Tennessee is known as the Volunteer State. The motto goes back to the days of Davy Crockett and the rag-tag army of Tennesseans that joined the Texans at the Alamo in the fight for Texas independence. Tennesseans take great pride in their willingness to help out someone who’s in need. During the flood of 2010, Nashville took such good care of their neighbors that most people outside of the city didn’t understand how bad the flooding had been. At the beginning of 2020, tornadoes hit the north and east side of town and when the sun came up, hundreds of people were piling up debris, cutting trees, and checking on neighbors inside their damaged homes.
Being in the volunteer state, you would think that finding volunteers would be easier for churches in Tennessee. It’s not. In fact, if you ask any church staff member what their number one problem is they will tell you finding volunteers for their ministries.
People are busy, even overcommitted, so no one has time to work at the church anymore. Both parents work. Our children are harried to the point of emotional and physical fatigue. Who has time to teach a children’s Sunday School class?
Now, one of the good things about the pandemic is church leaders had to evaluate and reevaluate every program and ministry offered by their local church. One of the lessons we learned is that we don’t need to do everything we’re doing. Some ministries and programs have run their course.
But you can’t cancel everything. There are some things that should be done and indeed, must be done if the church is to be the church at all. You can’t hire enough people to do everything that needs to be done. The church has always run on the efforts of volunteers.
I would challenge that assumption. Here’s why. Being a volunteer means you determine your level of involvement, where and when you will show up, and what you will do when you get there. In short, being a volunteer is up to us.
I’d rather work with people who are called. Being called means you’ve been summoned and assigned a mission. This is an important message most of us miss. When we talk about salvation, too many of us just tell the first half of the story. We talk about how we were saved from our sins by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
That’s true — wonderfully and gloriously true, but it’s only half of the story. As followers of Christ, we are SAVED FROM OUR SINS and SAVED FOR SERVICE. Being born again is just the beginning of our adventure in faith. After that, we have to grow again into the disciple who can be used effectively for His Kingdom’s purposes.
And every Christ-follower is called. We believe every follower of Christ is uniquely gifted to a mission or ministry for the sake of Christ. We believe our passions and gifts will align with our opportunities in ways that make the person of Christ known in our communities.
And in response to Christ’s work in our lives, we serve Him with our full energy and focus. We understand we have a divine purpose — a calling — with eternal significance. It’s in these moments when we realize the reason we were born. Sure, we may work at a job, but our ministry is what we live for. Paul made tents, but he lived to preach.
Too many of us confuse our careers with our ministries. We go so far as to define ourselves by what we do. When we meet new people, we introduce ourselves by what we do. “I’m an attorney.” “I’m an accountant.” In reality, most of us live for something else besides our careers. Our jobs give us the resources to do the things we really want to do.
When people ask me about what we need done in the church, I usually turn the question back to them. What are you called to do? Most people can’t answer this question. That leads to a long discussion about passions, dreams, gifting, and talents. That gets them closer to understanding their calling — the divine purpose for which they were created.
When we know our calling, we know why we’re alive. We have to work to pay our bills, but we live to fulfill our calling.
It happens all of the time. One of our deacons will tell me of a recent hospital visit and say, “As tough as that moment was, I’ve never felt so alive.” A student mentor will tell me about the hours they have spent counseling, encouraging, and yes, confronting a struggling teenager and then tell me they wouldn’t trade these moments for anything in the world. In these moments, my friends understand why they were born.
There’s no better moment than seeing someone discover the reason they were born.
Too many church staff members are just sticking bodies where they see a need. The result is everyone is miserable – both the one being served and those being served. It doesn’t work.
But when you can find someone who’s called, worlds will change. They don’t cost any more than a volunteer, but they won’t be working for you anyway. They’ll be answering the call from Him.