The Servant Heart

The Church is Action

When “Ministry” Meant Practicing What One Preached – The W.E. Sangster Story

Arguably Britain’s 20th Century Prince of Preachers, William Sangster was born in London in 1900. His relatively short life was prolific, profound, and powerful to all who had the pleasure to meet him – from monarchs to paupers.

Sangster was attributed with the mantra “I just can’t do enough”. Not one he sought, but one that cascaded from his lips as he not only ‘burnt the candle at both ends’, but also broke it in half and lit those ends too.

At the commencement of World War II, Reverend Sangster assumed the leadership of Westminster Central Methodist Hall in central London, and his first message in that venue was to announce that Britain was at war with Germany.

As the war progressed and the bombing of London commenced, he turned the hall into, not only a bomb-shelter, but a home for hundreds of people/families from the slums – and then moved he and his family in too.  Having only one room for he and his family, (no privileges) he ministered – he served for 1,688 consecutive nights to the same displaced and afraid.

Whilst undertaking this herculean task, he also continued to preach every week and to a packed venue of 3000 people, lead many to Christ and complete a PhD.

He earned, but did not seek, the honorary title of being John Wesley’s successor – a lofty mantel indeed.

One could imagine this relentless, even though God inspired/enabled service, can take a toll – particularly in such incredibly difficult conflict overrun times. It did.

It was said over the years of Methodist preachers and ministers that they ‘knew how to die well.’ Sangster proved no different.  After being diagnosed with a motor-neuron disease called progressive muscular atrophy, his physical decline over the next three years was utterly debilitating. In his last days, he was only able to move two fingers.

However, none of this it was witnessed, diminished his attitude or fervour. In fact, on receiving the news that this condition would end him he set down what he called ‘Four Rules for Dying’. Good to his word, he kept them until his last breath.

  • I will never complain
  • I will keep the home bright
  • I will count my blessings
  • I will try and turn it to a gain

It is ironic, is it not, that such a remarkable life of humble Christ-like service is not celebrated, even lauded. Yet, that is the nature of the true servant. Even when gifts and talents can propel you into ‘influencer’ status and the giddy echelons of fame and notoriety, just like our Lord and Saviour, it is not the spotlight that brings legacy, but the transformation of lives and environments served that does that.

I’ll leave you with a quote I heard recently and one that has challenged me to recalibrate my poor, by comparison, understanding of service in HIS Kingdom.

“Many Christian people may enjoy the title of ‘Servant’, but few like to be treated like one!” Unknown

For more on Rev W. E. Sangster’s Life go to Memories of a Great Leader


Servant says what?

New Patch Leadership – A Potential Servant Option? 

A very famously used parable of Jesus that is pretty much standard fare in charismatic Pentecostal denominations particularly, is the parable of New Wine in New Wine Skins.

In Chapter 9 of his Gospel, Matthew gives it shorter ‘airtime’ than other writers, but again, he records it in his own uniquely Spirit led way. The Amplified puts verse 17 like this…

 Nor is new wine put into old wineskins [that have lost their elasticity]; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the [fermenting] wine spills and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine is placed into fresh wineskins, so both are preserved.

To the audience this was delivered to (and anyone familiar with wine fermentation process in pre-barrel days) understood this quite well. The standard and correct interpretation of this parable was about the New Order Jesus was ushering in, and that when this Spirit led and filled Way was embraced, it could not be housed in dry, dead, and ritualistic religion – they will just be incompatible and in the end, both will be ruined. 

Getting wisdom on this was vital, and Jesus was setting them up to understand this to better accommodate what was coming.

However, I want to focus a little more on the prefacing, and I would argue, segue to this New Order promotion.

This parable opens with a genuine scripture-based question about a God endorsed process of fasting, and specifically about the fact that Jesus disciples did not seem to do it. A reasonable question from a truly Kingdom focused group – John the Baptist disciples.

