What are you? Volunteer or Servant?

Have you ever thought about the difference between a volunteer and a servant?  The word “volunteer” is very common in every community.  People generally volunteer at the local school, hospital, soup kitchen or mission.  But when you hear the word “servant” it has an association with lowly humility or slave so we resist any association.  However, the Biblical idea of becoming a servant is a loving choice to do the kingdom work of Jesus (Luke 22:24-30).  You might say, it is serving people as the hands and feet of Jesus.  In fact, in contrast to the modern culture, the Bible never mentions the word volunteer and yet servant is a very common word.

The dictionary defines volunteer as “freely offering to do something.” It is generally understood that volunteers are unpaid but in the case of the “volunteer army,” the soldiers are paid but not drafted or forced to enlist.  In comparison, the dictionary defines servant as “one that serves others; one that performs duties for the person or home of a master or personal employer.”  We also understand the word servant in the context of public servant, for instance, our elected officials.  

There is one other perspective when it comes to servanthood and that is the biblical perspective.  Jesus is our model of what it means to be a servant (Php 2:5-8).  He served all of humanity by becoming a sacrifice on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (1 Peter 2:24). As Christians, we are servants of the Most High God and of one another. It is a matter of love and obedience to Jesus.  If you feel forced or compelled, then your heart is not right toward the privilege of serving.  The deeper issue may be a strained relationship between you and God. All in all, we serve on the basis of love (John 14:15), obedience to God’s calling in our lives and His equipping for ministry.  In fact, the Holy Spirit has given every Christian a spiritual gift (1 Cor 12, Romans 12, Eph 4:11-12) to serve others and build up the church.

How does a volunteer mindset verse a servant mindset impact the local church?  In my experience, people with a “volunteer” mentality typically are not committed to the overall ministry of the church. They come and go virtually with the wind. Their service is short-term and sporadic. They may serve with heart initially, but it quickly becomes an obligation when they stop having fun or the newness wears off. They tend to bounce around. Their promises mean little as they make commitments they don’t keep. For that matter, they often sign up but don’t show up. They quit or back out of their obligation easily and sometimes without warning or notice. But, in the attitude of Paul (Gal 3:20), servants are distinctly different. Servants are fully devoted followers of Christ and they are committed to the ministry of His church. They consistently show up, stand up and serve. Their word is their bond. They pray for and look after the needs of others. They may get discouraged, but they bounce back and focus on the love of Christ and the call to serve others. What are you? Volunteer or servant?

A Work in Progress,

Pastor Gene