In Praise of Volunteers

My local church is on a journey though the book of Proverbs—a chapter a day for 31 days. Each day I receive an email from my pastor that offers thoughts and insights into that day’s readings. It has been an interesting and excellent exercise in spiritual discipline.

As I wander through this wisdom literature, I occasionally stop and notice how wonderfully God provides a window into his heart and mind. While I know that none of us will ever understand God fully, it is delightful to catch glimpses of God’s desire for our lives.

I am struck by how often Proverbs makes reference to our words. “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver. . . . The lips of the righteous nourish many” (Prov. 10:20-21).

We all acknowledge the power of words in our daily lives. Words can raise our spirits or cut deeper than a knife. Words, once spoken, cannot be withdrawn. Sometimes they leave an indelible mark.

Words can build trust, but words misspoken can destroy trust in a heartbeat; the resulting damage can take a lifetime to repair.

Proverbs reminds us that the right words spoken at the right time are precious. As I reflect on words that have had the most impact on my life, I note that two of the richest words in the world are “thank you.” As a child, my parents insisted that I express thanks whenever appropriate. Even today I often hear my mother’s voice: “What do you say?”

This month’s Church at Work pages include stories about volunteers—women and men who give selflessly of their time, talents, and resources to advance the kingdom of God. Their work is done not out of selfish ambition but out of a deep love for Christ and his church. Rather than hording the resources God provides, they happily use those gifts by giving to others.

To these folks, I want to say thank you! Thank you for your service. Thank you for your unselfish attitudes. Thank you for what you do for God’s church and kingdom.

As we celebrate these diligent servants, we are reminded that they are not alone. The church is filled with a multitude of volunteers. Those who give freely of their time and energy form the backbone of the church. Without them, the church would cease to exist.

I have the opportunity to visit many churches, and I have observed that vibrant, healthy churches are filled with volunteers. These churches are not relying on paid staff to do the work; they are staffed by volunteers who keep the ministries and programs alive and well. People in those churches are actively engaged in outreach, congregational care, discipleship, and prayer. They respect and support their leaders, but they do not expect them to do most of the work of ministry.

These churches reflect the beautiful image of the body of Christ described by Paul in Romans 12. Together, all the different members form one body. But this only happens when all the members of the body are using the gifts that God has provided.

You might think that your work in Christ’s body is unimportant or inconsequential, but it is not. Paul himself acknowledged the importance of all the gifts when he reminded us that “those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor” (1 Cor. 12:22-23).

So today, I want to thank all those who serve as volunteers in Christ’s church. May God bless you and your ministry. May he fill you with his grace and give you strength to continue your mission. May you know and feel his presence in your life.

And again, thank you.

About the Author

Jerry Dykstra served as the executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America from 2006-2011.
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