in China is taught they must be ready to die for Jesus. Oh God, may we learn from these brothers and sisters!


    What an awesome experience, lesson and revelation. Leadership functioning from an upside-down pyramidal mindset (leaders serving others towards the purposes of God from below, not above) is a revelation the Western church must come into. Great, inspiring and riveting thoughts, Billy.


    Thank You! I feel the Lord has been teaching me this and your experience has helped bring even more clarity to His Words in this area!