Knowing where to serve in ministry has plagued many believers. We often find preachers challenge our motivation. If we loved Jesus then we would gladly serve Him. While I believe that statement is true I also believe that people honestly struggle with the question of how they should serve Christ. Unless we were asked it is safe to assume that many of us wouldn’t be volunteering at all. And even when we do, many of us are asked to do something that is not that challenging or even begins to tap into the skill, passion and experience that God has given us. The truth is many churches are not very creative in their selection of ministries you can get involved in. The purpose of this workbook is to help you (and your church) to think out of the box when it comes to ministry selection.
Serving God In Everything We Do
God has put us on this earth to love Him and serve Him in everything we do. We can break “everything” into three different areas of personal responsibility. These are our vocation, our relationships and our volunteerism.
Vocation is a confusing term, yet if we are to fully understand ministry we must comprehend this important element of life. Vocation is related to what we do for employment. God deeply cares about the way you and I spend such a large part of our adult life. In fact God has designed us to be more happy, fulfilled and at peace at some jobs than others. This may sound foreign to you. Perhaps you are stuck in some dead end job with no comprehension that God may have created you for something more meaningful, but He has!
Job, Occupation or Vocation?
There is a big difference between a job, occupation and a vocation. Each of us has had a job, most of us an occupation and those of us who seek for it, get to spend our time with a vocation. There is a difference.
A job is doing a task for pay or to fulfill an obligation. It is an exchange of your time and labor for something of monetary value.
An occupation comes from the root word “to occupy” It is occupying your time with a job. It is more than a single task or project. It is the primary source of your income. It is what you are doing for a “living”. An occupation that requires more training and further education and specialization, such as a doctor or engineer, is often called a profession.
A vocation, while similar to an occupation, is different in this one respect. It is an occupation or profession that fulfills what you consider to be your “calling” or ministry at this particular time in your life. It could be a teacher, nurse, CEO, artist, or simply being a good, loving and kind employee, ministering to those that you come in contact with.
Do you see the difference? So many of us are in an job or occupation where we are underemployed. We are working at a job that doesn’t utilize our skills, talents or passions. When this happens, our inner self demands that we step out by faith into a vocation, something that fits our calling, but most of us do not know how to do that. We are not sure what it is we should be doing. We only know that what we are doing doesn’t fit, and so we sit in a job that is unfulfilling day after day after day.
What is the difference between having a vocation and being underemployed? Let’s consider the four scenarios.
High Ministry/Low Pay
In this kind of job we are involved in our “calling” through a ministry driven job, however it doesn’t pay very much. This is usually indicative of an entry level job in a field that strikes a cord with our core beliefs and values. In order for this job to become a vocation, we would have to work our way into more responsibility and pay increases, or we would have to be bi-vocational, supplementing our income some other way.
High Ministry/High Pay
The jobs in this catergory are considered “vocations”. They are jobs that fit our ministry in life and pay well, perhaps not as high as other choices but enough to allow us to live out ministry.
Low Ministry/Low Pay
Because of the low pay and lack of a ministry orientation, jobs in this catergory are considered entry level or a supplemental part-time job. To support an adult life style we eventually need to find a job that pays more or supplement our income in some other way.
High Pay/Low Ministry
When we stay in a job like this for too long, we will start to feel underemployed. We are getting paid well enough but cannot find peace, purpose or meaning in what we are spending most of our time on. Often we are trapped because we have a lifestyle that needs every penny we earn. To take a job that is more meaningful or better utilizes our gifts and skills but pays less doesn’t seem like an option. For us to make a leap to a more meaningful career would necessitate a tightening of our budget, some sacrifice and perhaps a second source of income. When we do, however, switch to a vocation, the peace, joy and fulfillment make any seemingly sacrifice well worth it.
Our goal is to find a vocation, but we will not be able to, until we understand and believe that God is vitally interested in who we are and what we do. We need to comprehend that our vocation is just as much a part of our ministry in life as working in the church. God does not see secular and sacred. He sees us as individuals “called” to live for Him in everything we do.
There is a false paradigm that many believe about their life ministry. They believe that God has put relationships farther down the list of priorities than ministry or vocation. I believed that. During our first ministry Janine, my wife, was absolutely miserable. Not because of the people we knew or the ministry but because of me. I mean it with all sincerity when I say that my wife is one of the most servant-hearted people I know. She has a deep faith and a love for ministry that I strive to imitate. The problem wasn’t with Janine; it was the fact that I was not doing my part to help provide for our emotional and financial needs. I had a warped view of ministry. I felt called to “ministry” and did not see that my relationship to my wife and children was just as an important part of my ministry in life as the ministry of preaching and teaching. I felt that money was an unnecessary evil and that we could make it by on my salary. The fact was my monthly income was way below the U.S. poverty rate. I did not know how to discern what was a healthy response to my call to ministry. I had the misinformed view that it was God first, ministry second and my family third. I bought the sacred/secular lie. I felt that “church” ministry was more sacred than the other parts of my ministry in life. I did not even know that there were other parts of my ministry. If I had, I would have made healthier choices for my wife and children as to the use of my time and acquiring the funds for our modest budget.
