What are the common characteristics of servers?
Following are some traits commonly observed in those who have the motivational spiritual gift of serving. These traits can be used to benefit others, or they can be misused and thereby cause discord in the Body of Christ.
When a believer walks according to the Spirit (see Galatians 5:25), his unique perspective (in this case, serving) is demonstrated through traits that reflect the character of Christ. However, when a believer walks in “the flesh,” making choices that are determined by his sinful nature, his unique perspective is demonstrated through undesirable, ungodly traits. (See Galatians 5:16–17.)
Read these examples thoughtfully and prayerfully, and ask God to help you discern if your motivational gift is serving. If it is, be encouraged as you learn about the special virtue and wisdom that God has given you with this gift. Be warned of the temptation to misapply these Godly traits when you fail to walk in the grace God gives you to use them righteously. (See Hebrews 12:15.)
Sees and Meets Practical Needs
Important needs that seem insignificant to others catch the eye and the attention of the server. These needs are usually physical needs rather than spiritual needs; however, the server knows that by meeting them he will bring spiritual encouragement and strength to those who receive his help. Paul noted Timothy’s gift of serving: “For I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state” (Philippians 2:20).
Misuse of this trait: Gives unrequested help
Sometimes the needs that the server discerns appear to be more important to the server than they do to the one being served. It may even be that the one who has the needs is not aware of them to the degree that the server is aware of them. In either case, a server who uses his initiative to meet these needs may be judged as pushy or intrusive.
Frees Others to Achieve
The joy of the server is not found in the initiation of tasks but rather in the knowledge that through serving he is bringing peace of mind to another person, which will allow that person to be more productive in the tasks God has called him to do. Timothy served Paul so that Paul could carry out his ministry. His serving was “as a son with the father” (Philippians 2:22).
Misuse of this trait: Lets “things” be too important
In order to meet the needs of others, servers will often neglect their own homes and personal responsibilities. They will meet others’ needs but leave their families’ needs unmet. This transfer of attention can cause reaction in the server’s family. The one being served may feel that too much attention is being put on physical things.
Because the server sees the importance of the tasks he has begun, he will freely use up personal assets of time, money, and strength. His focus is not on himself but rather on the completion of the tasks, which he knows will benefit others and bring joy to himself.
Misuse of this trait: Works beyond reasonable physical limits
Inner tension that often results in physical ailments, especially stomach problems, frequently occurs in servers. This condition may be the consequence of overextending themselves on one job or taking on too many jobs. We know that Timothy had physical ailments. Paul instructed Timothy to “use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (I Timothy 5:23).
Finds It Difficult to Say No
As the server effectively meets one need, others may ask for similar help, not realizing the inner motivation of the server. These requests, however, are difficult to turn down because they represent needs, and the server feels obligated to meet the needs, since he was asked to do so.
Misuse of this trait: Neglects God-given priorities
Servers are often placed in positions of responsibility because they are diligent workers. It is easy for them to volunteer a helping hand or become involved in tasks that they should be delegating to others. This imbalance causes the server’s authority to become frustrated because the original tasks assigned to the server are not completed on schedule.
Alert to Likes and Dislikes
Those with the gift of serving have an amazing ability to find out and remember the special interests of the people they serve. Thus, birthdays and anniversaries tend to be special occasions for them. They can often recall an individual’s favorite foods, special colors, types of home furnishings, or favorite activities and use this knowledge to make occasions special.
Misuse of this trait: Reacts to overlooked needs
A server may react to people around him who, in his judgment, walk right past obvious needs. He assumes that others see what he sees. If he tells someone about a need and that person does not follow through on his suggestion to meet that need, the server may become resentful.
Appreciation confirms to the server that his work is necessary and that the Lord is blessing it. The server also desires clear direction. Paul gave Timothy more praise and precise instructions than he gave any other assistant. (See I and II Timothy.) Servers prefer working alongside a person rather than for a person.
Misuse of this trait: Resents lack of appreciation
If a server is given a physical job simply because he is a server and is expected to get his joy from doing it, he may feel misused and react in anger. He may fail to remember that he is working for the Lord. A server may be tempted to become bitter if the one whom he is serving is not making wise use of his time.
Likes Short-Range Projects
The tasks that attract a server are usually immediate needs. The server often becomes frustrated with long-range planning or an ongoing task that seems to make no obvious progress. Timothy was urged to maintain endurance as a good soldier and to continue in the calling that he was given of God. (See I Timothy 4:16 and II Timothy 2:2–3.)
Misuse of this trait: Working people around his schedule
Because of the server’s lack of desire or ability to properly delegate tasks, he will often develop his own time schedule and force others to adapt to it. Lack of delegation may also hinder the family from feeling involved in his serving and cause them to feel taken for granted instead.
Adds Extra Touches to Jobs
The server knows that by doing more than is expected he not only will delight the one being served, but he will also demonstrate that he is doing it unto the Lord. For a server, “going the second mile” may be demonstrated by trimming and sweeping after mowing the lawn or putting a pretty bow around a lunch bag.
Misuse of this trait: Being frustrated with time limits
A server may react to a rigid schedule, not realizing that it is for his own protection. He may feel that it hinders him from the joy of additional serving. Twice, Timothy was told by Paul not to get sidetracked. “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me . . . . Do thy diligence to come before winter” (II Timothy 4:9, 21a).
Meets Needs Quickly
In an effort to complete tasks, a server will try to avoid committees and what to him appears to be unnecessary “red tape.” In order to avoid delays, the server will use personal funds.
Misuse of this trait: Interferes with God’s discipline
The purposes of God may be frustrated when a server meets a need that God allowed in a person’s life to bring about repentance. If a server could have met the physical needs of the prodigal son while he was working in the pigsty, it may have delayed the prodigal’s return. (See Luke 15:11–31.)
Are You a Server?
Do you recognize any of these positive characteristics or their misapplication as ones that you have demonstrated? Do the motivations of a server guide your decisions and actions? If so, rejoice, because God has given you a unique responsibility in the Body of Christ!
If these characteristics, and their misuses, do not reflect your motivations, we encourage you to read and study similar information about each of the other six spiritual motivational gifts (prophecy, teaching, exhorting, giving, organizing, and mercy). Ask the Lord to reveal your spiritual gift to you. God will show you how He has gifted you. Be diligent!
As each of us identifies his or her motivational gift, he or she will be better equipped to achieve maximum fruitfulness with minimum weariness. As we exercise our gifts, we experience personal fulfillment and a deep sense of joy.
Russell Kelfer, in his excellent book titled Discovering Your Spiritual Gift, gives us an excellent word picture related to the motivational spiritual gifts assigned by God: “This isn’t a gift for you to put on the mantle like a trophy to admire. It is like a certain kind of glove that you put on that allows your hands to do the work of the ministry they were called to do. It is like a certain kind of spiritual shoes you wear to take you where you need to go” (Kelfer, page 10). Let’s put on those custom-designed gloves and shoes and get to work!