Several years ago, I served at a large church as the event coordinator for the monthly women’s events. Because of the size of the events, there was a need for immense organization and planning months in advance. There was a lack of commitment to pre-planning and subsequently, I ended up with a lot of last-minute changes dictated by the church leadership. Initially, I was excited and joyful about the experience, but as time went on I became bitter about my role. I had volunteered for this role, yet I began thinking of how I could resign gracefully. I no longer wanted to serve in that capacity.
When you hear the word servant what do you think of? Within the context of the church if someone asks you to serve on a committee or in a ministry does it strike up an image in your head? In your mind, does servant and slave have a different definition?
Servanthood is typically a voluntary position. It involves willingly acting on behalf of another. It could be offering to get someone a cup of coffee. It could be sitting with nursing home residents playing bingo. It could even be assisting someone with changing a tire.
How does that differ from slavery? The definition of slavery is a distinctly negative one, which expresses that someone does not have a choice in their title or in the expectations for their performance. It historically has involved hard labor with less than ideal living conditions. We’ve seen slavery in our nation from before the Declaration of Independence. We know that the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians in the Bible. Even today, we are seeing an increase in slavery around the globe.
Think about this…what if within the walls of our churches, people are identifying unconsciously as a servant or as a slave?
What if I’m on a committee or involved with a ministry out of a sense of obligation? What if I’m tired, but I was guilted into staying in the nursery during service? What if I’m in a position that is a mismatch with my spiritual gifts or natural talents? Am I doing things out of fear of judgment? Isn’t that a form of self-imposed slavery?
This is in contrast to the joy that is received with willingly volunteering in servanthood. The person who is functioning in the perfect position for them. The member who is using the skills God gave them.
There’s a distinct difference in the attitude of the joyful servant and the obligated slave. When this difference occurs in a church, there is a risk for tension to arise. People want to have a particular ministry program, but no one steps up to lead. Probably more common is that the faithful volunteers supporting the ministry programs of a church become over-extended and subsequently quitting.
When we serve, we need to be responsible for where we serve. We need to have the discernment that we are serving where we are called by God to serve. For instance, if my spiritual gift is teaching, then I know I should not be on the evangelism team.
When we serve responsibility, we are witnessing to the goodness of Christ. We begin to give visible, real, and tangible displays of God’s love.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracle of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies- in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and dominion forever and ever.
~1 Peter 4:10-11
Ultimately, we serve not for our own glory, but to honor our Lord.
I urge you to volunteer and become involved in your church through a servant’s heart. Do not volunteer out of obligation or through guilt…or you risk slipping into a mindset of slavery.