Volunteering or Discipleship

A silhouette of people against a sunset.

I had a buddy ask me what I thought of volunteering and discipleship. These are two aspects we will be involved in many times without realizing it. Any form of community and fellowship can turn into either avenue. But what my friend wanted to know is if I knew the difference between the two. 

If I remember correctly, I gave him a vague answer. As my day went by, I kept thinking how different they are and how we forget they need to be treated. I also kept learning and observing that people opt-in to volunteer for odd reasons or simply think that it means more than it really is. Discipleship is another role we don’t notice how viable it can be.

Before I was able to get my friend a proper answer, I had to first make sure I knew what they each were.

Volunteering

Volunteer: a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service.

Voluntarily: acting or done of one’s own free will without valuable consideration or legal obligation.

Volunteering comes from having a common understanding of a church or any organization’s vision and having the desire to see that vision reach more people through servanthood. At a church, this could be finding ways to help grow the kingdom of God. You support the leadership of the organization as well by seeking a position where you could use your talents, skills, and expertise.

Personally, I’m grateful to be able to use my ability to play instruments in worship or use my tech skills with the visuals and audio, but also to do small tasks like set up or tear down in the recent trend of mobile churches that is very important when looking at the big picture. With my experience in the church setting, there is a need and appreciation for any sort of help. You won’t believe the impact that a greeter has when he welcomes and invites people that are new to the church world. It’s unfortunate when I hear stories of someone feeling turned off by God or a church simply because they didn’t feel welcomed.

As I said, volunteering is found around a central vision. Volunteering Action Rotherham describes this process as, “Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place.” Any personal gain is also left aside when you are trying to uplift the presence and reputation of the organization.

 

Discipleship

Disciple: one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another.

Coming from a dictionary, it is not surprising to find a definition as generic as this one. It gets a little more complicated when defining this through a biblical lens. You see, discipleship is a little different. You become a focus and a source of help, through evangelism, towards one or more people. You realize how much of an influence you have on those around you. We need to learn how to best take advantage of that influence.

In Christianity, the way it works is by also realizing the importance of the gospel and its value to be shared to those you influence. Discipleship requires more effort but has a similar vision as volunteering and that is to reach people that can, in turn, reach more people.

 

How they differ.

So, if they follow the same goal of obtaining a healthier church or ministry, then what is the difference between the two? Well, one is a command and the other is a choice.  They are both sacrificial, but only one is required.

Many people volunteer somewhere, which is amazing that they are able to put time from their daily and busy life to do such a thing, but it is not required. You will not find a command anywhere in the Bible that says volunteering is mandated. Your work does help a ministry reach more people, but God is seeking for something greater. He is seeking for something more personal from us.

Discipleship is exceeds volunteering in the sense that there is more effort put into place. You can see the love towards an individual when you take someone under your wing and share with them the great truths of the Gospel. You see the great love Jesus gave us through salvation and eternal life while he surrendered his on the cross. The difference here is that Jesus asks (more like commands) us to make disciples of all nations in the Great Commision (Matthew 28:19). He asks us to help build his kingdom showing the love and grace that he presented us.

As I mentioned, discipleship heeds greater effort. I read a blog on the requirement of discipleship and the author, Bob Deffinbaugh, explains it very well, “From one perspective, discipleship centers upon the issue of dependence and submission. Taken from another direction, we might say that discipleship entails a complete rearrangement of our priorities. To be a disciple of our Lord demands that He become the most important thing in our life.”

 

What I am not saying.

Let me get the record straight, though. I am not giving you a reason to stop helping at a church or your local shelter. Volunteering shouldn’t come because we think we are following a command or trying to look good, but because the choice is rooted from a humble heart.  This is one thing that the two have in common; we volunteer and disciple out of a humble and loving response to God’s grace and the gift of salvation.

But in your case, dear friends, even though we speak like this, we are convinced of better things relating to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name, in having served and continuing to serve the saints. 11 But we passionately want each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of your hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and perseverance inherit the promises.” – Hebrews 6:9-12

We’ll see this mostly in the act of volunteering, but part of these two is that response of how we feel. It is a form of the love that God, first, gave us (1 John 4:19). We serve through both outlets because we want to love “thy” neighbor.

We don’t have to volunteer, but we must come to a point to ask ourselves, “How am I responding to God? How will I worship Him?”

 

Why do people avoid obedience?

Why do people think that volunteering is enough to call it a day of doing God’s work? Why would someone settle for less? Why will someone settle for sin? Yes, sin!

I call it sin because we are taking one of the many things that Jesus spoke of (Matthew 16:24-28) and choosing to disobey when we look for comfort and pleasure doing our own thing. We are saying “No” to God. We are also refusing to respond to what God did for us and saying that He not worthy enough to be shared with others. We can’t walk into a Christian lifestyle expecting to be frolicking in a field of dandelions. You are disobeying God by not finding someone to love one and disciple. And this disobedient is, essentially, sin.

 

Don’t be discouraged.

And of course, I don’t mean to discourage anyone. I am not a perfect disciple or volunteer. I will get distracted in moments that I can be used as described above. I, too, let my feelings get in the way of truth. I am a sole advocate of self-improvement. In times like this, we need to look in a mirror and ask ourselves, not only how we can become better people, but how we can better reflect God. God will certainly use us and open doors to help Him write the greater story. These are opportunities to further seek God.

Let me know if I missed something. This is not a small subject and the Bible definitely says more about both tasks. And friend, if you are reading this post, hopefully, I was able to get you the proper answer you were looking for.

Out of curiosity, how do you (the reader) volunteer in your community? What talents and skills are you sharing with your local church and organizations?

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