Jesus, I think (and I am very aware of the care I need to take in positing this as to not try and make the parable say more than it is) again, is using His gracious ‘bridging’ instructions to help those genuine Old Testament followers of God get what’s happening and step forward into it. 

For the most part the religious leaders had no desire at all to accommodate, or even acknowledge the new order, and trying to ‘mix’ those two was utterly futile.

However, the ‘patching’ analogy employed in verse 16 is not as proscriptive as the wine skin analogy. 

Jesus, again, uses a wedding feast analogy and refers to himself as The Bridegroom. As such, he does not dismiss fasting as a practice – the indication is that when He has left, this discipline will be important – but whilst he is here, we are celebrating the birth of a new order and trying to winnow out the religious chaff of ritual and performance from important principles of relationship and service.

I want to note again that in the following conjecture, I am being careful to tease out a potential genuine point, not read in a particular idea.

Jesus makes a statement that all his listeners would both be familiar with and understand. It is a ‘matter of fact’ statement. Anyone who has a clue does not take nice new fabric to repair an old wearing out garment, it will not only look out of place, but in time it will make the garment worse. But here’s the kicker, He wasn’t decrying the process of patching. 

Jesus also understood the majority of people in the culture could not just throw out a tired garment, particularly an outer garment such as a cloak (which most commentators believe the garment referred to was). You would try and patch it to make it last as long as possible only until you could get a new one. 

Now to the issue of ‘worn out’ settings and leadership.

When it comes to tired and failing churches, ministries or programs, there are always several options on what is needed. One can ‘reset,’ which is often the new wine skin or the new coat. The old is simply done away with. Of course, anyone reading this with any history in church life knows just how painful for all that process can be – the hurt, the grief, the pride, the anger, and the sense of failure. 

I’m reminded here of Isaiahs words about the Messiah, quoted by Matthew a little later in chapter 12 verse 20… “A battered reed He will not break, and a smouldering wick He will not extinguish…” Jesus will always create, prescribe, and implement best Kingdom practice but with grace and mercy.

Anyway, I digress. The thought I wish us to consider here is that if patching is required – leadership, program, or ministry – then great care is needed in how this is done.

  1. It must be fit for purpose – adequate size and weight for the setting. Remember this is not an erase and start again, it’s a repair in hope of extension and interim sustainability.
  2. Is it the right ‘fabric’ – by that I mean, the right colour, shape, and texture. If it is new bright coloured fabric it ends up standing out because it is looking new and fresh and consequentially drawing one’s eye to it. But these repairs are not fit for service. Often inexperienced, energetic, and sadly, wanting to make a name for oneself leaders or even ideas are bought in to ‘have their 15 seconds of fame’, but actually make the situation worse.
  3. This repairing patch must be of similar fabric, but also worn in a bit – if you like, a humble fit for a humble setting. It does not draw attention to itself. It is not the highlight, it is not the focus, it is not the garment, merely a repair; important, but not the goal. 

Of course, running out the parable’s intent will still mean that in time, the new garment and new wineskin must be had, but for those, like Johns disciples and those of Apollos who had not yet encountered the fullness of the Spirit, still need a ‘cloak of righteousness’ (if you like) to cover – a patched one is better than none at all.

Again, take care as you read and consider this borrowing of a parable to bring out another potential point of church care and maintenance – it is a personal reflection and not a doctrinal prescription. 

Humbly serve where you are, with what you have, but always – always, seek to be renewed and always be prepared to surrender that which is unhelpful to the New Order of Christ’s Kingdom. 

Shane Varcoe – Disciplesplanet 

Truth, Knowledge & Discipling Nations.  

“Why does God want His servants to be baptized with the Spirit of knowledge, wisdom and understanding?

