You can’t turn on the radio in London right now and not hear about Orange’s (a UK mobile/cell phone company) volunteerism program called Orange Rockcorps. Their bigorange tag line for the promotion is ‘Give, Get Given.’ The idea is you give 4 hours of your time, volunteering and serving on a designated community project and in return are given a ticket to a gig at The Royal Albert Hall in London. The catch? You can’t buy tickets to the gig and you don’t find out who is playing the gig until after you’ve earned the ticket and right before the show.

Music is big big business…especially in London. The music and club scene operate at incomprehensible levels…you would never run out of gigs to go and see in this city.
This is just a smattering of the line-up around the city in the next week: 22/08: New Found Glory, 22/08: Steve Lawler (DJ),25/08: The Offspring, 25/08: Wilco…Freakin WILCO!!!, 26/08: LadyHawke…all kinds of music by all kinds of artists and this is the line-up during the massive global festival season where anyone who is anyone is playing one of the bazillion festivals all over the planet. So when Orange rolls out a ‘huge gig’ at an amazing venue and it’s all super secret…who wouldn’t want a ticket, especially if your a cheap/poor student in London? Last year the gig involved Busta Rhymes, Guillemots, John Legend, Feeder and more artists.

My first thought is Orange sounds like they’re doing a pretty cool thing. Fully sponsoring what sounds like a sick gig and in doing so also sponsoring over 50 local projects and increasing volunteerism in the community. The press on this project also seems to pretty upbeat and positive.

Perhaps I’m overly cynical but is this really as good as it seems? Sure loads of work gets done on worthwhile projects…sure loads of people get involved…sure loads of people enjoy a great gig, an exclusive gig (even better, right?). I’d be really interested to find out just how many of these ‘volunteers’ continue doing volunteer work without receiving a gig ticket.

I guess I just don’t see it as true ‘volunteerism’ if you do it to get avolunteering ‘reward’: in this case a free ticket to an exclusive gig. But seriously, we live in a world where you are rewarded for good behavior, good grades, for being a good person. As a youth minister, I’ve been in too many churches and given too many talks to kids where we communicate that if they ‘live right’, make ‘wise decisions’ and ‘love Jesus’ they will be ‘blessed’, He will ‘answer their prayers’ or ‘go to heaven’…when we do mission trips, or take kids to homeless shelters we even ask kids ‘how they felt serving others?’ or talk about how ‘rewarding’ volunteering is. But doesn’t talk of ‘reward’ or ‘what you get out of it’ defeat the purpose of volunteering? Isn’t it the same with living a life for Christ? Shouldn’t we be living it as if there wasn’t a ‘reward’ or upside or benefits for us simply because of who He is? If Christ is as compelling as we say he is, we should live relentlessly, passionately and freely for Him as if there was nothing in it for us…simply because we know He is true.

Ok, back to the Orange Rockcorps. It’s a sliding scale right? This is the first step, from a secular vantage point, of creating a generation of young people who are passionate about volunteering, making a difference in their communities and serving others. If this gets even a hand full of people onto the next step I suppose that’s a good thing. I suppose I’m just not content with the ‘what’s in it for me mentality’ and tired of it seeping into our theology and spirituality. I’m also not advocating a sense ‘obligation’ for Christian living either…that will only lead to a dark and angry place. But what happens if we get addicted to the carrot? Everytime we volunteer or ‘live for Christ’ we need a bigger and bigger carrot in order to ‘reach the next level’? This will only lead to a false sense of intimacy with God and volunteering for a reward will only create a false sense of commitment to one’s community and to those we are in community with.