If our church is average then no more than twenty percent of us drop something in the offering plate regularly. Twenty percent of us teach a class, help out at the food pantry, set up the chairs on Sunday morning, fix stuff when it breaks or serve the community in some other tangible way every week. Twenty percent.
I’m not the pastor. But six times a year I’m the substitute. Again and again I’ve used that opportunity to try to make my friends give to God and each other.
And it doesn’t work. Well, sure, the offering may go up for a week. A couple people may sign up for this or that. But the change is short lived and the new volunteers, I fear, may feel more bullied by me than cheerful about their new positions.
So I’m not doing that anymore. Instead, I’m committed to proving God’s mercy and providing opportunity. And that’s all.
Proving God’s Mercy
In Romans 12 Paul begins…
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (NIV)
“Therefore.” So I back up to Romans 11 and read as Paul details God’s mercy:
- When you killed His prophets and destroyed their altars and stopped worshipping Him, did God reject you? “By no means,” Paul says. (v 1)
- Was your fall so hard that you’ll never get back up? “Not at all!” Paul writes. (v 11)
- God is giving life to the dead, to all people! (v 11-15)
- Consider God’s kindness! (v 22)
- God has shown you mercy! (v 28-32)
Then Paul writes the first lines of Romans 12: in view of God’s mercy we’re to give our whole self in service to God.
There’s a clever use of plural and singular nouns going on here that gives me hope for our church and yours. Paul actually says what in modern English would be something like “Every one of you offer your individual selves as one big singular sacrifice to God.”
All of us are capable of sacrifice with God’s mercy in view.
Paul says this kind of collective all-in sacrifice is an “act of worship” – the original Greek word is “latreia” and it was often used to describe the kind of work servants did, slave labor, menial work.
When God’s mercy comes into view, the stuff no one used to do gets done…cheerfully. When God’s mercy comes into view, the should do’s become want to’s. When God’s mercy comes into view, needs become opportunities to worship together.
So I’m trying – and it’s not easy – to focus most of my energy on giving our church a clearer more constant view of God’s mercy. And then our pastor – who already does a great job of this – can let us know what opportunities are out there. And then, I’m praying, someday all of us will worship together…not just twenty percent.