Don’t volunteer in the church

This morning I got a message and someone thanked me for volunteering for something in the community.  We all know what the word volunteer means.  Sometimes people use that word in church.  Using the term in church is a pet peeve of mine.  It goes back to 2010 when a seminary class allowed me to spend a week with Pastor Mike Slaughter of Ginghamsburg.  He said followers of Jesus do not volunteer.  Instead, he said followers of Jesus “serve”.

Compare the definitions:

Volunteer:  freely offer to do something

Serve:  perform duties or services for (another person or an organization)

Can you see the difference?  Slaughter also never calls anyone who does work on behalf of Jesus and the church volunteers.  He calls them servants.  Volunteers tend to get recognized at banquets.  Servants often don’t even expect or receive a thank you.

Much of the problem in the American church today is that too many people are volunteers and too few are servants.  Volunteers want recognition.  There are some people in the church (when I say ‘the church’, I’m almost always referring to the church in general, not necessarily the church I’m serving), anyhow, there are some people in the church who, when they give money or time, want the world to know about it.  And then there are others who don’t expect to be recognized or have a plaque put up.  They just do what they do for God’s glory.  Plaques are another pet peeve of mine, but I digress.

I pray that if you are a follower of Jesus, that today’s blog would stick with you, and that you would change your terminology. You are a servant, not a volunteer.

I end with this Scripture from Luke 17:

“When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’  And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey me (Jesus) you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’”

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What it means to love your neighbor

Upon finishing today’s blog, I admit it’s more like a sermon than a daily devotional, but here goes.

blogpicAs anyone who reads my blogs, listens to my sermons online, or goes to church here knows, I believe I am to preach repentance.  I don’t just preach repentance.  I preach grace and forgiveness, too.  However, I understand the Bible as saying forgiveness is only received when a person admits their sin and desires to turn from their sin (even if they keep sinning! See Romans 7:15).  Jesus said in Luke 24:47 that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations.  There are a couple of places where it just says “believe and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9), but I believe the overarching theme of the New Testament is to repent of sin (Matthew 3:2, 4:17; Acts 2:38, 3:19, 11:18, 17:30, 20:21: Luke 13:3, 15:10, 24:47)  and Believe in Jesus to be saved.  I also believe the Bible says that many, many people deceive themselves – that they/we continue to live in wilful disobedience and they/we are only fooling ourselves, and/or lying to ourselves.  We do this so we can continue to do whatever we want and so we don’t have to sacrifice our desires or our finances.  Pastor Matt Chandler always says, “Who has lied to you more than you?”

I make the preceding argument to talk about what it means to love someone.  Many people will say about people like me, “You are judgemental”.  Many will say, our job is not to judge people, our only job is to love people.  God says to love our neighbor.

And I guess it all comes down to how you see love.  As I was reading/listening to Galatians today, something really struck me.  Paul quotes Jesus in Galatians 5:14:

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

And then 5 verses later Paul shows love by pointing out these things that are contrary to the life of a follower of Jesus:

 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

We could very easily call Paul judgemental here.  But I see Paul showing love.  Paul is telling people they are deceiving themselves if they call themselves a Christian and still do these things with a clear conscience.  It is not loving to let people live in their sin and rebellion.  That’s easy.  True love is difficult.  True love calls people to repentance and tells them how to be saved from their sin and rebellion.




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Rescuing night crawlers

When we get a lot of rain the night crawlers (aka fishing worms) come to the surface of the ground and many end up on the asphalt church parking lot.  Most times I walk around and pick them up and put them back in the grass, as I did this morning.  The parking lot is huge and without my intervention most of the worms will perish.  Some will be eaten by birds, some will be run over, and others will simply die from exposure.  They really have no idea of the fate that awaited them without my help.  (I know this illustration falls apart when you think of the worm’s self-awareness, etc, but roll with me on this).

I can picture myself and others being like those worms in a way.  We’re going about life doing what comes natural and following our instincts.  And seemingly out of nowhere, there’s a Savior that has plucked us out of the abyss.  Why me?  It’s certainly nothing I’ve done.  I don’t know what part we play in our own salvation by our faith, but just as surely as I know I’ve saved those worms from perishing, Jesus has saved me.  While I’m aware that I’ve only saved them for a little while, He’s saved me for eternity.  And while their job is not to now go see other worms saved (giving glory to me), my job is to see other people saved, giving glory to Jesus – the One who saved me.  And if you have been saved by Him, it’s your job, too.




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Everything Happens for a Reason? Or The cost of freedom

I was talking with someone the other day and the person said, “I’m sure you do, but do you think everything happens for a reason?”  I said that I believe God has the ability to prevent anything, but because of free will, sometimes things happen that He wouldn’t choose.  And while He could certainly prevent anything from happening, He instead allows things to happen.  And then even as many of those human choices bring about terrible consequences, God can bring something good out of them.

I saw a clip from Charles Krauthammer, who often appears on Fox News, talking about the shooting in Oregon.  He said that we often choose between liberty and security.  We often choose between freedom and safety.  And the history of our country shows that we, as Americans, nearly always lean toward freedom even though we know that having freedom makes us vulnerable.  And some people want more freedom and some want less.  Some believe restricting guns will make us safer and others believe allowing responsible people in schools and other “gun free zones” to carry guns will make us safer, as people will quit attacking vulnerable places.

