A few years ago, a good friend of mine was finishing a major volunteer effort in the church that required 15-20 hours per week for nearly a year. It was a major project that challenged him not only in accomplishing the task well, but to also balance his “real” job as a corporate exec, his marriage, and his family. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest the project was a burden and a strain – significantly so at times. Nonetheless, he sensed God’s call to take it on and to stay with it. He was a model of faith and sacrifice to me through the process, and it was clear that God had gifted him several times to save the project when we thought the wheels were going to come off. Many times it felt as though he was a member of the staff – and one day God hit me between the eyes.
Not literally, of course, but you know…a sudden realization that my thinking about something was totally wrong. I sensed God’s rebuke in my soul that I had distinguished him from the staff merely because he hadn’t been financially compensated. From all appearances he would not have been distinguished from staff – based on time and energy you’d have easily concluded that he’d been subcontracted or staffed. Nonetheless, at times, I felt guilty that he was not being paid. Money was not an issue for him; he was in a favorable financial position and wasn’t concerned about remuneration for his service. One day while having breakfast together a few months after the formal finish of the project, I decided to test him. It was an easy test which I knew he’d pass – I was actually more interested in the dialogue that I knew would follow.
I put this question to him, “Were you fairly compensated for the work you’ve done over the past year?” Without hesitation and with complete sincerity he responded, “Absolutely.” Knowing his heart and character I wasn’t surprised, but was intrigued, so I pressed further, “And what was your compensation?” I don’t remember his exact words from that point, but he quantified his compensation in terms of the satisfaction he felt in obeying God and honoring Jesus with his time and talent. He spoke of the depth of relationship that had been built with me and others. He spoke of the example that he knew he was being for his children with regard to sacrifice and work ethic, etc, unrelated to financial gain. And he spoke of the reward of being a significant player in the clear, unique and unprecedented work that God was doing in that church at that time. Many folks – some to an extreme degree – volunteer many hours of service to Jesus and the work of God at Vista. I still suffer a degree of guilt over that, but continue to remind myself that true compensation can come in forms much deeper than what money can ever reach, and that the church is a volunteer effort of massive proportion. The “staff,” whether paid or not, are here to mobilize and coordinate our little portion of the greatest happening on earth – the advancement of God’s kingdom. My heart pounds as I consider all of you who volunteer for Jesus – I hope that you sense a compensation that exceeds money a thousand times. You have my respect and humble admiration.