Book Review: 'Serving Without Sinking' by John Hindley

The book I’m going to review is called ‘Serving without Sinking’ by John Hindley. It was recommended at the FIEC Family Day in July which is where we bought it, so it might look familiar to some of you!

I wonder if you can identify with any of these people:

Martin began to relax as he walked home from church. His work was finished. He’d opened up, sorted out the chairs, done the children’s talk, and cleared away afterwards. He felt free – he’d done his duty and now the rest of the day was his. He could relax and enjoy himself. What a wonderful feeling!

Sophie had been running the children’s holiday club at church. It had been exhausting, and the clear-up had finished her off. Just as she collapsed onto the sofa, the phone rang. It was a guy from church. Could she get the bread for communion the next morning? It would only be a ten-minute walk. She said yes, of course – but inside she was seething. Furious with… well, with Jesus. She’d been serving him all week; she’d been the only one who stayed behind to clear up; everyone else was relaxing at home; she had to go and get the bread. Couldn’t He give her a break?

David really loved his new church. The harvest supper had been great – he was starting to make some friends. Afterwards, the pastor asked him to help put some stage blocks back in the storage loft. He joined a group of guys lifting them in. It was great fun and a good laugh – and afterwards the pastor thanked him for being an example of joyful service. David went home praising God. He liked serving Christ. He was going to enjoy being part of this church.

Brad had been a student for three years when it all clicked. The minister was preaching on God’s love, and particularly God’s love in dying for those who were so flawed. Something happened in his heart that night – and he knew that all he wanted to do was serve Him. He fixed up a meeting the next day with the minister, and told him he wanted to spend his life serving Jesus – and that he wanted help to get started.

The point of these examples is that we can all identify with some or all of them at various points.

This book addresses the fact that as Christians, we often don’t seem to be experiencing Jesus’ words, “my burden is easy and my yoke is light”. We can feel irritated, exhausted, guilty, proud, bitter or lazy in our service – and not just our service in church but also in the home, at work, as a friend, spouse or family member.

But maybe you’re not any of those things – maybe you can relate more to the enthusiasm of David and Brad. There is still lots in this book for you that will fuel your energy and give you discernment in future.

What this book doesn’t do is give practical tips as to how to manage your time, examples of brilliant rotas or tell you how much service is the ‘right amount’ in church.

What it does do is unpack a few nuggets of theology that reveal Jesus to us anew and inspire joyful service for Him.

The book begins with a diagnostic section which makes for very uncomfortable reading. The author, addresses the wrong attitudes we can stray into while serving, and asks the reader to identify which we tend towards:

Firstly, a wrong view of God
Serving Jesus to be good enough for Him
Serving Jesus to get something from him
Serving Jesus to pay him back
Secondly, a wrong view of people
Serving to impress
Serving to belong
Thirdly, a wrong view of myself
Serving because Jesus needs me
Serving… but I don’t need Jesus

The book then treats these diagnoses with a dose of refreshing Gospel truths, for example:
  • That Jesus Christ is the ultimate Servant and still serves us now
  • That Jesus is our Friend
  • That we are the Bride of the King
  • That we are the Sons of the Father
  • That serving is a gift from God to us
  • That serving Jesus is an overflow of the love for Him that God has put in our hearts by His Spirit

One of the points that moved me most was that Jesus is still serving us now – each and every day, in many ways.  The book opens this section with a quote that we can often be tempted to believe:

“Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. He’s made me His friend, His bride, His brother. Wow! Now it’s up to us, isn’t it? Jesus is in heaven, but His mission down here continues. He’s served me; now we need to serve Him. I serve Him by earning money to feed my family. And at church, too. After all, Jesus isn’t going to get to church early and put the chairs out, is He?! Or make the tea? He’s done His bit; now we do ours. Must go – I need to set up 50 chairs and get the urn on”.

Not so! Jesus stands in heaven now for us as our ambassador. He also prays for us, today, as he prayed for us 2000 years ago. The thought that Jesus prays for me as I look after my children, speak to my friends, talk to my husband and do the church accounts really touched me.

The book is shot through with biblical exposition, yet manages to be an easy and compelling read. The author has struck a careful balance of using effective personal illustrations without being cheesy – often a problem in this type of book!

Aidan and I have both found that this book has transformed the way we serve and that when we are tempted to stray back into wrong reasons or attitudes, it will help us to diagnose this and act upon it.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough – read receptively and prayerfully, the truths in it will increase your love for Jesus Christ and give you fresh joy in his service.

- Bec Severs