According to YourDictionary.com, a volunteer is “a person who chooses freely to do or offer to do something.” A volunteer is generally not paid for his or her services and does not derive income from it. By contrast, an employee is someone who receives pay or wages as compensation for his work. In accordance with this difference, a volunteer cannot be required to show up to serve whereas an employee must go to work faithfully in order to keep his job and income.
In line with this, is there such a thing as a “church or Christian volunteer”?
If we agree that a volunteer generally does not receive compensation for his volunteer work, then the answer which we discover in Scripture may surprise some.
1 Corinthians 9:17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward…
Paul tells us that when we preach (or serve) voluntarily, we will receive a reward. It turns out therefore that believers will in fact be rewarded for their “volunteer work.” If we receive a reward, then it means that we are not serving freely—that is, freely without compensation of some sort. Therefore in the kingdom of God there are actually no volunteers according to the conventional definition of what a volunteer is.
In order for a volunteer to receive his reward, his work must be of good quality.
1 Corinthians 3:12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
In our ministry we should use “expensive materials” which will stand the test of fire, and avoid using “cheap materials” which will be burned up when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 5:10).
This should provide much food for thought for those of us who serve the Lord as “volunteers.” Those who serve in the capacity to which they are called will actually be rewarded by the Lord for their labors in the next age. Their reward will be authority to reign with Christ in his kingdom (2 Timothy 2:12). However, we will not all receive the same reward. Rather, our reward will be determined by the quality of our labor (1 Corinthians 3 above) and by our production for the Lord (Luke 19:11-27). Our relative ability will also be factored in when our reward is determined (Matthew 25:14-30).
But will “volunteers” actually receive in the next age the compensation which is commensurate with their labors? No.
Luke 19:17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’
Trustworthy “volunteers” will receive a reward from the Lord in the next age far beyond what they deserve for their labors. Seen in this light, therefore, there are no “volunteers” in the kingdom of God, but only trustworthy servants.
In whatever capacity we are called to serve the Lord, therefore, let us take great care to be trustworthy: using the best and most expensive materials, serving with utmost diligence and bearing as much fruit as possible according to the ability entrusted to us.
This gives new and fresh meaning to the tired concept of “church volunteer.”