Somebody Should and Anybody Could But Nobody Will

By Deacon Sunni Richardson

I love little stories that play on words. Pastor Harlan Heier, now retired, used to share Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” story at the annual talent show. Every time I laughed as if it was the first time I had heard the story.  Bishop Patricia Davenport, Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, caught the attention of the crowd at Churchwide Assembly with her “Somebody, Anybody, Everybody, Nobody” story in her Friday sermon. Everybody laughed but her story was not a joke. She pounded on us in a good way. Everybody in that room heard her powerful words of proclamation – “You are not a nobody!”.

I’ve heard the somebody, anybody, nobody, everybody story preached in many church settings. Sometimes it comes from the pulpit, but a good share of the time it comes by way of a newsletter, Sunday bulletin, phone call, text, or email. Too often the “invitation” is not tied to gifts, talents or making a difference in the Kingdom. Instead, it’s tied to getting a job done which implies anybody could do the job … translation somebody (anybody please!) make this happen.

Hit the pause button here and consider the last time you invited someone to serve:

  • Did you share the backstory? Why is the church engaging in this project? What difference will it make? What’s the goal?
  • Did you lay out the expectations? Is this a sign-on-the-dotted-line situation and you are stuck with the job forever? Stuck forever is one of the main reasons people say no.
  • Were you a good matchmaker? Do the gifts, talents, time, and passion of the one you are inviting to serve match with the task? Have you considered personality style, leadership dynamics and skills somebody brings to the church from other aspects of their life?
  • Did you pray about this opportunity and invitation? Did you invite them to prayerfully consider their time, talents, and resources?
  • If they said no to this project, did you invite them to serve in another way or another time?
  • If it did not go well, did you have an honest conversation about the results and strategize other ways that individuals might serve in the Kingdom?

We are quick to flaunt the church is different. I’ve declared, too many times, we are not the Rotary, PTA, or a community club. But one must ask what makes us different. Bishop Davenport laid it out loud and clear in her sermon. Baptism isn’t just a naming; it is a sending for us all. No one is exempt. No one is denied the honor and invitation to live into the Living Word. Christ calls us to be disciples.

‘Tis the season — We are hunting for volunteers in the church. We need ushers, coffee makers, acolytes, pantry workers, and committee members. Instead of handing out the usual fall Time & Talent sheet packed with jobs that “need” to be done lean into the faith practice of inviting. It may just be a play on words, but the words we choose do make a difference. As Lutherans, we lift-up the concept of priesthood of all believers, we commit to being in the world for the sake of the gospel, and we sing everybody has something to offer. Let’s transform how we invite and how we do the work God calls us to each and every day.

‘Here’s the link if you missed the August 12 worship or want to watch again.

Dakota Road Music “Everybody Has Something to Offer”