I believe this all ties together to help me understand how things like the shooting in Oregon can happen.  When God made mankind, He did not make robots who had no choice but to obey and worship Him.  He made us with a mind and a conscience and allowed us the freedom to choose Him or to not choose Him.  We are free to serve Him or not serve Him.  We are free to curse His Name or to honor His Name.  We have free will.

And as we learn over and over, there is a cost to freedom.  There’s a cost as citizens of the greatest and freest country there’s ever been.   There’s also a cost that will be paid one day by the people who choose not to follow Jesus.

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life… Deuteronomy 30:19

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. ~ Joshua 24:15




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Lukewarm churches to flee to

I’m listening to a Francis Chan sermon this afternoon.  In it, he says the primary reason to have kids is to raise up “warriors for Christ”.  We shouldn’t have kids simply to have fun little people running around who we can make our own lives revolve around.

And when I heard this it struck me.  That’s exactly why I’m a pastor.  God has called me to raise up warriors for Christ.  And I’m not just talking about the kids in our church.  I’m talking about everyone from 1-100 in our church.  And I’m not just talking about people in our church.  Of course I mean them, but I’m also talking about you who read my blogs and you who listen to my sermons online.

Some warriors go to the front line of the battlefield while other warriors stay in their “war room” and pray.  Rick Warren said, “The strength of an army isn’t measured by the number of people who sit in the mess hall and eat, but by the number of people who are willing to go to battle.”   He’s insinuating that some people don’t want to be warriors.  He’s insinuating that some people just want to sit in the “mess hall” and gorge themselves.

Someone anonymously sent me a John MacArthur CD the other day.  I listened to it.  MacArthur inferred that there are many people who will flee Bible teaching, Bible preaching churches (you might even say ‘warrior training’ churches) for the comfort of lukewarm churches that teach that sin is OK, that the only thing required of a Christian is acceptance, and the only enemy is judgemental Christians.

Jesus’ followers are and always have been called to be warriors.  1 Peter 5:8 reminds us we have an enemy: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”  Too many of us are not ready for battle or even willing to be trained. 

There’s an army rising up.  Are you willing to be a part of it?




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Sometimes I wish

riverSometimes I wish I had a motorcycle. Sometimes I wish we could just live in one place.  Sometimes I wish we could move. Sometimes I wish I could just get a regular job. Sometimes I wish I could hang out with my brother and sister-in-law along the Ohio River on summer evenings.  Sometimes I wish I could see my great niece Gabby grow up in person instead of on Facebook.  Sometimes I wish sports really mattered. Sometimes I wish there were many ways to heaven.  Sometimes I wish I could just be happy for gay people that they found someone they loved.  Sometimes I wish Diane and I could spend all of our money on ourselves.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t care that half the kids in the mountains of Haiti will die before the age of 5 from unclean drinking water. Sometimes I wish I didn’t believe in hell. Sometimes I wish people I know didn’t drink so much.  Sometimes I wish I could play the piano. Sometimes I wish I didn’t care what people thought.  Sometimes I wish I could eat all the chocolate chip cookies and pizza I wanted.  Sometimes I wish Jesus would just come back already.  Sometimes I wish I cared more about others and sometimes I wish I cared less.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t waste so much time.  Sometimes I wish I hadn’t cost Jesus His life on the cross.





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What if everyone in the church was like you?

Yesterday my wife Diane took some time in worship to share about Operation Christmas Child.  OCC is a project of Samaritan’s Purse.  Shoeboxes are filled with gifts by local occdianehaitichurches and sent to warehouses throughout the United States.  In these warehouses, the individual shoeboxes are packed in larger boxes and shipped to children around the world.  When the kids receive the boxes, they hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Diane, Adam, and I packed boxes in a warehouse in Baltimore last year.  The boxes we packed went to Iraq.  Diane and I were also blessed to be able to do two distributions in Haiti this summer where we gave the shoeboxes out to kids in Haiti.  This past year Samaritan’s Purse collected and distributed over 10 million shoeboxes!  That’s 10 million kids around the world who heard the Good News of Jesus!

occroomBecause of Diane’s passion for OCC, and thanks to a lot of Believers in our church sharing in her vision to spread the Gospel through the shoeboxes, our church has been collecting OCC items all year and will likely pack hundreds of shoeboxes this year.  We will be going back to Baltimore to serve at the warehouse again.  Does everyone in our church share in this ministry?  Of course not.  And that’s OK.  We can be passionate about different things.  I always say I want our church to be doing so many things that everyone can’t possibly be 100% involved in every one.

I remember hearing the question one time, “What would my church be like if everyone was like me?”  And while this is going to make her uncomfortable, I want to ask the question, “What kind of church would we have if everyone was like Diane?”  I don’t mean everyone has to get behind OCC.  I mean, what kind of church would we have if the church people never missed church (like Diane doesn’t miss)?  What kind of church would we have if everyone tithed (like Diane tithes)?  What kind of church would we have if everyone had a passion to glorify Jesus through some mission and ministry (like Diane does through OCC, among other ways)?

Yes, she’s my wife and I can’t be impartial, but I believe the answer is we’d have 250 people in church every Sunday and we’d be doing 10 times the mission and ministry we’re doing now (and we are doing a lot now!).  And if you feel like you rate right up there with her, don’t be offended by today’s blog.  I’m not saying that she’s the best Christian in the church.  I’m just asking you to ask yourself the same question:  “What kind of church would we have if everyone in the church was like me?”




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