Volunteerism is one of the building blocks of communities everywhere. Volunteers are sincere people who desire to help. Many times they come with willing hands and less than able skills to meet the needs for which they are volunteering. People learn a lot and grow in their insight to deal with problems and solutions when they volunteer. Often organizations must take the time to train volunteers to do what the task requires. Volunteers need a front, middle and back to a project. They need to know how long the expectation of the organization is for them to be engaged in participation.
When I wrote the book, “More Than Volunteers,” I followed a stream of thought that went beyond volunteerism. It is book written basically for those who claim to be Christians and are involved in the work of the faith community. My feeling, based on how I understand the scriptures, is that those who are in Christ and a part of the church are not volunteers. Christians are not volunteers because they are not giving a part of their time, talent, and treasure to serve. They are spiritually birthed into a body of those who have been grafted into the eternal plan of God through Jesus Christ. All of their time, talent, and treasure belongs to God and is subject to God’s direction through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If this is so, then why is the church always calling for volunteers? The church is a living body of believers who have been brought spiritually alive through the work of Jesus Christ. As a result, all who belong should not think of themselves as volunteers but members of a body responsible for 100% of the results of their belonging.
There are several reasons for this.
1. The church is made up of many people who sign on to being the hands and feet of Jesus without becoming a part of the body of Christ through regeneration. These people are volunteers in the strictest sense of the word. Let’s review the fact that Christianity is not first and foremost a religion but a relationship with God through his Son Jesus Christ. Many people attend church as adherents and for traditional reasons many adhere to the process of indoctrination without realizing that a true Christian is one who is born anew by the Spirit into a living priesthood of believers. When people come into membership they sort of feel they are giving back in hope of getting the benefits of the promises of God. As a Christian you are laying down your life so that God can give your life back to the world on behalf of His eternal plan. You are given spiritual life so that everything you are and do counts for eternity.
2. The church often misses translating its unique mission to its adherents. The church is a miracle from the first moment a person says “yes” to becoming a part of the Body of Christ until death separates that person from life and graduates them to life eternal. Just as a seed grows from the first sprout into a tree, a person grows in Christ from the seed of the Word of God into a full measure of holiness.
3. The world system is bent on limiting the control of the mission and message of the institutional church. China has two churches. The Three Self Church and the underground church. The Three Self Church works within the government regulations. The underground church follows the conviction of its members as they seeking understanding of commitment from the authority of the scriptures.
The reason people were called Christians in the first place was not because of the institutions but because of the conduct and witness of the people. Where has that gone? The institution is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The person who accepts Christ becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit of God, a person on a journey of growth in a life committed to holiness.
When people are spiritually equipped for work there is an advantage to their volunteerism. When we understand the plan of redemption that is revealed to us through the scriptures, we realize that there is much more to giving back than volunteering for service in the church. We are not our own, we are bought with a price. The blood of Jesus Christ has paid for our redemption. We, who were once slaves of the world systems, are now reconciled through faith in Jesus Christ to God’s plan and purpose for our lives.
When it comes to who we are, we are not giving back. We are giving out of the wealth of His provision to the body to which we belong. It is God, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who is giving Himself through us. Our witness in the world is not made up of good works and goodwill but by dedicated conduct of those who are following the call of God in every area of their lives.
The challenge I have to give to Christians is that when you volunteer to do work for the good of reaching the world you are there for more than just the task at hand. When it comes to church you are not a volunteer at all but a part of a living body of believers. You are functioning at an entirely different level than someone who is not a part of the body of Christ. You are not alone in what you are doing. You are working in concert with an eternal plan that God has opened up before you as a member.
Think of it this way. When you turn on the light switch the lights go on. Most of us know little about how that happens except that if you touch the wires going into the switch you get a shock. There is a lot behind making happen what happens when you throw the switch. You are participating in a massive chain of activity that happens. What is that anyway? When you as a Christian go out to volunteer you are part of a massive eternal plan that God has for all the world. As a part of that plan, your actions play out in who you are and how you respond to all of the actions of life. Volunteer for all that God has led you to do, but always remember that when it comes to volunteerism…as a Christian you are more than a volunteer.