Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: A Call to Service

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: A Call to Service

On the third Monday in January, America celebrates the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For many, this day has become just another holiday; although not reaching the same level of commercialization. When was the last time you saw a television commercial for a Martin Luther King, Jr. Clearance Sale? Like Rodney Dangerfield, “it gets no respect;” but I don’t think Dr. King would mind. In fact, it even seems fitting, because this day is not about sales or profit margins; it’s about service.

God called Martin Luther King, Jr. to be a fisher of men, to “triumph over poverty, racism, war and violence.” (Coretta Scott King) In college, his grades for public speaking were mostly “C”; but, it didn’t matter because God called him to serve, act, and speak. And wow, did he ever speak!

On February 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his last sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Titled “The Drum Major Instinct,” the sermon was inspired by Mark 10:43 (NIV): “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” Dr. King, inspired from this passage, said:

"If you want to be important, wonderful.
If you want to be recognized, wonderful.
If you want to be great, wonderful.
But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.
That's a new definition of greatness.

“And this morning, the thing that I like about it:
by giving that definition of greatness,
it means that everybody can be great,
because everybody can serve.

“You don't have to have a college degree to serve.
You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.
You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve.
You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve.
You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.
You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.
And you can be that servant."


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the only thing required to serve: "a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love." Tweet This


Why is this sermon so important? Dr. King captures the essence of service and humility; important lessons for followers of Lead Like Jesus. First, he strips away the “formality” or service pretenses; the reasons for not serving. Secondly, and most importantly, Dr. King identifies the only thing required to serve: “a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.” This month I want to discuss “Service.”

A Day On, Not a Day Off

The message of “The Drum Major Instinct” is as timely today as it was in 1968; and perhaps it is needed even more. Why?

In the 1990s the national theme for Martin Luther King’s Holiday permanently became: Remember, Celebrate, Act: “A Day On, Not A Day Off.” Coretta Scott King wrote:

“Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is not only for celebration and remembrance, education and tribute, but above all, a day of service. All across America on the holiday, his followers perform service in hospitals and shelters and prisons and wherever people need some help. It is a day of volunteering to feed the hungry, rehabilitate housing, tutoring those who can’t read, mentoring at-risk youngsters, consoling the broken-hearted and a thousand other projects for building the beloved community of his dream."

Making the Ask

The Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency, states that only about 25 percent of U.S. adult population volunteers. According to the Pew Research Center (May 2015), “Christianity is the most popular religion in the United States, with 70.6 percent of polled American adults identifying themselves as Christian in 2014.”

“Houston, we have a problem.”

So if we have so many Christians why don’t we serve?

There are no shortages of theories, reasons, or studies to answer this question. In 2015, a cross-sector coalition of leaders, practitioners and researchers known as “Reimaging Service” published the results of a five-year study. According to Greg Baldwin, a member of the coalition, “the real reason more American's don't volunteer is because we don't have enough leaders to ask them.” If you don’t think asking matters, think again.

One day I was enjoying breakfast with my pastor. During our meal, he put down his fork and said: “Gilbert, God doesn’t bless us for us to hold to those blessings. He blesses us so that we can bless others. He has also given us talents that He wants to use to serve and bless others. You have great organization, communication, and training skills. I want you to consider working in the Greeter’s Ministry. It could really help us.”

I had never been a member of a church; and had no idea what a Greeter’s Ministry was; but, here was the pastor asking me to serve. So, what could I do? I joined the Greeter’s Ministry and paid for breakfast.

Service: Not an Option

Now what? Followers of Jesus are called to serve. Sorry, it’s not optional. Membership has its privileges; and its obligations. We have a unique opportunity to serve, to give of ourselves; and to remind others that they too have gifts to share.


Followers of Jesus are called to serve. It's not optional. Tweet This


Remember, 1 Peter 4:10-11 (GW) says: “Each of you as a good manager must use the gift that God has given you to serve others. Whoever speaks must speak God’s words. Whoever serves must serve with the strength God supplies so that in every way God receives glory through Jesus Christ. Glory and power belong to Jesus Christ forever and ever! Amen.”

If we commit ourselves to this, every day becomes “A Day On, Not A Day Off.”

I can’t think of a better way to serve Jesus, and honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Can you?

Prayer: Father, thank you for my gifts and blessings. If can better use them to serve the needs of others, I pray you will show me how. I pray that you lead me to help others discover and use their gifts to serve the needs of others. I pray our service brings a smile to your face. In Jesus name, Amen. 

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Gilbert Camacho

Gilbert Camacho is a certified Lead Like Jesus Facilitator with extensive leadership experience in the private, public and non-profit sectors.  He is a sought after Speaker, Trainer and Executive Coach.  Gilbert is a Registered Shared Neutral (Mediator) with the State Supreme Court of Georgia and conducts mediation for the Atlanta FEB Shared Neutrals Program.  Gilbert has been married to his best friend, Annie for 37 years.  Together they have raised two beautiful daughters, Holley and Logan.  He currently serves an Associate Director for the Human Resources Office at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.