This week, our devotionals are focusing on what it means to be a God-honoring, pastor-supporting, and believer-edifying parishioner. How can I be a better part of my church? Today we look at how to serve better in your church.
Christian service is not an optional path for the believer. When we become a disciple we don’t get to check a box that says “No Service for me”. If we are going to follow Jesus, we need to follow Him into work and ministry just as we want to follow Him into Heaven. Ministry is not just something for the pastoral team. It is for the whole body. Most pastors are glad when someone wants to serve. But what they may not tell you is that there are good ways to serve, and bad ways to serve. Here are some things they may not tell you about your involvement in ministry. They are counterintuitive, but if you can get them, they will help you become a better worker in the church.
CALLING > COMPETENCY – God has blessed everyone in the church with a gift that they are supposed to use to benefit others. Sometimes that gift lines up with your talents. But sometimes it does not. Talents are not bad. But there is a level that offers greater opportunity than talent. Just because you are good with numbers or money does not mean you will make a great treasurer. There are people who are great accountants or financial managers at their jobs, but would make horrible church treasurers. That’s because when you work at the bank, or for the government, faith isn’t a factor as you carry out your responsibilities. Faith is the key factor when serving in God’s Kingdom. God doesn’t need your ability to keep track of nickels and dimes. What He needs is your willingness to trust Him. After all, it is His money… not yours. So, don’t think that because you are really good at something in the natural realm means you should step into a ministry that matches your abilities. It may line up, but it only works well if you are spiritually minded above all else. Otherwise you just end up trying to make things happen by your own ability. The ministry of God can easily become the business of you. There is an old saying that is good to remember… “God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.”
RELATIONSHIP > EDUCATION – (This is where I may lose some of you… but please hang in there with me.) Education is not a bad thing. But it isn’t always helpful in the ministry. Sometimes it just gets in the way. Ever since the beginning of the Church, God used people regardless of their educational status. In fact, many times He used people who were obviously uneducated. One of the first things the world noticed about the early church leaders was, “They are clearly uneducated, but you can tell they have been with Jesus.” That relationship trumps any amount of schooling. Why? Why is relationship greater than education in the work of God? Because God will inevitably ask you to do some things that don’t make sense on paper. And He doesn’t need you straightening Him out because your professor taught you how ministry should really be done. We live in a culture that has made an idol out of degrees and schooling. And trust me… there is nothing wrong with knowledge and wisdom. These come from God. But since we value education so highly, we tend to think ourselves smarter than others because we went to school. Degrees will not prepare you for the spiritual battles that must be waged in wisdom. Many pastors will tell you that they have had to clean up some serious messes made by people who had plenty of degrees, but no degree of relationship with Christ. The Spirit of Wisdom is wiser than the brilliance of man. If you have a great education, surrender it to God so it can be used as a great tool in the work. But don’t come into the church telling the pastor what you learned about ministry. Chances are your professor didn’t spend much if any time doing what your pastor has been doing for many years.
SERVICE > SUGGESTIONS – We like to be valuable. We seek significance, and want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. So we like to have good ideas. Good ideas are not bad. Pastors like good ideas. But they would rather have a servant than a suggestion any day of the week. Most pastors get a load of ideas, but they are not usually accompanied by people who want to carry them out. People sometimes bring ideas from previous churches. They may come up to the pastor and say, “Pastor, at our other church we had a coffee ministry. Maybe we should offer coffee between Sunday School and worship service.” The pastor may reply, “That sounds like it may be a great way to encourage fellowship… why don’t you go ahead and start that up? Let us know what you need.” Quite often the person who brought the idea will shrink back. They had a suggestion… but they weren’t offering themselves as a servant/worker to get the ministry done. I have had this exact conversation with people. Many times it is a reflection of our consumer culture. We want another option to enjoy ourselves, but we don’t see it as an opportunity to employ our gifts. Here’s a freebie… pastors generally don’t need more ideas. They need more involvement. Before you suggest a new ministry opportunity for the church, ask yourself if you would volunteer to do it… for longer than a month. If your answer is, “No”, then perhaps you should pray that God will raise up someone else to mention and do it.
FAITHFULNESS > FLURRY – Most people do want to serve. I believe that. But frankly most people are better starters than finishers. This is especially frustrating when it comes to ministry. A church may have a ‘ministry fair’ where people sign up to serve in various capacities. Jim wants to get involved. He signs up to be a greeter. The first couple of weeks Jim is 15 minutes earlier than the first car. He has the biggest smile on his face as he shakes hands and gives out bulletins. But by the end of the first month, he is rolling in 10 minutes later, having to park farther away, and when he enters the door, his supervisor is handing him a bulletin. Before you know it, he is coming in after the song service. We have good intentions, but our follow-through is not great. Good intentions are not success. Faithfulness is success. Most people do not run away from their commitments. They usually drift from them. This is not good for you personally, the team with which you are serving, or the church as a whole. Service runs on sacrifice. And pastors have see all too often people who start ministry well, but finish poorly. This doesn’t just happen in their church service, but will usually carry over into their spiritual walk. If you aren’t going to follow through with your commitment, don’t sign up… or better yet, ask God to build you in the area of faithfulness. Then everyone wins.
You pastor is probably a capable person. He probably does more than he should, because he can, and because he doesn’t have enough faithful help. Too many pastors, and other volunteers end up having to pick up the dropped ministry of well-meaning, but non-committed people. Then some of those people who slacked off actually have the nerve to complain about how ministry is executed in that church. This ought not to be. God has not equipped any church to do everything, but He has gifted every church to accomplish its specific calling. You are part of that gifting… that equipping.
The apostle Paul gave this word to early Christians trying to serve in the Church…
“Speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)
So, use your God-given talents, education, ideas and energy to serve your church and reach the world. But do so with the calling, relationship, sacrifice, and faithfulness God has birthed in you.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.