I’m trying to organise the rotas at the moment. I can assure you this kind of paperwork isn’t what got me into ministry! But as I think about it, a rota is a really good symbol of what Jesus is building in the gospel.
You could argue that 1-2 Chronicles is all about church rotas. In 1 Chr 23-27, David is drawing up rotas for the temple; Levites and priests, musicians, and gatekeepers and soldiers are put on a rota. We’re given the rotas in excruciating detail! But this isn’t a picture of King David getting distracted. This is his royal work of administration being put on display. Future kings and priests who are godly are characterised as getting the same rotas going again. For example, Jehoiada the priest gets the temple personnel reorganised in 2 Chr 23:3-11, 16-20 under King Joash. Both King Hezekiah and King Josiah also get back to the same rotas (2 Chr 29:25; 35:4, 15). Getting these systems going are what the true King of Israel does. The king mobilises people, and makes sure everyone gets their “turn” to serve.
That’s just a shadow of what Jesus our Lord does in his church. The gospel creates rotas! Think how Paul talks of the church: “each part is working properly” (Eph 4:16). Think of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, whose “division was on duty” (Luke 1:8). Everyone mucks in.
Here’s what being on a rota can show:
– “I belong”. When I see my name on a rota, it shows that I’m included. I matter to the people of God; I’ve got a part to play in the life of this people. When Jesus saves and remakes me, I’m not insignificant, but he’s prepared good works for me to walk in (Eph 2:10). Jesus hasn’t designed me to be a spectator in his church.
– “I fit in”. A rota is bigger than any one person. When you’re on a rota, it’s not something you’re in charge of, but something you “fit in” to. It’s therefore humbling. A rota tells us: it’s not about you, but something bigger than you. A rota isn’t an area of service, where you get to show off. It requires you to listen to what’s expected of you and to work alongside others. Jesus uses a good rota to work on my selfishness, and turn me out in love to others.
– “I’m willing”. Rotas aren’t something paid professionals do. They’re voluntary. This is your “free time”; you could be doing something else with that time, earning £8 per hour at McDonalds. So, signing up to a rota expresses a happy willingness to serve Jesus and his people. Before we’re saved, our wills were chained; but Jesus has freed our wills. Now, we can choose to obey Jesus Christ and his people. A well-run rota illustrates what was true in Nehemiah’s day: “The people had a mind to work” (Neh 4:6).
– “I’m reliable”. Rotas require reliability from those on them. It’s sharing work out, and if you don’t put it in your diary, and show up, you let everyone else down. A rota calls for my commitment, and faithfulness. Rotas rely on a kind of dependability that Jesus is cultivating in his kingdom.
Rotas aren’t an irrelevant or dirty part of church life. They’re not an example of a “business” mindset taking over the church. Rather, they’re expressions of the harmony and cooperation that King Jesus is creating in his church by his powerful Holy Spirit.