Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Service to the Saints and Beyond

I've been pondering the issue of service, particularly within the body of Christ, for some weeks now. The reason for this is because of the on-going frustration in ministry of struggling to find people willing to serve strategic ministries within the local church. I've got some thoughts and what I hope is a biblical response to how things should be, but before I verbalize them I want to get some feedback from the 3 people that read this blog regularly. So here is your chance to respond to the question below. Let me hear you.

What role, if any, should a person's interest play in their willingness to invest in a particular ministry? For example, a camp is planned for 3rd-5th graders. A recreation director is needed. You don't particularly enjoy 4th grade boys. However, a ministry leader thinks you are a capable, gifted leader and would be a great fit in this area. What role should your lack of interest in this area play in your willingness to serve?

What role, if any, should a person's spiritual gifts play in their willingness to serve in a particular ministry? How many people even know what those gifts are?

How many of you discovered areas of giftedness, not because you discerned these gifts or capabilities on your own, but because others saw their potential in you?

I'd appreciate any feedback the three of you faithful readers are willing to offer (and if there happen to be more of you, please chime in).


At 12:08 PM , Blogger r a i n e r said...

this is sort of a partial answer by way of illustration, but I know that Todd Howard basically put me in a teaching position to college students not long after i was saved (we can debate the wisdom of that some other time) b/c I came to him saying that college needed someone to lead them. I was forced to get in the word & teach. I think I found an area of giftedness there (teaching) that my nature (quiet, reserved) would not have typically had me volunteering for. Not so much an answer as food for thought.

At 2:12 PM , Blogger Culver said...

I think your questions clearly betray your opinions and I agree with you. One of the most eye opening experiences I have ever had was marriage counseling. Our counselor asked me what I thought my spiritual gifts were. After I answered he asked my wife what she thought my spiritual gifts were. She agreed with me on most of it but her answers were different enough from mine to scare me. I thought, “This is what my wife-to-be sees in me and expects of me?” I know that God equips us with skills and interests but I think very often we limit God by relying on our skills and abilities. I’m not going to rail against spiritual tests because I know that many have found them beneficial, but I will say that there is a danger in them. I have met many people who declare what there spiritual gift is and then serve faithfully only in those areas. The Bible says clearly that we are to pray for one spiritual gift in particular, wisdom (James 1:5), and seek after others that build up the church (1 Cor 14:12). God does equip us but we must be very cautious of not limiting God and be aware of the work others see God doing in us. I once let my Sunday school class of seniors in high school take a spiritual test for me. Our answers were pretty different and very revealing. I have to constantly strive (and I fail miserably) to get to the point where Paul was when he said that they were at the end of everything that they could do and God let them get there so that they would rely on Him (2 Cor 1:9). We do what God calls us to do.

At 2:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You need to consider that people in churches have jobs, homes, and family. You may think that a person ought to be serving but in reality, they are burning the candle at both ends.
One problem I see with putting a person into a job for which they don't feel suited, is the fact that they may be right. I am an introvert and when I teach a class, it totally exhausts me for several days. I am trying to say no more often.

At 4:32 PM , Blogger Aaron said...

Anonymous brings up an interesting point: "You need to consider that people in churches have jobs, homes, and family. You may think that a person ought to be serving but in reality, they are burning the candle at both ends."

Let me ask another question: should an individuals ,job or extra-curricular activities, or even the well-meaning things we often schedule for our families (such as little Johnny playing soccer, baseball, piano lessons, Tae-Kwon-Do, and the innumerable other activities we schedule to make sure Johnny is well-rounded), take precedence over our service to the saints?

The comment by anonymous is loaded because it assumes that the things listed (and other things) should take priority over serving the body of Christ. Yet, in the epistles to local churches, Paul says things like this:

"Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality" (Rom 12:13);

"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but to the interests of others" (PHil 2:4);

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Heb 9:24-25).

The question posted by anonymous also assumes that those priorities (job, family, etc) are of greater importance than the Church. I'm not sure that the New Testament teaches such a thing.

I'm not trying to be harsh, but we must consider these things for the sake of dialogue.

At 4:48 PM , Blogger do I really have one of these? said...

