original image from slco.org
I grew up on Vancouver Island, in a city where there were many beaches and lakes for us to spend our summers at. Whether we felt we needed a day at the salty sea or boating on the lake, it was a place where we gathered quite frequently throughout the hot days of summer. Some of the beaches would have a roped off “safe area” to swim in, and either a notice of a lifeguard or a notice of no lifeguard on duty. The “safe area” was really just a roped off space that would allow the lifeguard (or guardian in the case of no life guard) the ability to easily see all who swim within it, and the ability to reach someone if they began to drown. I was thinking about this the other day as I sat in my house watching the snow fall… wishing for warmer weather… well, and a real beach. I thought about the actions of the lifeguards and how attentive they had to be with kids like myself stirring up trouble. They were constantly watching over us, ensuring that we played safe and leapt into action in a moment’s notice of trouble. They were constantly on guard, and the only rest they had was when their shift was over.
Every church has at least one lifeguard. Someone who comes to the rescue every time the church needs a volunteer, and usually, regardless of the ministry. They are the ones to always volunteer or run in to save the day when no one else decided to help. They are lifeguards because they are constantly watching over the ministries of the church, ensuring they are operating properly, and ready to leap into action even if it is at the cost of their own physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion. Because the fact is, that if someone is constantly volunteering, or jumping in to save the day, exhaustion is inevitable. And when (not if) these lifeguards exhaust themselves, the ministries that they were supporting begin to drown… the ones who kept them a float no longer have the stamina to keep themselves swimming.
Most likely you are already thinking of the lifeguards in your church… Many of those you thought of are leaders, people who are deeply invested in the mission/vision of the church, others will be the ones in the background, making sure all the technicalities run smoothly on a day to day basis, and lastly (and unfortunately) some of you have thought of your pastor. Why do I think it’s unfortunate for a pastor to be a lifeguard? Because pastors are not meant to be lifeguards… they are meant to be swimming instructors. They are the ones teaching, studying God’s word and conveying His message. The last thing a pastor should be worrying about is jumping in to save the ministries… He has his flock to worry about.
So if a pastor is not supposed to be a lifeguard… and a lifeguard is not supposed to save everyone… then where does that leave us. Well folks, it leaves us with the bystanders on the beach. The ones standing, and watching while others do all the work. And frankly, as Christians, we are not called to be bystanders… whatsoever. In fact, we are called to participate in our faith not just sit there while it is spoon fed to us. So let’s examine Serving in the Church, starting off with some of the major misconceptions as to why we don’t (or can’t) serve.
1. There Are Limited Ways To Serve In The Church
Out of all of the reasons, I can easily see why people would think that all there is to serving in the church is programs to do with Children/Youth or programs that involve Leadership… Ministries like Children’s Ministry, Youth, Worship Team, Elders, Deacons, Nursery, Sound/Projection, or other programs like Gems or Cadets.
I get it, you look at this list and say to yourself, I’m not gifted in any of these areas, I don’t like working with kids, I’m not a leader and can’t carry a tune in a bucket so there is no place for me. People hugely underestimate the amount of administrative, physical and mental preparation goes into a Sunday. Those bulletins do not just appear on paper, someone writes them up. The building is not just magically cleaned or decorated, people have to do that! Greeters, Coffee Team, Information desk, filling of mailboxes, helping people to their seats, setting up or taking down, these are all jobs that happen EVERY week! Not to mention the administration jobs to help with the children/youth ministries, treasurer, shopping for supplies. I mean the list goes on and on… and this is just for Sunday. Did you know that your church is also open Monday through Saturday??? With events and rentals and various other ministries taking place!
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. //JOHN 12:26
2. Service Has A Time Limit
So for some of you, you have been serving in your church for x number of years. You have invested time, money and sweat equity into varying ministries and you believe that your time is up. You are retiring from service because it’s a new generations turn to work… wrong. Serving is a part of emulating Jesus, the thing we as Christians are supposed to strive for in our day to day lives! You may be right, however, in the idea that you have a “time limit” on your service in a particular ministry, but we should ALWAYS be serving in one form or another.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. //MARK 10:45
3. I Am Not Gifted To Serve
So because of our “limited scope” view of the available areas of ministry to serve in, we think that if we are not gifted in those areas, we cannot serve at all. I want to remind you of the fact that we are called as the body of Christ, that means in order to be effective and efficient in fulfilling the great commission we must work together, each of us doing our part. Think of your hand for instance, and pretend that one finger just doesn’t work. Nothing is wrong with it, it just isn’t doing its part. The hand still functions BUT it is limited in movement and mobility, it is not as effective or efficient as it could be if all fingers were contributing. There is ALWAYS a place for you to serve in the church… and if you cannot see it (or do not seek it out) then you are CHOOSING to not fully participate as a member of the body of Christ.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
4. I Can’t Miss The Sermon
This excuse… YES IT’S AN EXCUSE!!!!... drives me nuts. I have to tread carefully on this one, because of how fired up I get about it so let me try to approach this one step at a time.
Sunday Morning Sermons are not MEANT to be your spiritual meal for the week. Although sermons are a great way to gain knowledge, be challenged spiritually or for God to speak to you… YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD SHOULD NOT DEPEND ON A SUNDAY MORNING SERMON. You should be building your relationship with God 7 days a week, ON YOUR OWN, aside from Church all together. That means doing devotions or having God time everyday, even on Sundays. And the idea of missing a sermon should not result in (or be viewed as) a derailment of your relationship with God.
The definition of “doing church” is not to sit and suck in, but to fellowship with one another, lift each other up and serve one another. And if we are being honest here the phrase “I can’t miss a sermon” actually translates to “I don’t want to miss a sermon”. When you change that from a “can’t” to a “want” we begin to straddle the boundary of selfishness. If your sole reason of not serving on Sunday is because you don’t want to, yet you enjoy the coffee, drop your kids off at Sunday School or Nursery and enjoy the hellos from the greeters… you are simply being selfish. Expecting others to fill a role you just “don’t want” to fill
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. //GALATIANS 5:13
Do not misunderstand me, I am not saying you should miss every Sunday Sermon, in fact I implore you not to. It is a blessing to be challenged by our pastors, and one we must share with each other. It is an opportunity to consider a passage of scripture from a different viewpoint or a time to recharge spiritually. But if we are solely relying on one sermon to carry us through our week, we will never be able to fully experience what it means to follow Christ, because our relationship with Him is based on what someone else is showing us and not our own understanding of Who He is.
So let’s bring this back full circle. What if we didn’t rely on the lifeguards in the church? What if we built our ministries on the solid foundation of many who serve… more like giving the ministry a lifejacket. You see, lifejackets are made up of many different pieces of foam, so that when it is put on it forms to the shape of the person, fitting properly. So if we are fitting our ministries with lifejackets, if one part breaks down, that one area just needs to be repaired, and the ministry is still afloat. That way our lifeguards only have to jump in when they want to, or in dire situations.
So I’m challenging you today.
If you aren’t serving in your church I want you to seriously consider why you aren’t.
What is your reason?
Are you unsure of where you fit in? Not confident in your gifts? Are you going through a trial and need to talk to an Elder? Or is it simply because you are lazy/don’t feel the need to?
Examine yourself honestly.
Trust God completely.
Step outside of your comfort zone and get ready to see God move in you and through you.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. //ROMANS 12:1
Speaker, wife and life long student. Boldly living for Christ. Jen is currently studying Theology at Kings, Jen challenges the comfort zone and encourages boldly stepping out in faith and the promises of God.
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