Why Say “Yes?”

 By Rev. Jonathon Clinesmith


I was halfway through my freshman year of college when I finally hit the wall. Metaphorically. I don’t recommend hitting a wall literally. It hurts.

Anyways, when I say, “I hit the wall,” what I mean is that faith life had gone from “Garden of Eden” to “barren wasteland” in no time flat. You see, the previous year had been full of “spiritual victories”, so to speak. It began with me rededicating my life to Jesus my senior year of high school, and within no time I was regularly praying, reading my Bible, and attending church. I even stopped cussing!



My first semester of college afforded me even more opportunities for growth- in addition to those other activities, I began worshipping with some of the Christian parachurch groups on campus and even got involved with a small group Bible study. All in all, I was spending between three to five nights a week engaging in spiritual activities in the hope that I would get closer to God.

And it worked!

 Until it didn’t.

It wasn’t that I stopped doing all those activities. They just weren’t helping me grow anymore. One way of describing the way I felt at the time is “dry.”

For me, it was an existential crisis. Here I was, doing everything I could think of to be the best Christian I could be, but I felt almost as far away from God as I had when I had started following Jesus in the first place.

I didn’t know what to do. So, I kept doing what I did, and I kept getting the same results.

Then one Wednesday I was sitting in FCA (the Fellowship of Christian Athletes) when the guest speaker made a stunning declaration. Stunning to me, anyways.  I remember him saying “If you’ve gotten to this point in your walk with Christ where it seems like you just aren’t growing, it might be likely that you’re just not serving.” It was like he was reading my mail! Or my brainwaves. Either one is creepy. But it was probably neither. It was probably the Holy Spirit.

So I went to him after the service to see if he knew of a place I could serve. It turns out he did! His name was Rob Morris, and he was the area director for a ministry called Younglife. Their goal was to reach “the wildest kids in high school” and reach them with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. I drank the Kool Aid and began serving right away.

And almost immediately that “God switch” that had felt turned off turned back on.

It turns out there’s a Biblical precedent for this kind of thing. Jesus, after washing his disciples’ dirty nasty feet (they were fishermen and tax collectors and the like, after all), tells them to “go and do likewise.”

This theme is echoed in Hebrews and dozens of other places where we see that the ultimate desire for the early Christians wasn’t just to cash in their “Get out of Hell Free” card when they died but was instead to “imitate Christ.”

The reason I felt closer to Jesus when I began serving is because by serving I became MORE LIKE JESUS. In Wesleyan terms, serving allowed me to cooperate with God’s sanctifying grace.

The church universal is in desperate need of this kind of activity today. More and more of us get tricked into thinking that church is some sort of consumer experience and that we need to find the product that best suits us.

This isn’t what the church looked like in the first century. Instead, the church was a tight knit community of people who loved Jesus and loved each other. They loved strangers, too, and even their enemies. And this love regularly manifested itself in acts of service.

One of our goals is to see Chapel Hill become this type of community. A research group led by Kevin Ford found that 93% of people in healthy churches consider themselves to be in ministry, while only 11% of congregants in unhealthy churches feel that same way. The Unstuck Group’s number isn’t quite as high- they maintain that 45% of congregants in healthy congregations are engaged in ministry. Whichever metric you use, though, the point is obvious: in healthy churches, people serve.

In the coming months, you’re going to be hearing a lot about our “Say Yes” Campaign. The idea is simple: to connect people who love Jesus with opportunities to love people. It’s founded on the principle that if we all just “Say Yes” to ONE THING that we can help transform the world for Jesus Christ.

This isn’t about guilting people into serving. It isn’t about giving our current volunteers even more to do. Instead, it’s about giving us all the chance to become more like Jesus. The crazy thing is, you don’t have to be Jesus to do things like Jesus. His Spirit works through all of us to accomplish amazing things. You don’t have to be gifted physically, mentally, or any other way. God uses us in our frailty and weakness, and there is always someplace for us to be used.

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So, if you’re like I was, and you’re in danger of running into the wall, don’t try swerving.  Try serving. 

Say yes to being part of volunteer projects at Chapel Hill. You can talk to the Discipleship Team Chair, Susan Waite and sign up at the booth in the Great Hall or you can fill out a registration card online HERE.