Gifts and interests have their place to a certain extent. They are important. But if reliance is based solely on interests and gifts, we then find ourselves casting the same people to serve in the same spots all the time. For example, there is a person who always volunteers to help out in the kitchen. This person's abilities (in my observation as the youth pastor) stretches far beyond just kitchen help alone, but this is what they are always signed up for when events and functions comes around because everybody knows that that is what that person does. Serving in different roles allows people to grow in ways they may not have been aware of like my friend David Rainer who spoke of his early days as a Christian in a teaching role. However, this also allows leadership to bring others into positions that need to commit to being involved in ministry and can do so because certain individuals do not have their name stamped on one particular service position.

How do you efficiently and logistically get membership involved in ministry through service? Maybe gifts and interests are a way to get members of the church involved in an introductory manner in areas they think they belong, only to be willing to be stretched in many other ways as they grow in the midst of servanthood, thus making room for others to come in and serve.

At 4:58 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous is not talking about taking little Johnny to soccer. Anonymous to talking about washing dishes, doing yard work, cleaning gutters, mopping floors, painting the house, dealing with sick relatives, babysitting with grandkids and working full time. (I'm beginning to feel like Bob Dole.)

At 6:37 PM , Anonymous Lisa said...

I know that for me, when I was approached about serving with the kids on Wednesday nights, I hadn't really thought about seeking a ministry; I knew I wanted to serve, but I also felt so ill equipped as a new member and was afraid to make the first move. That could be part of the problem, but also, I think we can get too comfortable and, unfortunately, get a mind set of others serving us all the time because we are busy people. The problem with that is..everyone is busy! It's got to be a balancing act on everyone's part, I think. When I had mentioned my concerns about someone stepping forward to serve for me so I could come to CO for my clinicals, one of the men in church told me I shouldn't let that hold me back from an amazing opportunity I felt God had called me to..I didn't, but the frustrating part is no one has come forward to serve for a short time...even with 3 months of requests and 4 months of prayer. I just wonder what's going on with everyone...

At 11:51 PM , Blogger Aaron said...

btw...it probably needs to be said that we can assume from the comments that anonymous makes that they AREN'T the kind of person who only goes to church to be fed but not involved. He/She said, "I am an introvert and when I teach a class, it totally exhausts me for several days. I am trying to say no more often."

It is true that a person's comfort level may indicate that they are not suited for a particular task. At the same time. how can one know unless they have tried what they have been asked to do. Unfortunately, within church life, sometimes committing to a particular ministry turns into a life-time commitment because people often are not willing to serve. This probably discourages people from getting involved.

At 11:01 AM , Blogger Glenn said...

Here are some quick answers to your original questions... I think that the comments and dialogue have been great and I really enjoyed reading your (Aaron's) first response to Anonymous.

1) A persons willingness (these days) needs to be taken into consideration depending on the type of job and whether they will do badly in it if they do not want to prepare for the work. But this question reveals to us the delima of our modern culture of self-centeredness and busy-ness which says that we have to be open and willing ourselves before we serve our community, even if others call upon us for help and support. Thus, our cultural ideas need to be gotten rid of first in order to make progress on the willingness isssue.

2) Regarding the spiritual gifts... There is really no clear way to determine your spiritual gifts if you do not open yourself up to serving in your local church. The reason why so many people don't know their gifts is because they have been sitting on a pew most of their lives thinking that the "ultra" spiritual people and the pastors should be doing all the work all the time. Spiritual gifts should play a role down the road, but when you live in a church culture where people don't serve much and don't know much about their gifts, you don't really need to consider that issue until after they have served in multiple positions and both the person and the elders of the church have seen what those gifts are.

3) I have been open to hearing other peoples views for some time now and I certainly do try to take them into account. Unfortunately, people may say that you have certain potential in certain areas, but in most churches today, that doesn't mean that you will actually get to try them out simply because all the positions are already filled or other people who clearly have those same gifts are always asked first. I think about the situation with Sunday school teachers... every year the same people are asked to continue teaching and no new people are asked unless one of the current teachers decides (on their own) to step down from that position. I think that that is a serious problem that needs to be dealt with. I think it should be made clear to all teachers that sometimes the elders might ask some of them to step aside and let others learn to teach with them.

Just my thoughts... Hope that I was clear. Thanks for posting the Chambers quote. That was great!


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