Volunteer Celebration

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November 5, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker

Sermon Notes

Today is a way of trying to recognize what folks are doing, and honestly, today is about helping those of you who are new to Calvary understand the way that we tick. -what makes us who we are around here. Do you know that what we do isn’t just part of what Calvary is about. This is part of what Jesus’s church is supposed to be doing. In fact, the philosophy that we have about volunteers leading the church, that’s just not something that we made up; this comes directly from Scripture.

I want to show you what really drives the way that we do volunteer ministry around our church. It’s actually just one verse, but I’ll give you the context. It’s found in Ephesians chapter 4. This is the great apostle, Paul. He has started this church in a Greek city called Ephesus, and he’s explaining to this church that this is the way a church is supposed to function, and Calvary Baptist Church functions like this passage of Scripture says all churches are supposed to function. Here’s what he says:

Ephesians 4:11-13
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Let me show you what he’s saying here. Jesus loves his church. Jesus wants to grow his church, and in order for Jesus to grow his church, Jesus put some people in positions of leadership. He lists the positions of leadership: Some are apostles. Some are prophets. Some are evangelists. Some are pastors/teachers.

These are positions of leadership, but verse 12 really describes what these people are supposed to do and how the church is supposed to function. Those pastors and evangelists and apostles – “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and to build up the church, the body of Christ.” 

Notice what it’s saying here. The pastors and evangelists and apostles, they’re believers in Jesus, so they are supposed to be doing ministry too, but God has given them positions in the church, and their job is to raise up the people of the church. Many churches in America (frankly many churches in Columbus, Georgia or in Phenix City, Alabama) function like this: The pastor does all of the ministry. The people in the church sit back and eat popcorn and drink Coke and watch the pastors do all the ministry. Ephesians chapter 4, verse 12 says that’s not how it’s supposed to work. Pastors raise up the people of the church to go do the ministry of the church. It’s people ministering to people.

Verse 13 says, “When that’s happening, let me tell you what the church is like. This will continue (people ministering to people and pastors raising up volunteers who are serving Jesus is church) this will continue until we all come to such unity of faith and knowledge of God’s son, that we will be mature in the Lord measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.”

I. It’s important to God

I don’t really have a sermon, necessarily, for us today, but I do think you’re going to notice three things about the way that people serve each other in Jesus’s church, and here’s why we make such a big deal about it around here. First, it’s important to God. When you serve, whatever your service is (it doesn’t matter what you’re doing), what you do in Jesus’s church for Jesus’s church is important to God.  

This is what Ephesians chapter 4 is teaching -that God gave his mission to his church, and his church is supposed to accomplish that mission. We believe we can finish Jesus’s mission in our lifetime. If everyone in Jesus’s church starts to do what Jesus’s church is commanded to do, we can fulfill the great commission, literally, in our lifetime. But if it’s just the pastors and just the teachers doing the ministry, there’s no way this is going to happen. There’s no way Jesus’s church will continue to grow.  

The Bible says that the church is a body. It is Jesus’s physical representation here on earth, and when his body is doing what his body is supposed to do, everyone is better because of it. The whole city is better because of it. The kingdom of God is better because of it.

Yes, God gives some people to be pastors and some people to be apostles and elders and some to be teachers, but their role is not more important than a different volunteer. In fact, all of us who know Jesus should be giving our gifts and our talents. -using whatever talents and gifts that God has given us. Whatever it is that God has given you the talent to do, you should be using that talent to serve King Jesus.

II. It’s important to the group

It is important to Jesus. It’s important to Jesus’s church. But I also want you to know something. It’s important to everyone who comes in the doors. It’s important to the whole group when God’s people are serving the church. And when God’s people are serving the church, the church is better off because of it.

The Bible tells us that through people serving people, volunteers serving Jesus’s church, the church is equipped to be able to do what the body of Christ is called to do. Do you know that word equip is a medical term? It’s the term that doctors would use to set a broken bone, which means what that verse is saying, is that when the body of Christ is not doing what the body is called to do, when people are not volunteering, when they’re not serving the way God has gifted them to serve, the body is limping along like with a broken bone, and it’s going to be able to move forward, but it’s going to be slow and it’s going to be painful.

When people are serving people, when the body is ministering to the body and people are doing what the church has been called to do, the church can move quickly. The church can move smoothly. The body is moving efficiently when people are serving people around here. That’s why we teach if something happens in your family, if you have a health crisis, the first face that we hope you see is not one of our pastors. We would hope you see somebody from your LifeGroup, and really not even a LifeGroup leader. We would hope that you see somebody that you just do life with regularly at Calvary, and they are the first face that comes to see you at a hospital.

They are the people who come to your house, and they bring you food because you have a crisis or you have a need. This is the church ministering to the church and the body taking care of the body. Yes, LifeGroup leaders should show up. Perhaps pastors should be there, but definitely the body should be taking care of the body. The whole group is better off when that happens, and when it doesn’t happen, there’s a problem with what the Bible says the body is supposed to be doing.

