At Gateway Church in Austin, we celebrated our volunteers with a Sunday called “Involved.”
Here are the Next Steps to work through with your life group, running partners, or family around the dinner table.
For the audio of the message I shared at Gateway Church in South Austin, go here:
For the notes of the message written by Justin McCarty, Pastor of Gateway Church in North Austin, go here:
We live in a world that needs heroes! Why do you think superheroes movies are so popular?!
The Avengers – All the ingredients came together! America & the world agreed — $1.5 billion; #5 of all time. For all the fun, I think it was something deeper that drew us in… the idea of extraordinary, diverse people coming together to function as a team… touches a chord.
Samuel L. Jackson’s character: “The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could become something more. See if they could work together when we needed them to… to fight the battles we never could.
There are some battles in our world that need fighting; sometimes it seems like we need some Avengers to come plowing in to save the day. Only our greatest battles aren’t alien invasions or killer robots — they are battles for the hearts, minds and lives of people. Children abused… women exploited & trafficked… racism & bigotry… epidemic loneliness… chronic emptiness… self-idolatry that passes as “normal life.” There are battles raging all around us… “the idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, to see if they could become something more…”
THE CHURCH’S HEROIC CALLING
In Courageous Leadership, Bill Hybels writes: “There’s nothing like the local church when it’s working right.”
It turns out God’s idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, to see if they could become something more. The Church isn’t a building or a program, it’s people. Surprisingly enough — it’s primarily volunteers. The longest-running, most expansive, most influential movement in the history of the world hasn’t rested on well-trained experts and professionals, it’s been placed in the hands of those who volunteer to be a part of it. The world waits on us, the Church, to volunteer our superpowers, to come together and fight the battles no one else can seem to win.
THE GIFTS WE’VE BEEN GIVEN
“Superpowers”? Is that a little over the top? Not according to the Bible. Whenever someone puts their trust in Jesus and becomes His follower, His Spirit imparts a special gift to them… a supernatural power to fulfill specific purposes… a superpower. Several different passages that talk about this: Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4. Hone in on Ephesians 4:
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it… Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ… speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:7,11-13,15-16 (NIV)
First, worth noting:
1. God is the one who gives out the gifts. (1 Cor 12:11) Not for us to pick and choose; not for us to complain or compare gifts. There is purpose and intention.
2. The “professionals” are here to equip the volunteers. While we tend to think the pastors and leaders are the ones who “get the job done,” it’s actually the people… the Church. If you have a paid role in the church, your most important responsibility is activating and equipping the volunteers to live out of their gifts.
3. The gifts have been given to be re-gifted. We tend to re-gift things that aren’t that valuable But gifts from God are extremely important AND they aren’t just for your personal enjoyment: were given to be used in service of other people, “the building of the body of Christ.” Using your gift isn’t meant to be colored by preference or convenience; it’s about a responsibility you have to other people.
THE BODY OF CHRIST
Ephesians 4 describes “The Body of Christ”… a picture of how the Church functions; there are parts of the body that work together to form something greater than the sum of its parts. “A group of remarkable people to see if they could become something more.” Embodied in our Gateway value: LIVE CONNECTED.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15-16 (NIV)
Not just hanging out, knowing a few names, attending a Sunday service… “Serve others with others.” Our volunteers are the ones who lead the way in “living connected”. Lots of different areas of the Body; ones that we are focused on celebrating today are the ones that serve us every single week on Sundays (There are lots more teams… some of the most important don’t get mentioned… just like your parts — but you wouldn’t want to do without them!).
- NextGen: Teachers, leaders and encouragers doing their part to fight the battles for our kids, students and families… inspiring them with fun, painting a clear picture of God, being friends to them in small groups.
- Arts: Creatively gifted people who use their gifts in music, sound, video, lighting, to help Inspire us every week to see God more clearly and move toward him in faith.
- Guest Services: Encouragers, shepherds, hospitality gifted people who serve each person who walks onto this campus – parking cars, saying hello, opening a door, brewing coffee — creating a welcoming environment that helps us feel at home.
Every week, these volunteers use their gifts… their superpowers… to serve us and to serve anyone that God brings through our doors. They do all this AND still deal with jobs, school, families, crises; they don’t get paid; they give freely of their time, their prayers, their hearts. They are living connected with each other, they are connecting other people with God, and they are holding us together as a Body… helping us be built up in love! THANK YOU!!
THE VOLUNTEER POOL
Obvious question that most people have, especially if they’ve never stepped into serving before is: Where should I serve? First step may be beginning to identify your gifts:
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:4-8, NIV)
If you’re a follower of Christ, then God has given you a gift — part of your adventure of following Jesus is discovering it with Him. Beyond that, we’ll encourage people to examine their passions, experiences, and skills. Often God will use the story of your life to direct the use of your gifts. However, I want to share something that I’ve seen over many years as people attempt to figure out their gifts and begin living connected.
- The Volunteer Pool
- Standing on the diving board, trying to identify the perfect place — the most important first step is to jump in; expression of your trust in God to get you where you’re meant to be. Why we route people to Starting Gate & serving with Sunday teams — live connected, serve others with others
- Most people don’t dive in and find their ideal spot on first try… typically have to swim around the pool a bit; experimenting with different roles, see what emerges.
- Many times your spiritual gifts are latent — they only emerge with use; people begin reflecting things back to you, you experience the joy & blessing of God
- Sadly, many people choose to get out of the pool because their first experience wasn’t the most satisfying experience; they towel off, pull up a deck chair and become watchers: “I’ve tried it, but it just wasn’t for me.” Not realizing that they simply didn’t give God a chance to reveal some things. Don’t get out of the pool! Once you’re warm and wrapped in a towel, too easy to never come back. If you have become a watcher, I urge you to jump back in!
- You spend enough time swimming, eventually you begin to discover a joy in serving, a fit in your gifting, a blessing in the output of what you do. This is “living connected” at its best… this is you operating in the way you were created… when each of us get here, we are Avengers… a group of remarkable people coming together to be something more… we are the Church, the Body of Christ – hope of the world.
Consider this story:
“for years I was scared to even think of walking into a church, I would come to tears just thinking about the judgment I would get. I suffered from depression due to some the things I had done in the past. After attending Gateway awhile, I decided to take the risk to connect in with a group. I got baptized, and for the first time ever was learning to listen to God’s promptings. He directed me to a women’s Restore group, and has used that group to set me in the direction I needed to go for healing. I’ve just been amazed at these women and their hearts, and my life is changing with every step I take. My husband and I are growing strong again in our marriage. Now we’re starting to serve others together and it’s growing us. And we are so grateful for the community of this wonderful church.”
There’s so many more stories waiting to be written… If you’re not living connected, there is room in this Body called Gateway for you! In a real way, we have been waiting for you! More than that, the world waits for you to re-gift those gifts you were given to serve the people all around you.