by Tosca Ferndale
Volunteer Coordinator, Shofar Stellenbosch
February was Activate Month – a month in which our churches presented the various opportunities for congregation members to get involved in ministries and services. As we come to the end of the month, we asked Tosca to share about why we serve in church.
All who desire to serve God share the need to lay everything they have at the altar to one day hear these words: “Well done my good and faithful servant”. However, we can so easily get caught up in the Father’s affirmation that we forget to bask in the Father’s acceptance.
I have always been someone who has had a desire to serve. When I got saved, I found complete satisfaction in channelling all of my serving energy towards the Lord. However, for a long time I served as a slave. I lived in fear that the Lord would return and I would be found to be wicked and unfaithful; to be the servant who squandered the gifts the Lord had given them. I thus threw my gifts frantically and fearfully at the altar. Running and running and running – hoping to just make it over the finish line and receive my eternal reward of being called a good and faithful servant.
However, this is not the reward. Jesus is our eternal and everlasting reward. Communion with the Father through Jesus Christ is the gift we received when we became sons and daughters. I realised this one morning when I was crying in my car, waiting for intercession to start. As I was breaking down before the Lord, I shared my heart concerning serving with Him for what felt like the first time. I was burnt out, I was run down. I feared disappointing Him. I felt like an instrument that was only valued for what function it could fulfil in the Kingdom. A function I needed to prove, lest I be discarded. It was in this moment that the Lord started walking a road of sonship with me. (As a side note, please remember that both sons and daughters are included under the term ‘sonship’.) The Lord started showing me how I am first a daughter in His house, and as an expression of this sonship, of this acceptance, I serve.
Sons vs. Slaves
The matter of sonship is one that resonates so deeply with the modern Christian. With so many options of where to serve and things to do, it is often hard to sift through the noise and understand that you must first BE. We are inclined to DO to gain the necessary acceptance and/or membership into the house. In addition, we often fear that if we do not serve, we will be discarded – be found unworthy of Him. When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples in Matthew 10, we see that He first called the twelve disciples to Him. Thereafter He gave them authority and then instruction on how to go out. He calls us first to be with Him before He charges us to do anything.
In Romans 8: 14-16 we read, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”. The Spirit bearing witness to our identity as children of God was never on condition that we serve. On the contrary, we serve as an expression of our sonship. We serve because we are sons/daughters, not to become sons/daughters. We are free from our bondage to slavery and fear.
I often use the example of a natural family to illustrate this point. You assume responsibility of your natural house because you are a son/daughter in the house. You wash dishes, clean your room, lend a hand when guests are over, run errands for your mother or father. You take ownership of your home because it is just that, YOURS.
The same goes for the house of God. Once you have become a son/daughter, you take ownership of your home and serving naturally flows from this place. You will put your hand to the plough where you see fit. But if you are orphaned you will assume the position of a slave. You will be subject to the master, taking ownership only of that which you are commanded to do. Slaves do what they are paid/obliged to do. Their interest is in their wages/acceptance/reward. A son’s interest lies in the house and the will of their father.
A call to serve
That said, when you are planted in your identity as a son in the house, there remains a challenge to not serve out of performance, desiring acceptance. The need is indeed great and the labourers are indeed few. However, in understanding your position, you also need to understand your place in the house. We are the body and we cannot all do everything. The reality is that church often runs on a small percentage of volunteers whose hearts are to serve. We all know that one member who is on the worship team, makes coffee, intercedes, does the announcements, facilitates ministry and sets down after the service. Burnout is a reality many people have experienced and to avoid this we need to respond to the call to serve in prayerful obedience.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. If you are an ear – don’t try to be an arm. I often tell volunteers – don’t volunteer at Children’s Church if you dislike children. The Kingdom will come in that ministry without your disgruntled offering. What greater pleasure is there than to enquire from your Designer what He would have you do?
When considering where to serve, bring the decision to the Lord. Pray concerning where to put your hand to the plough.
Please note: if your district and therefore your Small Group is on ushering duty – you do not need to pray about whether you should usher or not. Some service is based on the fact that you are planted in your church, and you are necessary for that function to be fulfilled.
Not every good thing is a thing God is calling you to. The Lord doesn’t ask us simply to be good people, but to be obedient people. Thus, when considering taking on ministries in church, seek the Lord’s heart. Prayerfully consider where to serve and where to build. Then, being obedient to His Word and voice in your life, serve. Get in touch with someone at your church office who can point you in the right direction. Get some accountability around this area. Learn how to draw healthy boundaries in which you can freely serve the Lord.
This is wonderful. But remember that you are first a son/daughter in the house. Your acceptance is not dependent on your serving. On the contrary, your serving is an expression of your acceptance. Prayerfully consider each ministry and ask the Lord where He would have you serve in the coming season. Let us not see serving as a duty, but as alabaster boxes we break, willingly, at the Lord’s feet.