An old proverb states, “For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the rider was lost, for want of a rider the battle was lost, for want of the battle the kingdom was lost, and all for the want of a horseshoe nail.” This little proverb is a keen reminder of the fact that if the smallest details aren’t handled with the greatest precision, the big things may never be accomplished. So it is with the church, and especially with the church plant. It doesn’t take long before a ministry outgrows the pastor’s capacity to do everything, and it is then that the little things begin to go undone. We need to find willing “doers of the little things” within our churches.
The church planter must learn to rely on and build with volunteers. Local church servants are a great gift to the ministry, but they must be aided and encouraged in their work. Their roles must be defined; their gifts must be honed, and they must be unified around the vision of the Lord. It is for this very reason that Romans 16 is one of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible. In this passage of Scripture, we are reminded of the local church servants—the “doers of the little things.”
In this passage, Paul is prompted by the Holy Spirit to write down the names of individuals who served within the ministry of the local church. They are remembered because they sought to serve the Lord. They are noted in this passage for such things as being: a “servant,” a “helper,” a “laborer,” a “fellow prisoner,” and a “workfellow.” There are listed within this passage a sister in Christ, a beloved friend, and a kinsman; there are men and women, city officials and slaves, pastors and laymen—and all are unified by Christ. These people are worth remembering because they are in the family of God and served within their local church. They were everyday people living in Rome, yet they were soldiers in the army of the Lord. In this passage, I find four ways we can help our volunteers serve the Lord.
Define Their Roles
Paul, when speaking of these volunteers, remembered exactly what they did and noted that for which they were to be remembered. If we are going to equip the volunteer staff within our churches we must do all that we can to train them, structure their environment, and enable them for their task. Each person listed in Romans 16 had a specific task and a role that if left unfulfilled would hinder the work of the Lord. Create positions and recruit help for those positions. Publicize the need for people to be at work in the church, and then make certain that there are positions for them to fill.
Delegate According to Strength
In this great passage of Scripture, we see that some individuals hosted the church in their homes, while others shared a prison cell with Paul; some were close enough to literally lay down their own necks for Paul, while others were single ladies, laboring in the Lord. We see the name of Timothy, into whom Paul poured his heart, being used as a pastor. Each of these volunteers was gifted and fitted for a specific task. Allow people to be burdened for the ministry. A God-given burden is easier to administrate than an assigned task. Find where people have a particular strength and allow them to be used there.
Develop Unity in Christ
Several times in this passage we see the phrases “in Christ,” “in Christ Jesus,” or “in the Lord” used. This was not merely a group of idealists and individuals; it was a group of Christians looking to do the work of the Lord within their local church. We must always labor to remind our volunteers that they are serving the Lord rather than us. God is watching, and they are accountable to Him. Paul did this when he reminded the Christians at Colosse and Ephesus:
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Colossians 3:17
Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; Ephesians 6:6
Our job is not to develop loyalty to us and fervor for our cause, but rather to point people to the work of reaching a lost world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Demonstrate Appreciation by Noticing
Romans 16 is a chapter of appreciation and remembrance; it is a reminder of the truth that God is aware of our service for Him. This attitude and appreciation is evident in the writing of Paul. It is clear that Paul desired to recognize these saints and took the time to write to these individuals and honor their labor. He often used the personal pronoun my to indicate how much they meant to him personally; he was careful to salute them and reference them as beloved because he realized their importance to the work of God. We need to do all we can to further the Gospel of Christ, and there is no doubt the bulk of God’s army is volunteers.