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.’”