Book: Servanthood as Worship: The Privilege of Life in a Local Church (Nate Palmer)
Publisher: Cruciform Press (2010)
Review by: Chris Poblete
RELEASE DATE: Tomorrow, December 1, 2010
Nate Palmer’s Servanthood as Worship: The Privilege of Life in a Local Church is the book I wish I had written. Over the last year, I have read several books (the stack still towering over my desk) on discipleship, ecclesiology, missiology, and church leadership. I often found myself quoting helpful passages from these books in counseling sessions, except I would reword them—extrapolating the “leadership” lingo and replacing it with “everyday christian” sentiments—since many of the young men and women I was advising were simply not called to formal positions of leadership in the local church.
Eventually, I decided to muster up the discipline to begin writing a book proposal or a series of blog posts on the joys and responsibilities of the everyday church member. As providence would have it, this is when Nate Palmer dropped his new book Servanthood as Worship: The Privilege of Life in a Local Church in my lap (virtually—via e-mail). By the end of the first chapter, I found myself confessing to friends that his book is much better than the one I was writing in my head.
Servanthood as Worship is, quite simply, a call to biblical servanthood in the life of a local church. Unfortunately, this is a seldom-touched subject in the Christian publishing sphere. The book’s website accurately reports:
Books that promote servanthood tend to be about leadership. But how many books inspire us simply to serve one another?
The appeal of leadership has hijacked the biblical call to servanthood. As a result, we major on a role that will only ever be held by a few, and we largely ignore a role that ought to be held by every Christian. Whatever happened to servanthood?
Palmer says the purpose of his book “is to present a biblical vision of service so that believers from all sorts of churches can say, along with Joshua, ‘But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15).” Servanthood as Worship is a call for every Christian to serve God not as praiseworthy merit, but rather as a grateful response to the gospel.
So what about the book’s content? Staying true to his commitment to provide a biblical vision of servanthood, Palmer introduces nine biblical and gospel-centered themes of servanthood throughout the book’s 108 pages. Each theme practically leads to the next and gets its own chapter:
- Servanthood: The Ministry of All Believers
- Lineage: Service Began with God in Christ
- Context: The Local Church is Our Base for Service
- Glory: God’s Character and Works
- Appreciation: I Can Serve Because I Appreciate Who God Is, Who I Am, and What He Has Done for Me
- Adoration: I Can Serve as I Desire and Enjoy God’s Active Presence
- Affection: I Can Serve Motivated by Love for the Saved and Unsaved
- Subjection: I Can Serve Because I Do Not Belong to Myself
- Perspective: Building the Church Eternal
Having read few books dealing with a biblical view of servanthood for the everyday local church member, it was a challenge and a blessing to me to read Servanthood as Worship. The challenge came through Palmer’s transparent humility, admitting his own self-serving misuses of ministry and service. He confesses this right out of the gate in chapter one, and I found myself confronted on the pages with him.
I was blessed to find so much Bible and so much gospel on literally every page. Palmer offers little of his own wisdom and much of the Bible’s. This is refreshing, and it might be the main reason I kept self-reflecting on the thoughts and intentions of my own heart regarding servanthood (Hebrews 4:12). Palmer reminds readers that, ultimately, servanthood is not merit-driven nor leadership-driven nor purpose-driven nor even people-driven. Ultimately, it is gospel-driven. Biblical servanthood begins and finishes in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ and exists for him and his bride, the Church.
Biblical servanthood is empowered by the gospel, driven by the gospel, and sustained by the gospel, for the joy of all peoples and to the glory of God. What a helpful exhortation.
I recommend this book if you—like me—are an average person who needs a practical and biblical vision of servanthood. Prayerfully read this book, and it will serve both you and your church well. Just be sure to apply generously.
If you are a pastor or elder at your church, you may want to keep a box of Servanthood as Worship on hand for your members. Consider the endorsement by Justin Buzzard: “Think of these pages as a handbook. Put this handbook into the hands of your people and you will give them a sustainable, practical vision for serving in the local church that is powered by grace.”