AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
When is it time for you to start lending a helping hand at your church? Or, as some would say, when is it time for you to get off your duff and prove that you’re a serious Christian? Ah, the power of wording–we really know how to zing people with guilt, don’t we? And when that clipboard and pen are thrust into your hands and the director of such-and-such ministry says to you, “We could really use your help. We’re very shorthanded and you are clearly gifted in this area,” then what can you do but sign up? After all, if you hand the clipboard and pen back, you’d feel like a jerk. But why? Despite what they might think, other human beings are not the Holy Spirit incarnate, and you need to get your work orders from Him, not from people who have overextended themselves and are now desperate for you to help them prop up a ministry that God is probably trying to kill.
Have you ever stopped to wonder why the Church is so often short on volunteers? Why do we have so many “vital” ministries that are barely limping along? Why is there so often a handful of burned out souls running themselves ragged trying to do forty things at once while they get increasingly angry about all the slackers who just show up and warm a bench on Sunday morning but never pitch in to help? It’s a very fascinating puzzle to ponder, and the answer is incredibly obvious, yet somehow it seems to elude us.
We think that the real source of our trouble is the fact that our congregation is so full of carnal slackers who never want to lift a finger to help. Hm. Well, if this is the case, then we must ask another question. What are we doing to attract such useless people in the first place? Since when is God’s convicting truth so popular in this world that a bunch of people who really don’t care about Him want to take time out of their lives every week to come and experience us feed them another spoonful of the Holy Spirit’s soul burning zingers? Is carnality attracted to righteousness? Is darkness attracted to light? Of course not. So if we really think that our congregation is filled with a bunch of carnal slackers, then we need to stop blaming them and start blaming ourselves. We must be peddling milksop from the pulpit for these people to remain so comfortable in our pews. When God speaks, people react. They are either attracted or repulsed, but they don’t remain in some comfortable stupor. So if we’re preaching to a sea of polite smiles and bobbing heads every Sunday, then we need to get back in that prayer closet and figure out where the disconnect is between us and the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t have a neutral effect on people. He arouses, provokes, and unsettles. He shatters chains of deception, shocks the soul with new insights, creates hope in the midst of despair, and crushes the pride of man. If our preaching is so lifeless that no one is bothered or inspired by it, then we have far greater problems than an empty sign-up sheet.
So then, if we can’t blame the congregation, and we don’t want to take any responsibility for our own blundering, then why aren’t our ministries thriving? The answer is very simple: God doesn’t want them to thrive. We might feel it is vital that the children have Sunday School taught to them every week. We might feel it is necessary to offer a bunch of midweek studies and do neighborhood outreaches. But if God is withholding the necessary resources we need to do these things—be it money, manpower, or opportunity—then clearly He is saying “not now” to our wonderful ideas. Are we submitting to His Authority in this area? Not if we’re slapping the “slacker” label on people. All this pressure we put on people to sign up and serve is at bottom just a refusal to acknowledge that God is not smiling on our plans. If He were, then He would be aligning hearts with our vision and making them eager to serve. We should never be resorting to arm-twisting in the Church, nor should we ever allow ourselves to be coerced into doing something that we are inwardly recoiling from.
So then, when should you start serving at your church? You should serve when God is telling you to serve. What does that feel like? It feels like eager enthusiasm that you don’t have to try and conjure up by drinking an extra cup of coffee in the morning. It feels like you’re an artist whose mind is burning with some glorious new picture and you just can’t wait to get out your paints and brushes to try and duplicate it on canvas. When we are serving God for the right reasons, there is a joy in our soul. When we are serving God for the wrong reasons, we feel like we’re hauling around a backpack full of bricks.
It’s commonly taught in the Church that before you’ve had a chance to completely dry off from the baptismal waters, you should have signed up to help in some sort of ministry. This is utter rot. God is not a general who drafts schoolboys into His army, shoves guns into their hands, drops them off in the middle of a battleground and then expects them to overcome. God takes the time to train and teach us before loading us up with a bunch of assignments. He gives us a chance to learn about who He is and what He wants before He starts cracking the whip over us. There’s nothing more disturbing than seeing some spiritual infant put in charge of a teaching ministry. How can a soul who doesn’t even have a grip on the basics of the faith possibly guide others? Do you want a blind man to guide you through a minefield? In our desperation to prop up our dying ministries, we shovel adult responsibilities onto the shoulders of babies and then wonder what happened when our people don’t grow. Or we take advantage of workaholics and run them into the ground by encouraging them to try and do the work of ten people. At some point, we need to stop with all of this rebellion and start listening to God again. It’s HIS Church, and He is the One who should be deciding which ministries we pour HIS resources into.
Now suppose you sign up for something, try to do it, and then get an awful feeling that you’re in way over your head. Or maybe after the first five minutes you realize that you utterly hate whatever it is and you wish you’d never committed yourself. If this is what happens, then you need to un-commit. You need to stop whatever it is and politely explain that you made a mistake. Don’t keep doing something that God isn’t giving you the empowerment to do. This is an utter waste of time. You aren’t going to get any points with Him for it. All you’re going to do is battle with foul attitudes for however long your commitment lasts and end up burned out and frustrated. None of this is any good. You can’t be expected to perfectly discern God’s will in your life—especially early on in your walk. So if you start something with good intentions, then you realize He isn’t in it, then you need to course correct. This is what it means to obey God—we follow His leading. God likes to zigzag around, not just travel in straight lines. He likes to make sudden starts and stops and He isn’t going to tell you His schedule ahead of time. So don’t beat yourself up about it, just explain that you can no longer continue in this area. God comes first.
If you haven’t trapped yourself in something yet, then don’t sign up or agree to do anything until you’ve had a chance to pray about it and receive some kind of feedback from the Holy Spirit. Remember that when God wants you to do something for Him, He will motivate you to want to do it. Even if it’s not something you particularly enjoy, some part of you is going to be eager about obeying Him. Don’t serve out of guilt. Don’t serve because someone desperately needs your help. Don’t serve to be a hero in the eyes of others. Serve because God is prompting you to, and then you’ll be serving HIM, not other people or their carnal agendas.
If you are currently receiving no inspiration to serve anywhere, then that means this isn’t your time yet. Consider yourself to be in a growth stage and look forward to receiving new insights from the Holy Spirit that will deepen your personal bond with God. God has always wanted serving Him to be a guilt-free experience.
The Right Focus in Life According to Christ