No Volunteers in the Church

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Dan Navarra is a youth pastor in Modesto, California. I started reading his blog this week after a few others I read mentioned him in their tweets about a worship teaching event led by Paul Baloche, a well-known musician and worship leader.

I was brought up short this morning by a quote that Dan put in his blog, from Paul Baloche: “There is no such thing as a volunteer in the Bible. People served. That means you may not get things the way you want them. The only time a volunteer in scripture was mentioned, it was in war, and the people were volunteering to die.” He goes on to note that doing the work of the church is volunteering to die for what the church wants and needs.

As I said, that quote brought me up short. All of my life in the church, growing up and also in ministry, I was taught by word and example that volunteering is a big part of how the church gets the work of ministry done. ‘Volunteering’ is lifted up as a good and honorable action – and it is indeed! It’s part of what makes our nation great. If there were no volunteers, America would not be who she is.

Yet, as I listen to the still, small voice of God in my soul, I understand what Paul Baloche meant. I think he’s right. When I consider this statement from a Biblical perspective, it makes a great deal of sense. I’m reminded of the teaching of Oswald Chambers in “My Utmost for His Highest,” “Dying to Self,” in which he notes that doing God’s will frequently requires us to go beyond what we want to do. The example Mr. Chambers offers is that of Abraham obediently responding to God’s command that he sacrifice Isaac, his son, as an offering (Genesis 22). Can you imagine volunteering for something like this? I can’t – and wouldn’t! Abraham “died” by laying aside his traditional beliefs and practices, and he was reborn when God in His mercy and grace provided a substitute to be sacrificed in Isaac’s stead.

So often, we view volunteering as something we will do “if we have the time,” and something that can easily be cut from our schedule “if we don’t have the time.” Mr. Baloche is right: the person with this perspective doesn’t appear in the Bible (at least in a favorable way). The faithful are those who make God’s priorities their priorities and are willing to sacrifice their own agenda if that’s what it takes to be faithful.

Here’s a pre-Lent “thinker” for the next few weeks (Ash Wednesday is 9 March this year): as always, the church needs “all hands on deck” so that Christ’s work can be done. Yet, as we do so often, we struggle with having enough workers for God’s harvest. So, would you consider not volunteering for the Church this Lent – and instead, sacrificing for the Church in ways you might not have considered before?

If you aren’t often in worship (but you could be), would you make the sacrifice of praise to God, and be with us on Sunday when we worship? If you aren’t involved in any of our functions and activities, would you make the sacrifice of fellowship to God? If you don’t pray or read Scripture often enough, would you make the sacrifice of spiritual growth to God?

I invite you to another season of Lenten discipline and inviting God to take you to the next level of discipleship. We’ll worship Ash Wednesday worship at Zion at 7:00 p.m., with Wesley UMC as our guests. I hope you will join your brothers and sisters in Christ on this journey, and experience God’s transforming grace together!

Pastor Russ