Recently I was thinking about how inconvenient my volunteer service at church had become in my life. I work really hard during the week and I manage a household every other waking hour. Getting everything accomplished in my life was growing increasingly difficult and church work was becoming an unnecessary burden. Frankly, my volunteer work at church had become a conflict with my priorities. ….And then I caught myself. My volunteer service to God had become a conflict with my priorities? Wait – something seems wrong with that thought.
Immediately the story of Cain and Able came to mind. ..
“…Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Able brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Able and his offering. But on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.’’’ – Genesis 4: 2-7 NIV
I knew exactly what God was telling me at that moment. God wants me to bring my “first” and best energy when I serve him. If I am preparing (or failing to prepare) for my volunteer time with even a hint of resentment and anything short of a spirit of excellence, then I am as guilty as Cain. Immediately, I was convicted that the offering of my volunteer service had actually become displeasing to God.
Foodies like me will appreciate the analogy of olive oil. Oil produced from the first press of olives has an aromatic and intense flavor missing from a subsequent press. As a result, extra virgin olive oil commands a premium sales price compared to its latter press counterparts. God wants our first press attitude and our first press energy when we serve him. Most churches in the United States are preparing this week for an upcoming promotion Sunday, the kick-off to a new ministry year. This is the first weekend that children and students attend their new small groups and it is the first Sunday of service for many newbie and returning volunteers.
Ministry leaders: Are you modeling first press service and a first press attitude? Jim Wideman often shares that a ministry leader can only expect their best volunteer to be as committed and effective as they are themselves. So if you want a shot at having a handful of passionate and prompt ministry servants, you absolutely have to be one yourself!
Ministry volunteers: Are you showing up with first press service and first press attitude? First press service doesn’t have to mean that family commitments or a job suffers. It does however mean that we can trust God to work out life details resulting from Christ-centered (and demanding!) priorities.
As we go into a new a new ministry year, may we all honor God as Abel did with a first press attitude and first press offerings of our time and talents. ~ Amy Fenton Lee