Joyless Christian Service, Part 1
(Originally published 9/2014)
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." --Jesus (John 15:11)
She jogs into her church committee meeting breathless, forcing a smile, issuing the standard, “Sorry I’m late” apology. She’s thinking,
“If they had seen me 10 minutes ago yelling at my husband to ‘please be sure the kids brush their teeth before bed, and for the love of all that’s good, make them clean up the toy room this time, and I’d really like to not have dishes to clean when I get home!’ and prying a crying child off my leg, apologizing for being gone another night, and ‘I’ll make it up to you tomorrow, Sweetie, I promise’ - they’d be seriously impressed by the smile I just managed.”
She settles down in her chair, grateful for the pot of coffee and cookies, but feeling slightly guilty that she hasn’t brought treats yet, and she’s been coming to these meetings every month for a year. The topic of the meeting is the same as all the previous 11 – how do we get more people to volunteer for our committee? She feels the resentment building as she pictures some of her friends in the church who don’t sacrifice nearly as much as she does. Her best friend only serves in one ministry. She’s lost track of the ministries she’s involved in. She can’t remember a Sunday in the past 6 months where she wasn’t serving in some capacity.
“Must be nice to just show up to church with your family and enjoy the service while some of us work our butts off”, she muses.
The committee chair has posed a question: “How can we word our appeal so that we don’t sound so desperate? Should we make a list of all the benefits of joining our committee?”
“Ha!” she’s thinking in her seat. “I’ll tell you what’s so great about joining this committee. You get to spend more time away from your family serving other families who don’t contribute. You get to be the one people call when they need help, and you get to drop everything to pitch in. Doesn’t that sound great?”
When it is her turn to contribute to the list, she smiles and says out loud,
“I think at the top of the list should be that Jesus is pleased when we serve His body.”
“So true!” says the committee chair, and the others nod their heads. “We are the hands and feet of Christ after all.”
And immediately she feels guilty for her attitude, reminding herself that Jesus paid the ultimate price, and serving him is the least she can do to show her gratitude.
Maybe you know someone like this person. Maybe you are this person. I know I can definitely identify with her. Is this really how Jesus expects us to live our lives – wearing ourselves out for him, serving until we are one big walking ball of resentment and joylessness? How did the church move from being a community of people who love and care for each other to a second job where you find yourself avoiding certain leaders, knowing that your conversation will always come around to “the ask”? How can churches which are powered mostly by volunteers avoid burning out those volunteers? It seems there are always more needs than there are people to fill them. And can we please stop using guilt tactics to get more people to serve?
I want to spend a few blogs discussing the topic of joyless Christian service. What are some sure-fire ways to lose your joy? How can you regain it? How can the church become a place where people love and serve God and each other in fullness of joy?