by Emily Frady
Ah, that blissful moment. The service was worshipful, the message spiritual and informative, and the Spirit moved during the altar call. Your mind now drifts happily to the waiting Sunday afternoon meal.
Suddenly, a snag to your Sunday morning euphoria surfaces its ugly head and devastates that peaceful moment—announcements. Okay, maybe it’s not the announcements themselves that bring such terror; it’s the volunteer “opportunities” that pose themselves along with the announcements. No, no, it’s not even the volunteer opportunities—it’s the guilt that tacks itself to them.
You know what I am talking about. The moment service is dismissed, “that lady” who plans everything in church is about to bolt toward you proclaiming, “The Lord really needs you to do this for Him. He told me that we cannot do this without your talents.”
Perhaps verbal guilt is not the key player in torment here. Visions of the last church dinner flash through your mind, when you were struggling to carry in the sodas you barely had time to pick up, and Susie Homemaker breezed past you, single-handedly carrying five casseroles, a basket of homemade bread, and a cake decorated with edible flowers from the island of Bora Bora.
Augh! Pleasant Sunday dinner thoughts suddenly get pushed aside by moments of anxious planning and worries over how you will fit a new task into your already busy week.
Service driven by guilt. Should it be a key motivator in our own servitude? Should it be our tool to enlist others to volunteer? It certainly seems effective in getting it done. When we see others bustling around, completing all the tasks around us, we tend to think we are really doing something worthy of merit for the Lord. There’s simply one enormous problem: to God, giving is a matter of the heart, not of the deed.
Modern-day servitude in the church, (I shudder at this comparison) is reminiscent of the half-hearted offerings given to the Lord in the days of Malachi. People slipped away from giving the best they had been given. After all, their best animals could be used for food or to bring in monetary gain for a family. They were sure the Lord would let it slide if they gave Him something of lesser value. Their hearts were more focused on their own needs—only to give the Lord a hollow offering that was really no sacrifice at all. Their offering gave an appearance of service, but only served to silence the guilt in their own hearts.
I shamefully lift my hand to acknowledge. Yes, I am more apt to serve with an attitude similar to those in Malachi's day than the “cheerful giving” attitude in 2 Corinthians 9:7. I dare say many of us, on more than one occasion, have owned or promoted this hollow attitude of servitude. We cannot (and should not want to) fully control the actions and attitudes of others, but we can change our attitude of servitude and encourage a right attitude for others instead of promoting the wrong one at the starting line.
In the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42), a passage commonly used in connection with this subject, I tend to think Jesus was not so concerned that Martha was working away. Service is certainly important; things must be done. Rather, I think Jesus was trying to show Martha that her attitude about service “stunk.” She wanted to do these “things” for Jesus, but her heart was not in the right place. Perhaps Martha had not “sat at the feet of Jesus,” and her heart was not prepared to bring glory to God’s name through her service.
Our heart needs the same preparation. Spend time in reading and meditation before taking on a task. Make this your daily practice and encourage (don’t guilt) those in your group to do the same. Being in tune with God allows us to see tasks as opportunities to serve. And His sweet words tend to annihilate a rotten attitude toward these opportunities.
Here’s a “but wait, there’s more” pitch if I have failed to sell you on the guilt-free service and recruitment process: not only do we offer praise to Him with a cheerful heart, but He also uses our worshipful service as a witnessing tool. After all, bringing others to Christ offers the ultimate glory to God. Who will want to simply trudge through the mundane, when they see in you that God offers supernatural joy in the everyday? I love how Paul puts it: “Not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they might be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:33).
What can you do in your area of impact to eliminate guilt-driven service? How can you replace it with wholehearted worship so we can truly advance the kingdom of God? Pray before volunteering and encourage your potential recruits to do the same; try to give your recruits plenty of time to pray about how their talents can be used. Meditate and read to drive away a nasty attitude; replace it with the joy God offers in our service.
And remember, sometimes picking up a few two-liters of soda is all a schedule can handle. Thankfully, they are not just a tool for silencing guilt in service, but a tool for bringing glory to the name of the Lord.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have some attitude adjustments to make as I prance to the kitchen cheerfully to wash those Sunday dinner dishes.
About the Writer: Emily Frady is a native of the small town of New Hope, Tennessee. She and husband Jacob live near Knoxville, Tennessee, where Jacob is pastor of Valley View Free Will Baptist Church.