If you don’t have enough volunteers, then quit is basically what I recently read by a well known Christian leader in an online article. He gave advice on what to do if your church is struggling getting volunteers. One suggestion was to rotate weekly between meeting in person for worship to meeting the alternate week online.
Through the years in putting many of my thoughts and ideas in writing I can’t remember ever being negative of another person’s thoughts and ideas. I will not name the Christian leader or criticize him because it will not do anything but create dissension to those who embrace this leader. But, I will give my thoughts on his idea of gathering face to face every other week because of a lack of volunteers to serve.
I need to state upfront that I am not against churches and ministries using technology that we are privileged to have in the 21st century to get the gospel to those who cannot attend. As I am writing this article, I am headed out west to attend a wedding and spend a few days having fun with my daughter. I am thankful we will be able to watch our church online while we are in the mountains in Montana.
I am grateful that the pandemic of 2020 allowed the church to connect with millions upon millions who were not able to attend and gather together for worship, evangelism, equipping and edifying.
I am thankful that many who are not physically able to attend a local church gathering can participate through the technology that online provides.
However, let me state why I am so opposed to asking a local church to gather in person every other week as an alternative to addressing a lack of volunteers. First, if Jesus should be our example as Paul tells us in I Corinthians 11:1 then we need to look to how He challenged those who showed up to hear Him speak. When I read encounters where many came to hear Jesus like in Matthew 19 (“Large crowds followed him,… – vs. 2) I don’t read of Him lowering the bar for following Him, but raising the cost to follow Him.
I hear many leaders talk about how the Church in America creates consumers more than it creates disciples. This is popular to say, but I am sure I will get nasty responses when I equate a church that would consider having church every other week in person as creating consumer Christianity. I have noticed the Church in America likes theoretical statements when it comes to raising the bar of following Christ, but quickly calls anything that is specific like I am calling meeting every week in person as creating consumers not disciples as mean spirited and legalistic.
My second objection to the church gathering less in person is this goes so much against what I read happened in the early church. The Church was birthed in Acts 2 and Luke the author of the book of Acts tells us “EVERY day they continued to meet together” (Acts 2:46). The 1980’s ushered into the American church what has been called the “Seeker Movement”. While the terminology is not as popular today, the movement is still alive and well in how it influences churches and individuals to give less, not more in living out the Christian life TOGETHER as a local body of believers. I admire Willow Community Church who many consider to be the forerunner of the seeker movement for having the courage to provide the research in the book Reveal that points out that the grand experiment of the seeker church didn’t make disciples but consumers. Sadly, again while many will acknowledge the research is true in Reveal, few churches will address how to counter the drift to consumer Christianity that in my opinion is epitomized in a willingness to meet in person every other week because there are not enough volunteers.
First, I feel we should get away from using the term “volunteer” when it comes to recruiting people to serve in our churches. A “volunteer” thinks about giving their time, talent, gifts and resources to serve. We should refer to those serving in our churches as “servants” called by God to serve and love one another. Interestingly, in the Bible the word “volunteer” is used only three times while the word “servant” is used over 1,000 times. A “servant” does what their master tells them to do. Jesus said in Matthew 20:28 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Paul tells us, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (I Corinthians 11:1).
Some of you who have stayed with me long enough to read to this point may be saying, “Okay, Jay you don’t agree with gathering every other week in person due to a lack of volunteers so what is your solution?” Glad you asked 🙂
Secondly, the Christian leader who wrote the article I referred to at the beginning gave one solution that I totally agree with him. He said churches should evaluate all they do and determine if they should eliminate some of the ministries they currently are trying to staff. Remember this important theological truth:
In Acts 3 Luke tells the story where the lame beggar was healed through the words of Peter. Luke tells us the lame beggar was carried to the temple gate “every day”. Jesus most certainly passed the lame beggar. He entered the temple gate, yet did not heal him.
Thirdly, churches should become more intentional in helping their people discover how they are “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.
(Ephesians 2:10) PLACE Ministries has spent the last 24 years creating resources (see suggested resources) to intentionally assist churches in helping their members discover how God has uniquely created them so they can be and do what God created them for in life and ministry. And that includes serving in the local church!
Finally, churches and its leaders need to raise the bar of commitment and be willing like Jesus to have people walk “away sad” (Matthew 19:22) because they were unwilling to count the cost of what being a committed follower of Christ involves. Jesus knew something that I desperately wish many leaders in the Church in America today would discover. Lowering the bar doesn’t create committed followers of Christ, but consumer seeking individuals who walk “away sad” when they are challenged.
Several years ago, I was with a missionary from China who told me about those who committed their lives to Christ and became part of local churches in China. Before officially being accepted in the local church those desiring to affiliate with the church were taken to a cemetery. They were shown graves of those who were killed for their faith in Christ and their affiliation with a local church. They raised the standard of what being a follower of Christ entails right from the beginning.