Just One More Thing

As I Was Saying

As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.

There is always something more to be done.

This is one of life’s universal realities and one that certainly applies to church life. What exactly that “more” is can vary wildly and involve a range of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual effort. In the life of a congregation, the “more” will depend on the size and demographic makeup of the church, its ministry priorities, and geographic location, among other factors. Nonetheless, every congregation has a list of “more” they are constantly trying to accomplish.

And if there’s something to be done, then someone needs to do it. Therein lies one of the big tensions in communal life: if you say you value the life of the local church, you need to contribute to it in whatever ways your physical and mental health allow. While we know that God can—and does—work wonders, we are also called to be God’s hands and feet. In my experience, a church potluck is more likely to be successful if most attendees accept and fulfil their responsibility to contribute food rather than relying on the miraculous methods described in the story of the five loaves and two fishes.

In a small congregation, the (in)action of a single individual can have a major impact on what is (not) possible, which means the call of duty is also amplified. I am one of those people who feels a particular sense of duty (cue The West Wing). I have been blessed in more ways than I can count, and such blessings ought to inspire gracious service in honor of their giver.

Nonetheless, I sometimes wonder if this is a unique combination of socialized gender expectations (women bear responsibility for things that happen), personal temperament (I believe time invested demonstrates priorities), and stage of life (mid-30s). I watch others get degrees, raise children, assume positions of leadership at work, serve in their communities, and think, Of course your time is consumed by other priorities! Who am I to think you ought to assume more church-related responsibilities? Clearly I need to step up so you don’t have to.

This line of thinking is reinforced by the niggling reminder in the back of my mind that God didn’t promise Christians a life of ease. My own minor complaints seem petty in comparison to what others face, exactly the kind of refining fire I should be grateful to pass through if it means I have (so far) avoided financial insecurity, life-altering health conditions, or other trials. (Reading the tale of the prodigal son, I feel an uncomfortable kinship with the angry elder son.) And as I noted earlier, not doing something doesn’t mean the task goes away; it just gets reassigned to someone else—or not done at all. I am loathe to be the reason something valuable in the life of the church is lost.

However, deciding to take it all on doesn’t convey a healthy trust in God’s provision, or trust in others to be the elbows while I focus on being the spleen (to stretch a biblical metaphor). Perhaps some of that time spent crankily wallowing in dutifulness would be better used for figuring out how to identify and train new lay volunteers/leaders so that they’re aware of and ready to take on additional roles. Perhaps a chat with someone on another committee would provide a welcome (and honest) perspective that others are serving the church doing things of which I was totally unaware. Perhaps it really is time to acknowledge the kingdom work accomplished through a particular program or initiative, thank God for its impact, and then graciously close that chapter. Perhaps it means more time spent in prayer and in Scripture asking God to help transform dutiful resentment into joyful, gracious service.

There is always something more to be done. But God never calls us to do it alone.

About the Author

Amy Vander Vliet is communications manager for Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and Office of the Vice President for Global Engagement. She is a member of Washington, DC CRC.

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