On Volunteering and Discipleship


Friend Jamie Arpin Ricci in his brilliant post “Churches that transform neighbourhoods – 2” says this:

The culture of consumerism- so deeply linked to the culture of fear- has “discipled” us into the bondage of entitlement.  Notice how often we frame participation in God’s mission as “exciting opportunity” (which it is), when in truth it should be seen as base-line responsibility?  Incentive-based motivation might get action, but it breeds an entitlement where people believe they deserve it.  Guilt and coercion can also be “effective”, but also produces fruit according to its nature.

Entitlement is what we feel when we think we deserve something.  Our society, engulfed in consumerism, facilitates the “I work hard, I deserve this” culture.  It’s a worldview that is founded on the servitude of the ‘self.’  Which means when we give our time to volunteer, we look for things that make us feel good about what we are doing.  Or causes us to pursue that which fills our excitement ‘quota.’  When we work or put in our volunteer hours merely in the name of excitement or good feelings we border on idolatry.

With a mentality of entitlement we can easily justify backing out of where Jesus takes us, particularly if it doesn’t jive well with the ‘self.’

Often the temptation for church leaders or program coordinators is to create AWESOME programs or AMAZING service opportunities that will get people excited about Jesus in the hope that they will volunteer time.  Simply put, we don’t want people to back out of ministry opportunities.  We need people.  Unfortunately, to focus on the AWESOME or AMAZING is to encourage an entitlement mentality.  The church needs to call us to something far greater.

To volunteer is to give our time to a program or the next best exciting opportunity.  To be a disciple is to give our life.  It means something more than a few hours here or there.  Discipleship asks of us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus to the places where we may or may not want to go.  Either way, the point is that we are called to relentlessly follow.  Volunteers give their time, disciples give their life.  An intimidating prospect, yet something far greater and grounded in a deeper love that a world founded on the self does not understand.

What about you?  Are you drawn to the more exciting opportunities for discipleship?  Do you feel pressure to create wonderful and exciting programs to gain ‘volunteers?’


  1. Jamie Arpin-Ricci · June 12, 2012

    Thanks for the shout out. If I might be so bold, also check out my post: http://www.missional.ca/2010/10/disciples-not-volunteers/

    • chris lenshyn · June 12, 2012

      Be bold brother! Thanks for the link to this post. I am finding that paying attention to these nuances is extremely important as we teach leadership development and ultimately discipleship!!


  2. Waltrude Gortzen · June 12, 2012

    Good post, Chris!

    I simply wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I couldn’t be of service to the church in some way locally or in the larger church.
    For me it always comes back to the promise I made, long ago, on my baptism day “to serve as best I can where ever the Lord needs me”.

    I think that many of us forgotten about that promise and we rarely get reminded of that particular promise from the pulpit, nowadays.

    On top of that, I am convinced, that folks can’t commit to just about anything these days (in advance) because… well …. you know…., “something better might just come up for that day/time and then I could not be there”.

    OK, I better stop here. As you can tell you hit a nerve here! 🙂

    The “SELF” sure does have major issues with commitment and entitlement, no doubt about it!

    • chris lenshyn · June 12, 2012

      I think commitment is central to this discussion Waltrude! I do see the non-committal mentality a lot in many different demographics. I am as guilty as the next person. But if we focus our attention on discipleship rather than volunteerism I think we start looking at things like commitment and sacrifice!

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Waltrude Gortzen · June 12, 2012

    Sooo… guess we all need a good dose of servant-hood, commitment and volunteerism! Imagine what we could accomplish if we were all endowed with a good helping of these 3 attributes. Church growth would explode! 🙂

    • chris lenshyn · June 12, 2012


      I would love to just drop servant hood, commitment and volunteerism all together and simply call it discipleship. Discipleship is a word we use too lightly.

      • Waltrude Gortzen · June 12, 2012


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