By Timothy Johnson
There is an old saying among preachers, “Ninety percent of the work will be done by 10 percent of the people.” I’m sure this is true for many organizations that rely heavily on volunteers to do the needed work.
I was once at a small-town meeting where the chief of the volunteer fire department said there were 15 firemen. “About three” were always there, “three or four were never there” and the rest were there about half the time. It was a sobering fact; everyone seemed to be thinking, “My house may be burning down and only three guys are going to show up.”
It is no different in churches, whether there are 30 people or 3,000 often a small percentage of the people carry the workload. This circumstance, of course, is not true of every church. There are churches where nearly everyone lends a helping hand. Today, it doesn’t matter if you are part of a church where volunteers are as rare as a tumbleweed in the Pacific or where workers are aplenty, this week’s column is to the workers.
In the Bible, God complements the church at Ephesus for several things (Revelation 2:1-3). God praises them for their “work, and thy labour.” That may sound like the same thing, but the words do have slightly different meanings.
Work means to toil, make an effort, to be busy about something. Examples of this today would be, teaching a class, baking cookies for the children, mowing the grass, keeping the books, mopping the floor and thousands of other things.
Labour goes a step further; looking at the original language the word has a definition of toil that reduces the strength, pains, labour plus trouble, weariness.
Work is the things we do. Labour is the things we do that wear us down, physically and emotionally. I’m sure those that are among the ten percent of those doing ninety percent of the work can understand what God is saying here. He appreciates your effort.
God continues the kudos toward the church at Ephesus by praising them for their hatred of sin, their knowledge of the Scripture, the ability to take on multiple tasks, their patience and tenacity. Even after talking of all this, God is so impressed with their labour, He mentions it again.
At this point, Ephesus sound like the dream church. God, however, has one complaint, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:4).
Remember when you first volunteered? Remember how your heart ached within you? Your mind was running wild with thoughts like: “They need help. I can do this. God wants me to do this.” Quickly you began of thinking of ways you could assist. Innovative ideas started popping into your mind about how and what to do.
Years have now passed; you are still at it, but that ache, that desire is no longer there. You show up and do your duty, not because of love, but because you have to. You have thoughts of quitting, but after all, “If I don’t do it who will?” Other thoughts run through your mind like, “Why am I the only one doing anything around here?” Maybe, it’s more subtle than that. Perhaps, your are not thinking those type of thoughts. But if you honestly asked yourself why you do what your are doing; the only thing you can think of is the fact that you’ve always done it. You are still doing the work, you still carry the load of the labour, but the love for the work is gone.
God writes to seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three. Two of those churches He has only accolades. One church, He has nothing good to say about it all. The other four, including Ephesus, he has some praise and some disapproval.
Ephesus, who sounds like the perfect church, until your read the one thing wrong, is the only church of the seven, in which God threatens to remove the church unless they repent. (Revelation 1:20; Revelation 2:5). Even the church God has nothing good to say about at all (Revelation 3:14-22). He never threatens to take the church away.
Whether full-time minister or a some of the time volunteer, keeping the love of the work is of the utmost importance to God. Faith is needed to please God (Hebrews 11:6) and love is required to do it right (Matthew 22:37-40).
If you find yourself doing the work, but only going through the motions. If you believe that the love is gone, I would encourage you to get sincerely on your knees and talk to the Lord about it. Tell Him what’s going on in your heart, but don’t ask that He find someone else to do the work. Ask for the love back.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” – Psalm 51:10.