“Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”

Faithfulness – you’ve preached on it; so have I. But have our sermons done much good? At a recent pastor’s conference, several men shared their frustration about the casual attitude some believers have in serving the church. Every congregation can boast of a few dependable, joyful volunteers. Unfortunately, they are sometimes the exception rather than the rule.

The casually committed are those who habitually arrive late to every meeting. Some of them even plan to be late. I’m sure they haven’t heard the invocation of a worship service for years.

Then there are those who never let anyone know when they will be absent. Sunday school teachers, ushers, and committee workers simply don’t show up for their assigned responsibilities. Consequently, someone has to scurry around looking for a harried replacement.

We’re all acquainted with those who accept responsibilities but don’t follow through. Jane promises to offer Donna a ride; John will see if Bill needs further counsel; Peter vows to write an important article; Frank assures us he will at the next committee meeting. But nothing happens – not this week or the next five.

Our congregations are also populated by those who justify their negligence with flimsy excuses: “We had company,” someone will say. “The weather turned cold [or hot or windy or humid, depending on your location],” others say.

Such performances would not be tolerated in the secular world. Many believers who would never be late on Monday morning shirk their Sunday duties without a twinge of conscience. Of course, we can’t threaten to fire them.

“Remember, these are all volunteers,” someone once said to me. “You can’t fire people who don’t get paid. When you’ve got a volunteer army, you take what you can get.”

So we continue with latecomers, promise breakers, and procrastinators. And our volunteer army limps along. Many of us can appreciate this parody of the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers”:

Like a mighty turtle.
Moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading
Where we’ve always trod.

A retired colonel claims there are four elements sustaining the “will to fight”. To learn submission, a soldier must repeat disagreeable tasks. To counter fear, he must know and trust his comrades. That will encourage him to fight alongside them instead of running in the wrong direction. To evoke loyalty, the army requires that men sleep, work, and eat together. They will eventually gain a sense of responsibility for one another’s welfare. Finally, the army attempts to develop a sense of pride that will remind a man that others depend on him and value his contribution to the unit’s safety and success. Thus he fights, hoping that he will not be brought home in a body bag.

Each of those qualities, however, has diminished with the volunteer force. Recruitment is now based largely on self-interest rather than on service to the cause. As a result, those who enlist are only casually committed. They are more interested in retirement benefits than in whether they are really prepared to fight.

Sounds familiar? I think it’s a time we challenged the notion that the church is a volunteer army. Since when did God give us the option of enlisting? Does He discuss terms of commitment with us? Should faithfulness be expected only of those who get paid for their work? Do we have the right to expect less on Sunday Service than we do on Monday morning?

Let’s remind ourselves of some facts.

First, we didn’t choose Christ; He chose us. Jesus said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit…” (John 15:16) As Commander in Chief, He has a role for each of us to play. Our Commander decides how and where the battles should be fought. Paul learned submission and obedience by becoming Christ’s bond slave. We can’t ignore the divine call without becoming an outright deserter.

Second, faithfulness in small details promotes greater responsibilities. “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” (Luke 16:10) As Christians, we wouldn’t think of being late for a worship service. After all, it’s a public event. But is it any less important to be on time for Sunday school or a counseling appointment? In the eyes of men, yes; in the eyes of God, no.

When it comes to seeking obedience from their children, parents care little whether they are working on minor or major tasks. It’s the child’s attitude of obedience that counts. Our heavenly Father shares the same sentiments. When we are unfaithful in “small” matters, we insult our Commander in Chief. He doesn’t overlook apparently insignificant details. Even a cup of cold water offered in Christ’s name merits reward.

Third, our motivation must be to please the Lord, not men. Paul wrote to Timothy, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:4) In Napoleon’s army, men endured physical pain, illness, or even the sacrifice of an arm or leg jus for an approving nod from their leader. Nothing will purify our motives like deciding to be obedient to Jesus, regardless of whether we are recognized in this world.

When washing the disciple’s feet or preaching the Sermon on the Mount, Christ had the same motivation. He said, “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” John 8:29. He wasn’t playing the game of life for the benefit of His contempories. He did not consider Himself merely a volunteer but a humble servant compelled to do the Father’s will.

Even the ungodly are faithful when they’re getting paid. Christians, however, should be distinguished by their positive attitudes toward minor, unrewarded tasks. They should have the faith to believe that they will be rewarded in another world. After all, is it not our view of eternity that separates us from the values of this temporal world?

How can we, like Gideon, distinguish between the committed worker and the one who is along for the ride? Don’t be afraid to let someone go. If need to, leave a position vacant. That is a better option than filling it with another non-committed person. Look and wait for a qualified, reliable replacement, as laid in the Bible. And pray. Then pray again.

Christian leaders, we need to display faithfulness in our own responsibilities. God will eventually provide a core of dedicated soldiers, willing to endure hardship for the cause of Christ. Increasing the number of dependable, qualified, and deeply committed believers starts with us.

A volunteer army will never do. Only one conscripted by a higher calling will have the determination to finish the task. ~ Lutzer