So, what is wrong with "volunteer?" America certainly could not get along without volunteers and I often serve as a volunteer. In fact, tonight I am going to be a volunteer sitting on a board of review for a young man who has completed the requirements to become an Eagle Scout. Some people volunteered to do that for me long ago. I recently volunteered to participate in the C.R.O.P. walk. My resume contains a long list of volunteer activities in which I have enthusiastically participated through the years. I am a big believer in being a volunteer. There is nothing wrong with being a volunteer. In fact, there is something wrong with not being a volunteer.
However, our roles in the Body of Christ have different meaning and significance. To volunteer is to choose to become involved in something because we agree with the cause and decide to participate. Our life in Christ is not based upon our choice but upon our having been chosen. Jesus said, "You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another" (Jn. 15:16-17). So, whatever we do in the service of Christ, in or out of the church, is because we have been chosen, called, and appointed by Christ, not because we "volunteered." Yes, the human will is involved. But it is involved in a distinctly and qualitatively different way.
Picky? Maybe. But to be a disciple, a missionary, a minister, a member of "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people" takes each of us beyond volunteerism. Through Baptism, we have been incorporated into Christ's Body. Think with me about that. Did your eye volunteer itself into its socket? Did your heart decide to take on its purpose in your breast? Does your hand decide to carry out the tasks assigned to it? We have an organic relationship with Christ and with the other members of his Body.
It is good to be a volunteer. Our world is a better place because of volunteers. But when it comes to our role as followers of Jesus Christ, the word "volunteer" is inadequate to describe the magnitude and wonder of that vocation. "Volunteer" just doesn't go far enough to get the job done. As Christians, more is given to us and more is required of us.
Read more about our amazing vocation in the 12th Chapter of the Letter to the Romans.