Tuesday, 20 April 2010

I don't want volunteers in my congregation! by Peter Lockhart

I continually strike the language of volunteers in the church. It usually runs alongside the differentiation between those 'paid' to do ministry and those who 'volunteer'. If we put aside the whole notion of what a stipend is actually meant to be there is a huge problem with talking about volunteers in the church.

Literally a volunteer is an 'unpaid helper'. It is the underlying definition of what it means to be a human being that is particularly disconcerting. So often when use the word volunteer we risk reducing human beings to commodities, as is done in our Western society.  Moreover, to speak of the idea that 'time is money' elevates the dollar over the a life well lived.  If we view people who give time to the church as volunteers, as noble as this may sound to some, we are reducing the church to an insitution and the value of gifts to how much money is given.

When Jesus invited people to follow him he was looking for disciples not volunteers. Morevover, when we are baptised we are drawn into Jesus Christ's ascended life and transformed to be his body in the world.

This means that as we engage in our 'works' for the church, our engagement is as people living out our baptism in the power of the Holy Spirit, not as volunteers doing work for nothing.

The prevalence of the idea that church members volunteer is yet another sign of the subordination of the gospel and following Jesus to our Western culture. Is it not time to recapture something of what it means to be baptised people not volunteers!

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