Kingdom Volunteering

Jesus saw the men fishing, and called to them “So if you’re available this weekend, come on out and serve with me, it’ll be a great time of fellowship, we’ll be helping people out who really need it, you can bring the kids, and there’ll be some food.  Don’t worry if you can’t come for the whole thing, even an hour or so would really help out.”  And the fishermen thought about it, but decided not to go, because they had a pretty busy weekend already planned.

Probably because of my current class titled “Biblical Foundation of Missions” I’ve been thinking a lot about the outward movement of God lately.  At the beginning of his monster tome “The Mission of God”, Christopher Wright argues that the Bible doesn’t support mission, it arises out of God’s mission.  It’s not that we think about reaching out to others and then find some Bible verses to support our ideas (although that’s often the approach) but instead, the entire narrative of Scripture emerges from God’s mission to all people.

The tendency I’ve come across in churches is to make mission something extra.  What’s really important is getting yourself saved, and then you want to share all that joy and peace and confidence with others, so you do that through “mission” or “outreach” or whatever you want to call it.  This can include direct evangelism, or service evangelism, and there seems to be a constant talk in pastoral circles about preaching the Gospel in both ‘word’ and ‘deed’ and everyone seems to agree you need both but we still have to keep talking about it anyway because different Christians (whom we disagree with on all sorts of things) are placing too much of an emphasis on one or the other.  Whatever.  I’m tired of that conversation.  I think it’s sourced in an assumption that mission is something extra that only the super-christians do.

But if Chris Wright is correct, than mission is an integral part of the Christian life.  It’s not something that happens on top of your Christian commitments, it’s central.

There is a growing conversation happening in Christianity about what this looks like, and I’m really glad.  For my part, I’m going to be working with some friends at my church to, firstly, practice a holistic Kingdom lifestyle, and secondly, change the way we talk about mission and outreach to the larger church body.  We want to move away from requests for volunteers for projects and instead invite people into a vision of the Kingdom, a way of life that is self-sacrificial and outward focused, sourced in the movement of the Holy Spirit among and before us.

I recently read some blog posts about the difference in responsibilities and priorities of full-time vocational ministers vs. volunteer church workers.  The main point is, being a full-time, vocational Christian carries a heavier responsibility and work-load…you can’t just offer whatever time you have available.  It was described like the relationships in a family, where the parents of a child are the full-time workers and the grandparents are the volunteers.  I get it.  I really do.  And in an organization, this is absolutely true, that full-timers have more commitment and investment than volunteers.  The problem is, that’s not the Kingdom Jesus invites us to.  He invites us to lay down our whole lives, all of our priorities, to follow him.  It doesn’t seem like there’s room in his call for part-timers, or volunteers.  All Christians are full-time ministers and missionaries.

There’s so much more to say about this, like the lie that the Kingdom work is happening ‘over there’ and we’re stuck, or the false division of ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ space and time.  Maybe I will get to those in future posts.  But for now, I’ll end with these questions:

Why have we settled for a Kingdom vision that’s so much smaller, that is only worth part of our lives?

How have we been so tricked?


~ by Joe Paparone on August 19, 2010.

3 Responses to “Kingdom Volunteering”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by lesley paparone, Joe Paparone. Joe Paparone said: New Post: Kingdom Volunteering […]

  2. The church does not have a mission; the mission has a church!

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