Ministry Lessons from A Wash Basin

7303867_10a63f4470_oYesterday I had a brother write in with questions about offices, ordination, and titles because of my article about how we embraced shepherds as a house church network. And it deserves a better response than I can give today.

The problem when we start talking about any kind of ministry is our heads have been clouded with hundreds of years of historical context that tell us a ministry is a position of privilege. Ministers are the known, the great, the ones with clout in our eyes.

But Jesus has a much different definition of ministry than we do. In fact, in the Greek that the New Testament was written in, a ministry was a position of service.  Some uses of the word minister refer to someone who serves at a cost to themselves.

Nowhere is this more evident for me than in Jesus’ lesson to the disciples in the upper room in John 13. Jesus gives the disciples and us an example to follow by getting down on the floor and washing the filthy feet of those in the room. This was a job reserved for a lowly servant.  And then he says this:

After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing?  You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am.  And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.  I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.  I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message.

-John 13:12-16

Have you ever washed someones feet? It’s not a glorious process, even today, where at least in the West our streets are much cleaner. It’s humbling, both to wash feet and to have your feet washed.  And if Jesus calls us to any kind of ministry (re: service) it’s this. To humble ourselves and get lower than others and do what no one else would be willing to do.

Hundreds of years of church history has taught us that ministry is being the smartest man in the room, having the most honor, or being paid to be spiritual. But at it’s core, ministry is service, humbling service, in the same style that our Master modeled for us. Until we get that idea right in our heads, our hearts, and our spirits, all ministry will be wrong, whether it is titled or not.

Photo Credit: psk-footwash-small by peterskim



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About traviskolder

Travis Kolder is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father of five, an organic church planter, and a writer. He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he serves as part of the Cedar Rapids House Church Network.

2 responses to “Ministry Lessons from A Wash Basin”

  1. godly sexuality says :


    When I was at Bible College we had to serve at the conferences. My duty? Cleaning the men’s urinals. I have to say that I met God there – in fact more than in the meetings. *ahem*

    There’s something about serving that releases grace to us. Is it that by doing so we’re ministering to Jesus and so receive from Him? One to ponder.

  2. David says :

    Yes! Leadership is not the glamorous, power filled, position of those who are better. A pastor, minister, deacon, shepherd, elder or whatever else you want to call a Christian leader is the head servant. They should be the humblest person who is willing to wash the toilets. They should be the lowest who lifts up others. They seek to glorify God and others more then themselves. I believe that titles should be given to leaders of the Church, such as those previously mentioned, but not to honor them but designate that these are the people who humbly serve and we should follow their example and hear their teaching. These are the ones God has chosen to lead, not because of greatness but because of their lowliness.

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