The Bible explains that while God plans to bless all the nations (Gen.12:3; 18:18; 22:18 etc.), Satan is out to deceive the nations of the earth (Rev. 20:3,8). The Lord Jesus came to se us from by giving us the knowledge of the truth. He said, ‘If you abide in My Word… you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV)

Anti-intellectualism spread in evangelical churches partly because Reformation slogans such as “by faith alone” and “by Scripture alone” were misunderstood. In saying “by faith alone,” the Reformers meant that salvation could not be earned by human religiosity. They knew that knowledge sand understanding were preconditions of faith. Likewise, “by Scripture alone” meant that when tradition conflicted with Scripture, Christians were to abide by the Scriptures. The Reformers asserted the necessity of cultivating the mind and using reason in our search for truth. In his trial before the Diet of Worms (1522), Luther stated that he could no recant unless “the Scriptures and plain reason” convinced him.

Is salvation by faith alone? Jesus asked people to “repent and believe” (Mark 1:15.). Repentance involves turning from what is false to what is true see 1 Thess 1:9). Jesus calls humanity to worship God in spirit as well as in truth (John 4:23) Paul asked Timothy to instruct his opponents gently “in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25).

Anti-intellectualism become acceptable because many Protestants forgot that Jesus came not simply to take our souls to heaven but also to give us the knowledge of the truth:

  • God wants all men to be save and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim.2:4)
  • [Christians are those] who believe and who know the truth brought up in the truths of the faith. (1 Tim.4:3,6)

In embracing antirational mysticism, the secular world is reaping the consequences of the church’s error – that of focusing on faith and the gifts of the Spirit and leaving the field of knowledge in the hands of unbelievers. This happened in part because some Christians were deceived by the secular idea that the human mind was a part of “the flesh.” Therefore, they assumed that the mind had to be crucified. 

However, the apostle Paul claimed, “I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim 1:12). He declared that he was “an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth” (Titus 1:1). The Letter to the Hebrews says Christians are those who “have received the knowledge of the truth” (Heb. 10:26). James commands us to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5). Peter says that knowledge is the source of grace, peace, godliness, and effectiveness: 

“May grace and peace b multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His diving power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through, the knowledge of Him who called us…. Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge…These qualities…keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:2-8 ESV)

The Renaissance and the Reformation created the modern world of inquiry, discovery, and knowledge because the Word of God taught medieval Christians (including the Reformers) that both our salvation and godliness required growing in knowledge.

The Scriptures talk about spiritual understanding and wisdom because there is no such thing as nonspiritual wisdom and understanding.  Humans have understanding because we are spiritual beings. By definition, machines, chemicals, and animals are incapable of understanding abstract concepts. 

Knowing and fearing God is not an otherworldly, “spiritual” matter. It is the beginning of wisdom. It is the key to a healthy national life. When Judah was about to go into captivity, Jeremiah said to them: “[King Josiah] defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that no what it means to know me?’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 22:16).

So, what does that imply?

Isaiah 53:11 says that by His knowledge God’s righteous servant will justify many. For a hundred years now, the church has been growing in many nations, yet the same nations are degenerating in many critical ways. This is because the church has been offering justification without knowledge of truth. We have turned salvation into a shallow religious experience that converts but does not “make disciples of nations” (Matt 28:19).

  • The Lord Jesus, however, calls us to make people His apprentices, those who would learn from Him and the Father:
  • “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:29).
  • “It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns rom Him comes to me.” (John 6:45)

The Reformation transformed the West because it made Europeans learners, the Bible their textbook, and Jesus their Supreme Teacher. The choice before our generation is either to seek the knowledge of God once again or to slide into an abyss of pagan ignorance, corruption, and slavery. The Word of God commands us in Proverbs 4:5-8 to

“Get wisdom, get understanding…. Wisdom is supreme; therefor get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honour you.”

Recovery and pursuit of wisdom, understanding, and the knowledge of truth is the key to a new reformation because the postmodern intelligentsia knows that it does not know and cannot know the truth. Deception has to rely on force. It has to enslave, destroy. Intellectual and moral slavery is deceptively called “political correctness.” This moral and semantic jugglery is similar to what pagans always do. For example, they try to make prostitution sacred by calling male and female prostitutes ‘gods and goddesses.’ While deceptive words enslave, the truth liberates. It empowers people by giving them genuine reasons to live and act in ways that are true, good, and beautiful. That is why the Ten Commandments begin by commanding us to believe and worship the one who is true.

