by Pastor Patrick Cho
One of the potential challenges of local church ministry is that most of the people who serve do so on a volunteer basis. If you are serving on a ministry staff, the reality is that while you might want to give your all to it, you most likely also have other commitments like work, school, and family that rightfully demand your time and energy. Being involved in church does not mean that you are called to abandon all other commitments. Providing excellent service in church ministry does not require quitting your job, dropping out of school, or leaving your family.
However, it is sadly easy to treat church ministry as if it is on a lower tier of importance than these other commitments. One reason for this is an incorrect assumption that most of the ministry should be performed by the pastors and leaders of the church, while the rest of the members are simply there to assist. There are some who believe that since pastors are paid to do ministry, it is only right that they shoulder the bulk of the work of ministry. Another reason is that people in the church compartmentalize spiritual things and do not see how Christ impacts every area of their lives. One outworking of this error is that people pursue marriage and career much like the rest of the world, treating these things as of ultimate importance. Church ministry, then, is relegated as optional or time-permitting, not much different than any other hobby or recreation. The thinking is essentially, “God, let me take care of all the ‘me’ stuff, and then I will give myself to the ‘You’ stuff.”
Because of these reasons and more, there can be a tendency to grow lax in service of the church. We put in less of an effort and do not strive for excellence in what we do. It is easy to procrastinate, get lazy, and drop the ball. Since you are probably not paid for your ministry to the church, it can be easy to develop a mentality that you will only serve when it is comfortable or convenient. On the other hand, it might simply be that you have been running so hard for so long that you are simply tired and so you are not serving at the level of excellence you once did.
While there is an understanding that church ministry is not all you are supposed to do, what you do ought to be done well to the glory of God. There are several reasons we need to be careful not to relegate church ministry as an inferior commitment.
- The Lord is ultimately the one you serve. Whether it is at home, at school, at work, or at church, God is the one we ultimately serve (cf. Col. 3:23-24). He is Lord of all. Thus, we must not compartmentalize certain aspects of our lives as ours and others as His. It is all His. Additionally, when it comes to our service in the church, we ought to strive for excellence because what we do is offered to God as worship. Everything we do is to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). God demands our best because we have been set apart unto Him who is most excellent.
- You are called to serve, so you are not just a volunteer. A volunteer is someone who freely offers to do something. But believers do not serve out of the goodness of their own hearts. We are commanded to serve, and this service is to be done from a loving, willing, and joyful heart. The Bible teaches that this is the higher purpose for which we were created (Eph. 2:10). It is not only the responsibility of the church leaders. Ephesians 4:11-12 says that the members of the church are equipped to do the work of ministry. It is something all believers are called to do.
- You have been gifted and equipped by God to participate. Your service in the church is a stewardship of what God has entrusted to you by His grace. Oftentimes, we fall into the mentality that our talents, skills, gifts, and abilities are there to heighten our experience as individuals. We want to improve ourselves. While this is not necessarily evil in and of itself, believers are given a greater purpose. God has blessed you to be a blessing. This is why Paul employs the body metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14. Although each member of the body is unique in its ability and giftedness, all the parts are required to work in conjunction in order for the body as a whole to thrive and mature. You have not been given what you have only to invest it in you. You have also been given these skills and abilities to employ them in the service of the church that others might benefit and be blessed.
- Other people are counting on you. When you are unfaithful to your ministry commitments, it affects more than just you. Again, Paul likens service in the church to the physical body. Imagine if part of your body decided to take a break or not function at 100%. That is detrimental to the entire body. We can serve with excellence as an act of love to our fellow brothers and sisters. In Christian discipleship, our commitment to excellence can also serve as a helpful example for others to follow.
- You can reap an eternal reward. When we commit ourselves to the service of the church in obedience to Scripture with excellence and from a right heart, we can be assured that God is well-pleased. It is good to be reminded that we strive for something greater than the rewards and accolades of this life. By investing in what is eternal, we store up a heavenly reward that is imperishable and unfading (1 Pet. 1:4).
In the end, consideration needs to be given to each side. The church should not overburden its members requiring so much that other commitments suffer. Take family for instance: if the church demands so much of your time that it is detrimental to your family because you are honestly left with little time for your spouse and children, then the church should reconsider its program to ensure that it is not designed to cause you to sin against your family by neglecting them.
At the same time, there are many people who use family as an excuse not to get involved in the ministry of the church. We need to be wary of using family this way as a sort of trump card. The Bible does not say that we are all members of one another until we have families of our own. It does not command us to love one another and serve one another until we start a family. Of course, it can be challenging to discern how to be excellent both in church ministry as well as in our homes, but we are called to both.