I once posted the following on a social media page:
“Is God calling you to serve Him? What is your answer?”
It’s a relatively straightforward question. Yes or no. And yet not so simple.
Ministry leaders often walk a tightrope when it comes to recruiting volunteers. We encourage believers to express their love for the Lord and for others by serving. But at the same time, we don’t want to create an environment where busyness is exalted at the expense of their relationship with the Lord.
Remember the church at Ephesus in the second chapter of Revelation? The apostle John was commanded to address this letter to them:
“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance…You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:2a, 3-4 NIV).
Their problem? Activity had displaced intimacy.
The last thing we want is to replicate Revelation’s Ephesian church in our own organizations. Still, the work of ministry must go on. So consider these four suggestions:
- Begin by remembering service that truly pleases God flows from a willing heart that loves Him. It’s not done begrudgingly or under compulsion. Dragging people on a guilt trip is not the answer. Our first step is to help those in our ministry remember—and if necessary, return to—their “first love.”
- Encourage and teach our volunteers and potential volunteers to recognize the promptings and call of the Holy Spirit in their lives. We don’t want to usurp the role of the Holy Spirit or push people into ministry roles the Lord isn’t calling them to fulfill. Placing someone in a position they are not called to fill means the person whom God intended for that role will not be able to fulfill his/her own call.
- Educate people in our ministry regarding available opportunities for service. As people recognize the Holy Spirit’s promptings, they will be prepared to step into the role to which they’ve been called.
- Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)—without an added dollop of guilt—when excuses are offered for why they cannot serve. For example:
- I don’t have time. We all have the same 24-hour day and 7-day week. Is it possible we’re filling our days with good things, but not the best things? With activities that someone else can – and should – do instead.
- My family comes first. Absolutely! Still, are we only telling our children about sacrifice, service, and selflessness, or are we modeling it for them?
- I’m not qualified. “God often qualifies the called, rather than calling the qualified.” Although this has almost become a cliché, it’s as true today as it was when Moses objected to God’s call because he felt unqualified (Exodus 3 – 4).
- This is way out of my comfort zone. Good. That means we’ll rely on the Lord rather than our own strength.
- It’s not a good time. Is there ever a good time? If we wait for the ideal, convenient time to serve, it will never happen! (I’ve been waiting for things to get back to “normal” for decades. I’ve finally resigned myself to a new normal.)
- There are too many obstacles. “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Do we truly believe this? Why not ask God to show Himself powerfully on our behalf and see what happens
- I don’t think it’s a good idea. Have we prayed about it? Really prayed about it? And then listened for the answer? Really listened?
Of course, there are many circumstances in which no is the right answer. Still, all too often, negative responses are a knee-jerk reaction, flowing from a desire for comfort and convenience and a failure to humbly seek God’s leading.
Henry Varley, a friend of D.L. Moody, once said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.” Moody responded with a committed life sold out to God without reservation.
Will you and I do the same? And will we encourage others to focus on magnifying God even when it’s not convenient? Future generations will be impacted by our present sacrificial obedience!
Ava Pennington is the author of Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, published by Revell Books and endorsed by Kay Arthur. In addition to writing, she teaches a Bible Study Fellowship class.