Ken Hemphill: the shocking reason why many don't serve.
Our church was experiencing phenomenal growth. That's both the good news and the bad news. The pains that come with such growth are as real as the physical growth pains I felt when I was a preteen. When my joints ached and my stretching muscles screamed for relief, the only solace I could find was my dad's assurance that I would be taller in the morning. I made regular and solemn treks to the door frame in my bedroom to record the progress being made, attempting to prove to myself that the gain was worth the pain.
While we were always in need of money, our greatest growth need at the time was for members of the body of Christ to step forward and do their fair share of the ministry. We simply would not reach our community and our world if we couldn't find people willing to serve. The preschool area of our ministry was voracious in its demands for help. It takes a lot of hands to handle a growing preschool. But that was not our only area of need. There was the growing worship ministry and its need for choir and orchestra members. Each area of the Sunday school was experiencing growth, and with that came the need for people to assume ministry roles.
What were we to do? If all else failed, I'd preach a particularly “convicting message” about the demand for service. To ensure that everyone got the message, I determined to lace it with all the guilt-laden phrases I could muster. Surely such a message would motivate the masses! I was both shocked and distraught when my sermon on service produced little visible results.
A Life-Changing Conversation
Still reeling from the lack of response, I left my office to make my hospital rounds. As I walked through the lobby of the Leigh Memorial Hospital, I smiled at a local candy striper, a volunteer who wore a pink, candy-striped uniform and gave countless hours of free service to the local hospital. This lady smiled brightly as she waved at her pastor. That's right: she was a member of my flock.
Her smile and the immediate recognition on my part that she was giving freely of her time to serve persons in the hospital caused me to think of my vain appeal for help. I sensed the Holy Spirit prompting me to ask her about her service to the hospital and lack of service through the church. I made my way to the reception desk and asked the questions that led to a radical transformation in my ministry.
“How many hours of service do you give each week through the hospital?” I asked.
Smiling brightly, she answered that she gave more than twenty hours a week.
I first complimented her on her servant spirit and then asked permission to ask a personal question. Just to break the ice, I asked, “Were you at church yesterday?”
She responded with a weak “yes” and then dropped her eyes, anticipating the next question.
“Did you hear my message?” A slight nod of the head indicated a “yes” response. “What did you think of it?” I queried. She responded that she couldn't understand why no one would respond to such an appeal.
With complete innocence she asked, “Why do we have such trouble getting people to serve?”
I was stunned to find that she was actually asking the same question I had been asking myself. I cautiously proceeded, “Have you ever thought of volunteering even a few hours a week for service through the church?”
Her vulnerability was unnerving. “Pastor, you don't know how I dream of being of service to the Lord through the church.”
I must confess that I was thoroughly confused. I was thinking to myself that I could certainly answer her dream. Why were my pleas for help and her desire for service simply not connecting?
“You have not because you ask not!” So I asked! “Why have you never stepped forward and volunteered your service in our church?”
Her face spoke of her agony and her shame. “Oh, pastor, I am not worthy and I am not capable.”
Hemphill, Ken (2009-06-01). You Are Gifted (Kindle Locations 244-245). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Ken Hemphilllis one of our speakers with the All Star Sunday School team. See http://allstarsundayschool.com/