No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. (2 Timothy 2:4 KJV)
After resigning from my first pastorate I began sending out my resume to churches, and to secular organizations, just in case the Lord had other ideas besides me going back into full time ministry. One position that I applied for was a volunteer coordinator position with a hospice organization that looked very promising. I had a phone interview, and then some time went by before my first in person interview, so I began looking into the various tactics that are used to recruit and retain volunteers. There were many similarities between what I was learning about recruiting volunteers for organizations, and recruiting volunteers for service in a local Church. Some of the similarities were organizational in nature, and necessary to be productive in daily task, such as making sure that you line a person’s tasks up with their talents. However, some of them were about motivation, such as ways to convince people of a need, or to convince them to stick with a task that is beneficial for the organization.
Christians claim to live new lives that are no longer focused on worldly aspirations, and no longer focused on pleasing the flesh, so why is it that ministers feel like they need to learn worldly tactics to convince people of the need to serve? Why would ministers need to use three step programs, and temporary evangelism blitzes, and thirty day prayer challenges to keep people from getting bored, or to get them out of the habit of doing nothing for Christ? I remember reading a long while back about the dangers of bribing your children to do the things that are necessary in life, like telling them you will give them a dollar if they brush their teeth. This can lead to apathy and false expectations about receiving rewards for things that carry their own rewards, like not having your teeth rot out.
It’s Not Okay
The Church is to teach, to exhort, to stir up, to love, and to encourage one another, but are we to encourage one another to believe that the Christian life is a series of volunteer activities that one participates in depending on how they feel? In October the Southern Baptist Association is pushing another evangelism event where pastors are to share a specific curriculum, and encourage their congregations to pray for a specific number of people for a set amount of time. This is a good thing, but only if a congregation is not already regularly praying for and sharing the gospel with the lost. Why do I sometimes feel more like a salesman for Lifeway than the pastor of a body of believers? It is because we have convinced ourselves that it is okay to be part-time volunteer Christians. How sad is it if a Christian could say, “I prayed for five lost people and shared the gospel with two of them this year during our gospel blitz. What have you done lately?” And the average Christian would have to respond, “Well you’ve got me beat! I’ll have to try that program next year!”
It’s Time to Change
As a pastor I have used these tactics, and I have been guilty of being a part-time volunteer Christian in my own walk. There are those who would respond simply by saying that, you will know a tree by its fruit, and those who are part-time volunteer Christians are just not Christians at all. Well, that is nothing more than immature, holier than thou, hogwash. The epistle’s of Paul and the letters to the seven Churches in Revelations prove that Christians need to be reminded, persuaded, and encouraged to do the right thing, to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh. So, you might ask, isn’t that what these programs of volunteerism are, just ways to remind, persuade and encourage? That may be the honest intention of the publishers of the materials, and the pushers of these ideas, but the bath water is dirty, and it needs to be thrown out. We need to remind ourselves that we are a new creation, and that our lives are no longer our own. We were not reborn to be in the reserves where we are occasionally called up for duty. We were reborn to be active duty soldiers in a war that will not end until our commander and chief returns.
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. (2 Peter 2:20 KJV)
To be continued…