On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. –Jesus
It was 2 a.m. and I found myself dozing in and out of studying for a history test while lying on the couch in the laundry facility of L.T. Smith Stadium. L.T. Smith Stadium is the football complex at Western Kentucky University and back in 1999; it was the only athletic laundry facility at WKU. That meant that, as managers for the men’s basketball program, we had to lug two huge laundry carts of laundry from Diddle Arena across a large parking lot in order to do the team’s laundry. And, due to the timing of basketball season, that long walk was often accompanied by rain, snow, and sleet. It would be dark, brisk, lonely and late.
Neither I, nor my co-workers, complained much about the work of a manager. For us, we were living a dream; being part of a Division I basketball program that was making progress to once again be a formidable mid-major. Yes, the work could be very hard and was many times overlooked and underappreciated. An assistant coach once told me that, “Your job as a manager is to never been seen. If you are seen, that most likely means you didn’t do your job.” So, we did our best to stay behind the scenes and do what needed to be done to help the program function.
Occasionally, we would do something positive that would be noticed. There was the time we had a player get blood on his jersey late during a pivotal conference road game, but we were there with an extra jersey, saving the day. I once had to leap over a security rope during a conference tournament game in order to dart back into the locker room to retrieve a scouting report. The game was on TV and, to my surprise, many saw my amazing dash. (My aunt called me the next day and asked, “Where were you going in such a hurry?”) But, the strong majority of the time, you did not see or notice us. Our job was to help the program function in a non-glamorous way.
Flash back to the 2 a.m. laundry duty. That was a difficult night because I had an 8 a.m. test that morning. I did complain the next day to my mentor about the long hours and lack of appreciation for the work of a manager. He smiled, looked at me and said, “Be faithful in a few things and the Lord will reward you with many. From my perspective Paul, the Lord has you in a great place to learn how to be a servant.”
Searing words that stick with me to this day. “Be faithful…Learn how to be a servant.”
Be faithful…Learn how to be a servant.
Now, I am a lead pastor at a church with a congregation close to 250. I no longer push a laundry cart across a desolate parking lot, but I am still learning how to be a servant. A servant to the mother who just experienced a difficult birth…A servant to a sweet wife who recently lost her husband…A servant to a student who is trying to make sense of their life…A servant to a dear person battling terminal cancer…A servant to a staff who looks to me for answers…A servant to a 6 year old with beautiful curls…A servant to a 3 year old who changes his mind every five seconds…A servant to a beautiful wife who co-labors with me to create our family’s story.
My working title might be, “Pastor,” but I continually pray that those 2 a.m. nights in the halls of L.T. Smith Stadium and Jesus’ words to his disciples constantly remind me that I am a servant. If I ever forget that I am a servant, I have lost my way.
Paul is the husband to Tara, father to Natalie and Isaac, has an average jump shot, and enjoys running. His secret wish is to one day become a Jedi Knight. Paul holds a doctorate in marriage and family counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as senior pastor of Hardinsburg Baptist Church. Paul desires to help young couples navigate the early crucibles of marriage, especially when one or both of the spouses are engaged in vocational ministry.