Within my local church, God has mainly put me in the position of teaching in the children’s ministry and being a small group leader (or ‘connect group’ as we prefer to call it). Strictly speaking, I volunteer. But ask me what I do during the week apart from my studies and I would never use the word ‘volunteer’ in reference to ministry, the Christian life, my life. I always respond with something like “I’m in ministry.” Because the truth is the word ‘volunteer’ might give the wrong connotation to some people and leave them with the impression that I’m only doing what I do in church as a ‘hobby’ or because I have nothing else to fill my time with or because I’m just doing this until something better comes along. Not at all, because the participation in ministry is my life and the Christian life.
If you want to grow as a Christian and come judgement day be called a faithful servant who used his gifts wisely (Matthew 25:23), you’ll have to break the mindset that convinces you that you’ll serve others in ministry when you find the time because unlike the staff at church, you have a “real 9 to 5 job” and you’re too busy or too tired to do anything else. The main point I’m getting at is not how many hours are spent serving within the local church but rather the heart’s attitude. You should recognise your whole life as being one of ministry and for furthering the gospel and this includes your marriage, your friendships, your job, your hours spent serving within the church and so on. Ministry is not limited to the staff in the church, every Christian is called to minister. As the Apostle Peter wrote:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. – 1 Peter 2:9
You weren’t saved to live only a private life for Jesus. You were saved so that you can now glorify God and boldly declare the gospel and what Jesus has done for you. This means clearly that the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ is not limited to a few within the body of Christ but in varying ways, all Christians are called to this. And in the same way, serving others is not limited to only a few. It is a part of the Christian calling for Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10
Therefore someone isn’t born again just to get a ticket to heaven and simply remain stagnant in the meantime. This isn’t biblical Christianity. You were saved for your good (because in saving you from his righteous wrath, God lavished you with mercy and grace), for the glory of God (so that you may declare his excellencies now and forever) and for the good of others (because God has called you to good works now that you are in Christ Jesus).
So no, I don’t volunteer at my church because ministry is the life of a Christian. This is not part-time or because I couldn’t find anything else to fill my day with. I’m in ministry. This is for the long haul and it is the top priority of the Christian to worship the Lord and joyfully follow His commandments. Let’s take our example from the Apostle Paul, who was very strictly speaking a volunteer (1 Corinthians 9:13-16). Yet he knew in reality he had been called by the Lord to do what he was doing and so he walked in obedience that consisted of both heart and action and was able to make an astonishing proclamation:
For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:21