Simply Serving

After eighteen years of traditional Presbyterian ministry, Pastor Doug Burford had had his fill of buildings, bulletins, budgets and board meetings, as well as struggling to get busy professionals to meet for prayer, Bible study, and service. “At the same time,” says Doug, “those who were growing in their faith often said that they grew most through their small group meetings.” That led him to long for a simpler expression of “church”-one where there was nothing to do except to pray, study the Bible, and serve. 

servantServantChurch in Mission, Kansas, is that church. Daring to venture away from traditional church plant models, Doug and a handful of people launched ServantChurch in April 2008. “We are committed to doing church simply so that we can simply serve,” he says. ServantChurch is intentionally without building so that its members are free to worship where they serve. With Doug’s salary covered by a benefactor, all financial resources are used to serve.

Doug was unaware of the history of A. B. Simpson when he came to The Alliance but feels a kinship with the founder, who also left the Presbyterian Church in search of an unencumbered way to reach the lost and to love and serve as Christ taught.

Since its inception, ServantChurch has participated in several projects, including the construction of nanny quarters for a family in which the mother has terminal cancer and the installation of windows to winterize the residence of urban missionaries in Kansas City. The collection of food for an area food bank and the assembly of health kits for distribution to disaster sites around the globe also have demonstrated the compassionate care of the Savior.

Doug believes that service can be the best form of outreach. “People who had not responded to early invitations to “come to church” have responded enthusiastically to invitations to participate in service projects,” he says. “Combining worship with service is an ideal way to demonstrate what Jesus called us to be and to do, creating a powerful witness.”

Unencumbered by other ecclesiastical duties, the church family also has more freedom to help and serve one another. With Doug’s social work background, he is determined that ServantChurch not become just another social service agency, dispensing material help without spiritual help. There is a determination to serve those with whom church members are in relationship.

Church “services” are either at a member’s home or at a serving site. “Service is combined with worship,” says Doug, “in the belief that doing what Jesus asked us to do is as much worship as is anything that takes place in a dedicated sanctuary.”

Believing the Holy Spirit is behind this call back to simplicity, Doug sees evidence of it in the difficulty of maintaining large staffs and facilities during tough economic times and in the struggle of many pastors as they question the institutionalization of the church and the busyness it has created.

Doug is quick to point out that ServantChurch doesn’t have all the answers for how to do church simply. “The presence of children at a worship site without a nursery is just one challenge that creates comical chaos on some Sundays,” he says. “But, I see the church “pressing the reset button.” 

As the history of the Church bears witness, there are times, like the Reformation, when the Church has to be “reset” back on course after straying off course. “It has been said that Martin Luther reset the theology of the Church,” Doug says. “This “new reformation” is one that will reset the form of the Church.”


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