Summary: It's not what you do but who you know!
Scripture Reading: Acts 1:12-2:1-4
38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
If you have been a Christian for even a short time, you know that there are plenty of opportunities for ministry. Indeed, you have either heard pleas from the pulpit for workers or had a ministry team leader ask you to consider joining their team. If you are an extrovert or introvert there is something you can do. If you are in a small church it is very easy to wear multiple hats as there is plenty to do and few people to do it. Statistically, less than twenty percent of the members do most of the work no matter what the size of your church.
A new convert can easily get in over their heads because of their love and zeal. They may not be given a leadership role to avoid laying hands on someone suddenly or to set up a novice for a fall, but busy does not require a title. There are many things to keep a Christian busy in church life to the point of trying to juggle those tasks with work, family and a hobby leaves little to no quiet time left except for sleep. Even sleep time is shortened because of the demands of “life”.
Once a new convert becomes a bit seasoned and proves to be faithful in the support functions he may then be offered some titular/leader positions. These will most likely be in addition to the other tasks as they still need to be done and no one else is jumping up to do them. It may all start out to be a joy, but because it is more than should be done by one person it turns from joy to duty to drudgery to burn out and often leaving the church.
If he tries to shed some of those duties he may get quoted Scripture about enduring to the end or reaping if we faint not or similar themes. Then he feels guilty and trudges on for a time and then the last straw comes. Too often that means leaving that church and either not going to another one for fear of getting into the same situation or guilt. He may become a church hopper leaving when someone asks him if he would like to serve in some capacity. Neither state is a good one.
I like what I read once about the early church not allowing anyone to serve until they have been saved a year. They went through a period of training and the church watched how they grew. Indeed, if a church did it right it would take a good year of Sunday School lessons to help ground a new convert in the foundations of the faith.
Rotations of leadership roles like deacon and Sunday School teachers are also a good thing. If a college professor can take a Sabbatical, why not church personnel? While I disagree with the practice of ordaining a deacon for life that doesn’t mean he has to serve on the board for life. If by ordination, you are recognizing that the man has the qualities of a deacon that is fine, but if you have enough men it would be good to rotate them off for their own good as well as the board to avoid a temptation of becoming an owner of the church or making it a place of power rather than a place of service.
Having a mix of three older men and three younger also provides a means of mentoring and preparing for the future rather than having six men in their eighties who have been on the board forty years and will remain until death or health forces them into emeritus status. Rotating also means you have many more men who have been trained and can fill in when there is an extended illness or death. Better to have more men trained than you immediately need than to not have enough and let a fellow get a baptism by fire.
We must fight the busy culture and seek to return to the era that prompted Martin Luther to say. “I have so much to do today that I must spend at least three hours in prayer.” It is doubtful that many of us may be able to have that grand privilege, though some might. Seasoned missionary, John G. Mitchell, once responded to a young missionary’s question of what should he say to the people, “Sit down at the feet of Jesus and tell the Chinese what you see.” It matters not what we are doing for ministry be it witnessing, policy making or preaching we must sit down and shut up before we can stand up and speak up.