Let me tell you about Brother Nelson. When I first met him, my family and I were "between churches". We had wrangled an invitation to a church’s potluck, and were enjoying the good food and kind people when I noticed Brother Nelson. He was a beehive of activity,
first making sure the trash barrels had fresh bags in them, hauling out the trash if they were full, then making sure everyone had enough to eat, or seeing if anyone needed another drink, or sweeping up a spill on the floor. He managed to stop long enough to say a few words with everyone, including me, never once losing the smile from his face.
Finally, after everyone had gone through the line, Brother Nelson picked up a plate and flatware and took his helpings from whatever remained in the serving line.
My family and I had not been to services that day, but as we enjoyed the company around us, out of curiosity and courtesy I asked who the pastor was. They pointed to him, and it was Brother Nelson.
Many reading this article come from a church tradition where a minister serving his congregation is the norm, and therefore Brother Nelson’s activities are no surprise to you. But some of us come from a background where such things were simply not done.
I love the King James Version of the Bible, but it surely has its weaknesses. One such weakness is illustrated by this passage, as it reads in the King James: "Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister." (Matt 20:25-26 KJV)
If we read this as translated, it implies that the greatest among us should be our ministers, and that concept has led some people to look upon certain types of service as being beneath the ministry. After all, aren’t the ministers supposed to be greatest among us?
But Brother Nelson, who as far as I know uses only the King James Version, understands the intent of the aforementioned passage. Here is what it says it the
New King James Version:
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant."
Put differently, Jesus’ intent is the exact opposite of how some ministers I know treat their congregations. As Jesus himself said, "For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves." (Luke 22:27 NKJV) In the intervening years I have come to know Brother Nelson as both a brother and a friend, and he would be the first to tell you that if Jesus could live a life as one who came to serve, then so can he. No greater love has a man than this, to lay down his life for a friend. And that even means emptying a trashcan so the other guy can enjoy the potluck.