Toilet Theology - Service in the Small


In a recent post I considered the question, “What does it mean to Serve?” I set forward a definition of Christian service being: a response to the love Christ has shown us on the cross.  In this response we take on Christ’s mindset and mimic His love for people both in and out of the church.  We lay down of our lives and interests for the benefit of others through acts of love.  In this current post, I would like to continue the conversation on service and think about one aspect, “How do we go about cultivating an attitude of service in our life?”

I have met many Christians who are bought into the idea of Christian service but something goes awry between their head and their hands.  Many Christians I talk to have a heart for service and even dreams of starting large mercy ministries.  I know faithful men that are training, dreaming, and scheming about how they can bring clean water, health, and the Gospel to India.  I know many Godly Christian women who want to help orphans and the underprivileged through plugging into or starting mercy ministries in our city.  But again, I think something is missing between the head and the hands.  These are great dreams of serving Christ and others, but I believe true Christian service must start small to ever go big.

Public bathroom toiletAs I was putting together a class on service for Risen Life Church, I was reminded of something I had thought about while I was a campus Minister for the SLBA at the University of Utah.  I call it “Toilet Theology.”  The basic premise of toilet theology is: the condition in which you leave a public toilet (and bathroom by extension) will give you a window into your heart for service.  Do you really care to serve others and improve the world?  Then do you leave the public bathroom ready for the next patron to enjoy?  Even further than that, do you clean up others misdeeds in an effort to leave the bathroom better than you found it for other people?  The way we use, and leave, the public bathroom helps us to identify our heart for service.  We cultivate a heart of service through multiple small acts of love for others in response to Christ’s love for us; being concerned with God’s approval of our service and no one else’s.

Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth gets at the idea of cultivating a heart for service through small deeds in his great chapter on service.  He says, “True service is a life-style.  It acts from ingrained patterns of living.  It springs spontaneously to meet human need” (129), as well as, “Nothing disciplines the inordinate desires of the flesh like service, and nothing transforms the desires of the flesh like serving in hiddenness.  The flesh whines against service but screams against hidden service” (130).  Foster quotes thoughts from Francis de Sales about service in the small when he says, “the ministry of small things is a daily service.  Large tasks require great sacrifice for a moment; small things require constant sacrifice…’If we want to be faithful to these small things, nature never has time to breathe, and we must die to all our inclinations.  We should a hundred times rather make some great sacrifices to God, however violent and painful, on condition that we be freed with liberty to follow our tastes and habits in every little detail’” (135).

Small acts of service get at the heart of service.  We have to die to self to serve well.  It is akin to Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  It is this daily act of learning how to die to ourselves in service to others through the small things that prepares us for the big things.  This principal can be seen in parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.  All believers have been given different gifts and abilities by the Spirit of God to serve the body of Christ.  Christ tells us in Matthew 25:23 that if we are faithful in the little things he will help us to accomplish the big things that he has placed in our hearts.

If you are wondering how you should begin reforming the way you serve the Kingdom of God, Foster give nine areas of service you can cultivate.  These include (134-140):
            The Service of Hiddeness
The Service of Small Things
The Service of Guarding the Reputation of Others
The Service of Being Served
The Service of Common Courtesy
The Service of Hospitality
The Service of Listening
The Service of Bearing the Burdens of Each Other
The Service of Sharing the Word of Life
If you set your heart to cultivate these aspects of service you may never make the news or the cover of Christianity Today, but you will silently change the world and have a Savior who will say “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

If you have dreams of serving the Kingdom of God in big ways then let me encourage you to begin serving the Kingdom in small ways.  These small daily acts of service are the training ground for a heart and mind that is prepared to handle and execute bigger ways of serving the kingdom.  Starting small not only applies to acts of service, but also is a great principal for missions, teaching, points of character, and many other ways in which we seek to please our Lord and Savior, Christ.  I have often said the Christian life is won or lost in all the small decisions we make everyday.  In a culture that values fame, importance, and big events learning how to serve in the small and hidden keeps us focused on the only audience we should be concerned about and that is God.

What does the last public restroom you used say about your heart for service?


Foster, Richard. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1978, 1988, 1998. 236pp. $23.95

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