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“Volunteers” Is the Problem

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things so; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness! Matt. 25:21 (NIV)

Not long ago I was reading a church newsletter. It was a nice example of an informative, visually appealing church communication. But beginning on the first page (the pastor’s page) there was a concept that was communicated more than fourteen times, often in bold headlines. Over and over it was stated that volunteers are needed for this or that. It told me something not only about many in that church, but in churches everywhere. I am convinced one of the problems we have is that many Christians think of themselves as volunteers.

The word volunteer is used only 5 times in the Old Testament. Never is it used in the New Testament. In the New Testament, followers of Jesus are over and over referred to as servants (“only servants”-I Corinthians 3:5).

Volunteers work, are engaged, as they will. Servants work, are engaged, according to the master’s will. Volunteers wonder: “Do I have time?” “What will I get out of this?” “Will it make me look good?” “Will it make me feel good?” “Will it produce good things?” “Is it important to me?”

A servant has one question: “What does the master want?” Granted, in this world, that is not always a question easy to answer for Christians.

But Christians are under orders. They are called to serve, admonished to serve, expected to serve, gifted to serve as God directs. It is our purpose. And our great reward is to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

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One Response

  1. At a previous church I belonged to, trying to change the language and perspective from ‘volunteer’ to ‘servant’ wasn’t all that easy. The church staff had a jar (like a ‘swear jar’) where every time a church staff member used the term volunteer, rather than servant, they had to put money in the jar. In the early days, the jar was full! Not so much after several months of a concerted effort to rebrand our efforts as servanthood, not volunteerism!

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