Let me show you what happens when the body is taking care of the body, when the church is serving the church. When this is done right, when it’s done the way that God commands people to do it, all of us continue to grow up in faith. It’s the idea that if this doesn’t happen in a church, the church functions like a little baby. It has great needs that are not being met, because the people aren’t taking care of the people. We all grow up in the knowledge of God’s son when volunteers are serving each other in Jesus’s church, and we become mature in the Lord and measure up to the full and complete standards of Christ.

I want you to notice something about those last couple of words. The idea of being full is the idea that there is something lacking in the church that only the people of the church (the pastors can’t do it), the people of the church can do this for each other, but the pastors can’t do it themselves. And when the people are doing it, then the church is complete. Then the church is full. It’s the imagery of ripe fruit. If the people aren’t serving each other, then the fruit is raw, it’s underdeveloped. When the people are not working hand-in-hand with each other, the fruit becomes overripe. It just becomes nasty whenever it’s like that. The goal is that people are ministering to each other, and the body is taking care of the body.

III. It’s important to their growth

Volunteers are important to God. Volunteers are important to each other, to the church. They are important to the whole group. But here’s what else happens: It’s good for volunteers. They grow as individuals when people are serving each other.

This is why we unashamedly teach around here that at Calvary, every member should be a minister, and we teach that there isn’t one ministry that’s more important than others. Some ministries are more visible than others, but every ministry is important, and when the body is taking care of the body, everybody is better. When the body is serving each other and volunteering together, God’s church is better off. God is pleased with that.

But the residual is, you’re better off when you volunteer and when you serve. You don’t do it for yourself. You do it for King Jesus first, and then you do it for Jesus’s people second. But the residual benefit is, you end up growing; you become better as a believer when you’re giving to Jesus’s church. Churches that don’t take time to recognize this leave their people underdeveloped. Churches that don’t make a big deal about volunteers leave volunteers under-challenged. But the worst, in fact in my opinion the unforgivable, is when a church doesn’t do this, it leaves the volunteers of the church under-appreciated, and our whole goal today, the pastors and the leaders of this church, is just to tell those of you who are serving, thank you. We appreciate you. There is no way that we could do what we do without you.

Now I want us to transition for just a second, because if you’re new here, I want to be careful that you don’t put the cart before the horse. Here’s what I mean by this: Some people have this view in mind that, “I need to do a lot of good things for God so that he’ll love me.” In fact, I’ve met many people who have this personal idea of getting into Heaven: “If I do more good things in my life than the bad things in my life, then God is going to allow me to get into Heaven, because my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds.” Frankly, that kind of idea is found nowhere in the Bible.

So today I want to caution you. If you’re serving or if you’re giving to Jesus because you’re hoping that it earns his favor, that he becomes pleased with you because of the things that you do, that he would love you more because of the things that you do, I owe it to you to correct that today. -to say that you don’t do this to make God love you more. In fact, the only appropriate way to give to Jesus’s church is because he already loves you and you just simply do this out of devotion to him.

See, the danger is that somebody in this room will say, “Well I’m going to start to serve and I’m going to start to give and I’m going to start to pray harder and to read my Bible more, ‘cause I want God to love me more.” If that’s the idea that you have, then it just simply doesn’t fit with what the Bible and the Gospel teaches. Here’s what the Bible teaches: There’s nothing that you can offer God that’s going to make him love you more. In fact, what God asks you to give him is all of your sins, all of your mistakes, all of your failures. You come to him and you give him that and only that, and in exchange, he covers all of those mistakes, all of those sins with the blood of Jesus and he also gives you credit for the perfect, sinless life that Jesus lived. This is what the Gospel teaches.

We don’t serve to make God love us more, because we can’t make God love us more. We serve because he first loved us, and he gave his son to die for us, and because he loves us, we do this out of love for him.

Next Steps

• Today, I learned that I don’t serve other people to make Jesus love me.  I serve others because he already loves me. 

– I’d like to find a place where I can serve in this church.

+ I’ll personally thank one of the volunteers who serves me at this church this week.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the nicest thing that anyone has ever done for you?
  2. Some people work really hard at church because they think it will make God will love them more. What is wrong with this kind of thinking?
  3. When you love someone, you want to do something to show it. How does serving Jesus’ church show him that you love him?
  4. Read Psalm 2:11. What does it look like in our church to “serve the Lord with holy fear”?
  5. What ministry has the biggest need at Calvary? What ministry has the most urgent need in our church?
  6. What is a practical way you can show your appreciation to those who serve you at Calvary?
  7. Pray that God would bless those who serve others in our church.

Further reading

Acts 8:1-4

May 5, 2019Pastor Jeff Struecker Sermon Notes I. The Gospel has always been under attack Acts 8:1Saul agreed with putting him to death. On that day a...

Acts 7

April 14, 2019Pastor Jeff Struecker Sermon Notes I. God calls a people Acts 7:1-8 “Are these things true?” the high priest asked. 2...