Volunteer Service

Pastor Patrick Badstibner is founder of World Prayr (on Twitter).  I’m pleased to be able to present this blog post, the second in a series of monthly posts by Pat, to our Energion Publications family.  We will be presenting a number of other guest posts over the next few months, so keep your eyes open, subscribe to our RSS feed, or come back frequently.

Check the World Prayr organization and the World Prayr devotional blog as well.  You’ll find a dynamic and growing group of Christians who are practicing the second great command, to love their neighbors as themselves, and thereby practicing the first command as well.

There are many terms within our vocabulary today for which there is no comparative word in biblical languages:  Words such as technology, steel guitar, symphony, snow, etc.

Yes! Have you ever asked yourself if there was a reason Christ was born and lived in a world without blizzards?

While there are many words, such as the ones mentioned above, that there is no literal word for in biblical languages.  There are references and incidents upon which a use for most of these words can be drawn from; for example, Christ was constantly using the terms of his generation.  We see him with a constant awareness of what we might term today as modern technology.  The Psalms constantly refer to instruments used in worship and praise.  There is one, one word, in our vocabulary that no matter how hard I try I cannot match, or even find something that implies even a hint of the meaning of.  This word is used daily, weekly in ministries and churches around the globe.

It is used constantly as a way to describe one’s activities, a group of individuals, and those who serve certain functions.

Have you guessed it? Yes? No?

The word is “volunteer.”   A couple of derivatives of the world are volunteerism, and volunteers.  The word is believed to have originated in the 1600’s from the word voluntary.

I can hear you now; come on, man!

Surely you jest!

Have you not heard of free will or choice? There are many inferences and implications of the word “voluntary.”

OK! OK! You have a point!

God has given us the ability to freely choose as defined within the terms volitional will or free choice.  So, OK…maybe it’s not the world volunteer that bothers me.  After all, like everyone else I like a little free will now and then served up with a side of grace.

Perhaps it is the adjective use of the word “volunteer” that bothers me, which is “without payment” or its synonyms: “unpaid,” “unpaid worker” that I take exception to.  Perhaps it is the mentality that comes along with these synonyms that are often associated with these words.  It is thought that it brings a sense of nobility as though we have made the world a better place by our, or what we have made ours, or what we feel is our tremendous gift to the world.  Perhaps it is the attitude that has crept into so many of our churches and ministries of:

“Hey! They’re volunteers. What can you expect?”

“You should be thankful for anything you get since you’re not paying for it.”

“Got to handle volunteers with kid gloves, you know.”

I find it difficult to come to terms as a ministry leader who deals with a current all volunteer team.  How do these terms and statements apply to those who serve alongside me for Christ, as well as others who are termed as volunteers globally in service of Christ, when trying to weigh those synonyms that are often matched with the word volunteer: unpaid, unpaid worker, without pay?  As I weigh these terms with scriptures like:

1 Corinthians 6:20

you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

1 Corinthians 7:23

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.

Galatians 1:4

Who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.

1 John 2:2.

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for[a]the sins of the whole world.

Here we have some new terms: bought, gave himself, sacrifice.

Now, if scripture uses terms like bought, sacrifices, gave himself, perhaps this may be the biggest reason why I find uneasiness with the word volunteer and its many derivatives and synonyms.  It even becomes more confusing when considering the following verses:

Romans 6:22

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

Ephesians 6:6

Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.

2 Corinthians 4:5

For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Now we have two more words introduced into this seemingly quagmire, servant and slave, to go along with bought, sacrifices, and gave himself.  Can we really still even consider a term like volunteer, when it brings the synonyms like unpaid, unpaid worker?  How do we find applications of these words while considering the Word of God?  With its bold statements of:

“You have been paid for, purchased.”

“A tremendous sacrifice was given for you.”

“Consider yourself slaves of God.”

“For we are Christ’s servants.”

When we consider these terms in light of the statements as expressed above, associated with the world volunteer; how do they stack up?  What are we saying about ourselves; about others who are in service to, for, and in Christ?  Can we even justify using the word volunteer when we stack it against scripture?

When I, as a ministry leader, use the word volunteer, what am I communicating to those who I lead?  What value am I really placing on them?  What expectations am I expecting out of them?  What am I teaching them about the precious gift of grace we have all been given?

Perhaps this is why Peter said in 1 Peter 2:16;

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.

or why Paul said it is our reasonable service to present our bodies as a living sacrifice

Romans 12:1

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

In World Prayr, as much as is possible, we have made a determination among leadership to not use the word volunteer.  Rather we say:

“We are not interested in volunteers or employees but rather servants of the Most High God.”

WE do not thank our fellow bond servants, debtors, and heirs to the throne for their volunteerism.  We say,

“Thank you for choosing World Prayr as a place in which you have chosen to serve and pay a debt of love to our Heavenly Father.”

Pastor, ministry leader, fellow heir, fellow servant of God…let’s stop patting ourselves on the back as though we have given God something we have been “unpaid” for.  Instead let us rise up and challenge each other to lay everything at the feet of the one who sacrificed all for us.  Let us, with a humble heart, leap for joy to deliver what he has given us the ability to deliver to start with.  May we truly understand the meaning of:

“It is our reasonable service.”

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