One day a week, I attend a meeting at work that usually lasts for most of the morning (and sometimes into lunch). Some days we have lots to discuss and make decisions about. Other days we may get off on a tangent and talk about who knows what.
About half way through one of our meetings recently, we were talking about a hypothetical startup company and the responsibilities of its employees. As the discussion went on, a comment was made that really stuck with me. Paraphrasing, the comment was “It doesn’t matter what your job is. It’s a startup company. If you need to clean toilets, then you clean toilets.”
I’ve worked for global giants that are almost too big for their own good. There are so many tasks that need to be completed in a company like that, it seems that a job exists for everything you can dream of. Most people in an environment like that have been hired to do a very specific task. Sometimes it’s because you are are a warm body, and that’s all that is needed. Sometimes it’s because you posses a specific skill that can be of benefit to the company. Either way, there is an expectation that you accomplish a specific task.
Even in smaller, regional companies, there are still a lot of tasks that need to be done. Though you may have a certain job that you were hired to do, you will likely wear many “hats”. You may spend your morning being a supervisor, and then spend the afternoon being a trainer. Then you get all the way down to a startup company. In that situation, there may only be a handful of employees at the company. Income may not be big enough yet to hire additional help, so sometimes two or three people will wear EVERY “hat”. That means it doesn’t matter what you were hired to do, if you need to clean the toilets, then you clean the toilets.
In my 14 years of working in the corporate world, there is one thing I have found that will kill a company faster than anything else. It is the mindset of “that’s not my job.” You talk about a pet peeve in a company…that’s my biggest. Sometimes it will start with only one person. They may sit quietly at their desk and focus only on the task that they have been specifically hired to do. That is fine as long as there are enough employees that every task is covered. But what happens when you get in a smaller company and a unique situation comes up that needs to be handled? Someone is going to have to step up and do it, even if that person was not hired for it. When one employee makes the statement of “that’s not my job”, that is letting all their colleagues know that they feel they are too good for that work. They are above a task like that. They are looking out for themselves instead of the good of the company. If this goes on long enough, it will hurt the morale of others, and eventually grumbling and bitterness take hold. “If they don’t have to, then why do I?” That mindset is like a silent cancer that will destroy any business.
So what does that have to do with Christianity?
Think of that same mindset, but take it out of the corporate setting and place it in a congregational setting. If you attend a large congregation (like working in a large company), then it’s more likely (though not always the case) that you can focus your efforts in a specific area without another area of work being neglected. However, small congregations (like startup companies) deal with this on a daily basis. How many congregations of the Lord’s Church suffer from having members that say “that’s not my job”? They may not say it using those specific words, but they say it loud and clear by their actions.
Now I do understand that the Bible teaches that there are specific roles that individuals can fill in a congregation. You have elders (I Peter 5:2), deacons (I Timothy 3:8-13), preachers (Romans 10:14), teachers (I Corinthians 12:28), etc. The responsibility of an elder is not something that just any member of the Lord’s church can step in and fill on a whim.
That’s not what I’m talking about. How many Bible class teachers feel stuck in their teaching position because no one will teach the class if they take a break? How many older members sit back as if they have “retired” from working in the church? How many younger members think they are not expected to take on a responsibility because of their age? How many simply stand and won’t sing because they don’t think their voice is good enough? How many will walk past a bulletin board and grumble because no one ever updates it? How many complain because the congregation’s library does not have enough books for people like them?
How many of us wait for someone to come serve us?
There’s something critical that we must understand. Our need has already been served. The Creator of our very existence humbled Himself to die for sins that we committed. No one needs to do anything else for us. It’s not about us. It’s about Him. It’s always been about Him. It always will be about Him.
If we aren’t careful, we can quickly develop a mindset in our congregation of “that’s not my job”. Someone else needs to welcome that visitor. Someone else needs to teach that Bible class. Someone else needs to evangelize to the community. That’s the deacon’s job. That’s the preacher’s job. That’s his job. That’s her job.
Make no mistake about it. We are all expected to serve (John 12:26). No exceptions. It doesn’t matter if you carry the title of elder, deacon, preacher, etc. Paul, a man who most consider to be one of the most influential people in the history of the Church, on multiple occasions referred to himself as a bondservant (Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1).
Let us never fall into the trap of thinking that we are above any work of the church. Let us never say by our actions that “it’s not my job”. There’s work that needs to be done, and someone has to do it.
Make that someone you.
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? … Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” [James 2:14,17]