This weekend I was honored to preach at the Summit’s Brier Creek Campus. I’m taking a few days this week and unpacking some further ideas from the message. I do this because (a) I’m a pretty lazy blogger and don’t feel like thinking up new stuff this week and (b) I had more stuff I wanted to say this weekend, but not enough time to say it (doggone you, countdown clock!). If you get the notion, you can listen to the entire message here.
You don’t have to live in Church World very long before you realize that Professional Church People are pretty intent on getting you to do stuff: volunteer in the nursery. Teach the 7th grade boys’ class. Set up tables for the 41st Annual Bake Sale and Turkey Shoot. As a matter of fact, if you’re not careful your name will be on every volunteer list and sign up form and database that’s existed since St. Peter chartered First Baptist Jerusalem.
The tactics that pastors and ministry leaders use can be just as varied as the volunteer positions themselves: announcements. Pleas. Begging. Cajoling. And guilt trips? Oh man, way too many pastors are certified travel agents for guilt trips.
Let’s be honest: guilt is a great motivator. It’ll get you out of your pew and into a volunteer spot quicker than you can say Vacation Bible School Craft Room. But guilt will hardly bring you to maturity. You’ll never grow through guilt. You never serve out of joy. You may never know if you’re actually serving where you’re wired.
Paul spoke to this in Romans 12:6: “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” Paul had spent the first eleven chapters of his letter to the church at Rome explaining the doctrine of grace: what it is, who it’s about, why we need it, and why we can’t live without it. It’s grace that caused God to send Jesus to reconcile us to himself. It was grace that Jesus displayed on the cross. And it’s by grace through faith that we’re saved.
But after salvation, grace remains, and grace must rule. The gifts that we have, we have because of grace. The way that we serve others is out of an overflow of grace in our lives. Paul knew that. And he knew that no amount of bully pulpiteering would ever replace our awakening to God’s grace and our gifts.
We don’t serve because we’re guilted to, but because we get to.
So take it from a Professional Church Person: you have permission to no longer serve because you’ve been begged. You have liberty to dodge the guilt trip. Instead, look to the grace you’ve been given, and discover how God can use you as a conduit of his grace to others. When that happens, no one will need to push you to serve. As a matter of fact, no one will be able to keep you from serving.
We serve because we’ve been served. We love because we’ve been loved. And when those things are true, we’ll always point people to Jesus.