Vishal Mangalwadi

Further Reading and listening. 

Excerpt from Truth and Transformation: A Manifestation for Ailing Nations (pages 128-132) by Vishal Mangalwadi Copyright © 2009 Vishal Mangalwadi, YWAM Publishing.)   


The Chronicles of The Catholic Church in Lithuania (Under Communism) 

"Crushed beneath the grinding hell of Communism, Lithuania's Catholic Christians determined to make the West aware of their plight. On March 19th 1972 they began to publish a journal - The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, documenting governmental abuses against the Church. Examples include a 70 year old woman sentenced to a year in prison for teaching children the Lord's Prayer and the sending of a man to a psychiatric prison for making a Cross."  (This Day in Christian History)

This many volume Chronicle was a voice in the silent and oppressive darkness that is communism in all it's forms. The 'socialist spectrum' will always have varying degrees of animosity to the Church, as the Church is the collection of those who believe in an ultimate power and authority that is not the State. 

Totalitarianism in all it's flavours - Left or Right of politics - cannot permit an influence, an authority, a power that diminishes, undermines or in any way detracts from the State.

Arguably, the 'father' of this new term was Italian Fascist, Mussolini whose defining statement became the State mantra, “Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato” (Everything for the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.)

In his outstanding book 'Live Not By Lies - A Manual for Christian Dissidents', Author Rod Dreher succinctly and in-depth outlines much of the conduct behind this Totalitarian badge and how it is playing out today in the so called progressive West.

The following excerpt: 

"It is difficult for people raised in the free world to grasp the breadths and depth of lying required simply to exist under communism. All the lies, and lies about lies, that formed the communist order were built on the basis of this foundational lie: 'the communist state is the sole source of truth.'  Orwell said in Nineteen Eighty-Four: "The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command."

Under the dictatorship of Big Brother, the Part understands that by changing language - Newspeak is the Party's word for the jargon it imposes on society - it controls the categories in which people think. "freedom" is slavery, "truth" is falsehood, and so forth. Doublethink - "Holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and excepting both of them" - is how people learn to submit their minds to the Party's ideology. If the Party says 2+2=5, then it is so. The goal is to convince the person that all truth exists within the mind, and the rightly ordered mind believes whatever the Party says is true.

In our time, we do not have an all-powerful State forcing this on us. This dictatorship is far more subtle. under 'soft totalitarianism', the media, academia, corporate culture, and others institutions are practicing Newspeak and compelling the rest of us to engage in doublethink everyday - Men have periods. The woman standing in front of your is to be called "he." Diversity and inclusion means excluding those who object to ideological uniformity. Equity means treating persons unequally, regardless of their skills and achievements, to achieve an ideologically correct result. 

To update the Orwell line to our own situation: "The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command."  (pp 14-15) 

(See Sacrificing Truth on the Altar of Identity - Video)

The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania was a bold and arguably, seminal type in challenging the oppressive totalitarianism the Church was subject to. It was a voice in the oppressive darkness that was heard. A voice we need no less today.

Go to The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania 


The Gravitation of the Servant Heart? 

"People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.

We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith.

We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated."

Professor D.A. Carson

Everything Rises and Falls on...Servanthood! 

Dr. Robert Clinton posited that "Leadership is influence!" John Maxwell declared... "everything rises and falls on leadership!" These axioms seem ostensibly true, but the key here is to define the term 'leadership'.

Certainly in a performance based and productivity focused culture, this word has a number of definitions and even more connotations, however what needs to be some of our keys for defining the quality of the 'leader'? On what terms, patterns and models should we be focusing to determine this?

What do you think? Let us know!