Here’s a quote from a great post from Jamie Arpin Ricci:
We all too often view our involvement in missional church community through the lens of volunteerism. In other words, we love the vision and reality of ministry and want to be involved, as long as it fits. We have discipled entire generations of Christians to see missional engagement as a voluntary opportunity they can add to their lives when it works or isn’t too demanding.
(ht Bill Kinnon, who adds some of his own good thoughts)
More and more, I see this becoming a watershed issue for the church. Eventually we’re going to come to the realization that we can’t have our cake and eat it, too. We can’t call people to the safe position of “volunteer” and expect to see the fruit of discipleship. There really are no shortcuts to following Jesus. It’s not something you can do in your spare time when it fits your schedule.
The attitude and mindset with which we approach church makes all the difference. It’s really really difficult to let go of the autonomy and self-determination that come with being a “volunteer.” But embracing a long-term, sacrificial commitment to Jesus, his community, and his mission means dying to autonomy and self-determination. It’s the first step of discipleship.
Instead of thinking of ourselves as “volunteers,” perhaps it’s time to recover the biblical image of the doulos christou, the “bondservant” of Christ, the one who is given over to Christ, disregarding her own will and desires, the one who embodies Jesus’ prayer “Not my will but yours be done.”
And this isn’t just a call to the “super Christians” or those called to “full-time ministry,” but to everyone. Jesus didn’t give separate calls for “volunteers” and “disciples.” He didn’t have a class of followers who just volunteered when it fit their schedules. He just gave one call:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
Jesus sure was annoyingly all-or-nothing like that, wasn’t he?