Our relationships with God, family, church and community are part of God’s ministry in our life. We should apply the same zeal, passion, energy and strategy to these as any other part of our ministry. We need to ask God, “How can I use my passions, strengths and gifts to bless each of the relationships that I am in.” This is part of God’s ministry for our life.
The third part of our ministry in life is the area of volunteerism. Volunteerism, is the delegating of our discretionary time, income and resources to causes that are important to us. God has created each of us differently; therefore, we each have different interests and priorities that can be lived out in ministry to others.
For many people church experience has been relegated to Sunday with its worship and Biblical preaching. Others include small group Bible studies and fellowship. While these are very important, there is a service element that is missing. Unfortunately, the 80/20 rule has been alive and well in the church. Surveys claim that less than 30% of the people attending churches in America are involved in any ministry at all. As a result of this inactivity, the church has lost much of its influence in the world. But there is hope. I see a trend that is slowly growing. In the 1980’s it was the “Unleashing the Church” movement that woke some churches up. In the 90’s and today there has been Willow Creeks’ Connection and Saddleback’s Purpose Driven Church programs teaching thousands of churches how to get their members “assimilated” into the church and ministry. Frazer Memorial Church in Montgomery, Alabama, has been teaching churches their system they use to get over 90% of their members involved in ministry. And today there is a church that has taken this to a new level.
Pastor Robert Lewis of the Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas has chronicled the last four years of their church’s ministry in a book called, The Church Of Irresistible Influence. This is a wonderful account of how a church, who was already heavily involved in a community, decided to go to a higher level of influence.
Dr. Lewis came to their “Big Idea” at a leadership retreat in the winter of 1996. They attempted to assess the health of their church. It seemed odd because they seemed successful. They grew from a small group in 1977 to over 3,500 attending on Sunday. They had helped plant fifteen churches and had been in a continuous building expansion for over ten years.
What created the change was when someone at the meeting asked if they were helping change the community. Someone then read from Matthew 5:16 where Jesus says:
Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
It was that verse that started them on a process of becoming the light in their community. They wanted to be a “church of irresistible influence!”
As a result of that meeting, Fellowship Bible Church took three steps that have led them down a road of tremendous personal growth of their members and significant outreach into the community.
The first step was confession. Fellowship Bible needed, as individuals and as a church, to confess that they had not been the witnesses of God’s love that they should have been. How about us? Have we, and the church we go to, been the effective light in the world around us? Does the community glorify God because of our existence? Are there people in the community who have come to know Christ because of our love and compassion? If not, then we need to repent. We need to see our lack of action as God sees it. We need to see it as a sinful selfish distortion of what God intended. He intended each of us to minister together to a hurt and dying world right at our back door. When we truly see our sin, when we really feel the pain that our disobedience has brought the Father, when we see that it is “I” who has missed the mark and that together, “we” have not taken “good works” to our community, then God will be able to take us to the next step.
Fellowship Bible Church’s next step was to “Vision”, that is to see what God wanted them to be. Looking through the New Testament they came up with three guidelines for a vision for their church. They desired to be:
A church that has a passion for Jesus Christ and evangelism.
A fellowship with high moral standards.
A church that is loving their community through good deeds so much that people in the community are amazed!
The final step for Fellowship Bible, was to unleash people with purpose. This was a specific plan to give people exposure to various ministries so they could eventually participate in one. Over time, as the congregation became excited about ministry, the church would get a sense of God’s leading in church-wide strategic investments into different ministries. These would be serious sacrificial and strategic investments of time, energy and money.
At Calvary we set out to build an atmosphere for ministry revolution. Volunteer committees were created to drive the process. It is incredible to watch people use the business skills they have acquired and temper them with the leading of the Holy Spirit. First they created a five year vision by evaluating needs and creating goal connected to a time table. They decided to become more purpose driven and began to make incremental changes. We incorporated an annual, Every Person In Ministry Campaign, resulting in many more people becoming involved in ministry. As a staff, we created a ministry environment where people could feel free to test out new and refreshing ideas, to think out side of the box. People were encouraged to become “need” finders and then create ministries meeting the various needs. Existing ministries were asked to revisit their mission and create new ministry goals plans and budgets based on the new five year plan.. The results have been a dramatic. There is an energy and excitement for ministry. It is unbelievable what volunteers are doing.
Our Life Is A Journey, Ask God For Wisdom
Usually when we consider our ministries in life, we think that the answer will be simple, concrete and easy to understand. We want a voice from heaven saying, “You will be this” or “ you will do that.” But that is not how it works. Life is too complicated for a simplistic description of our life’s ministry. No, our life is a journey and whether we are hiking, sailing or flying a rocket ship the journey is never a straight line. The way to get from here to there is to constantly recorrect our course. We travel until we start to veer off course and then we check our bearings and make the necessary adjustments to get back on course. This allows us to focus on the day’s journey with all of its complexities, disruptions, and unexpected detours and still make our final destination.
I sure learned about correcting our course in wilderness training. We would be given a compass, a map, and destination to get to. Determining the direction we needed to go, we would start to hike. It would not be long before we would be off course. It was inevitable. Large trees, ponds, creeks, cliffs would all cause slight and sometimes dramatic variations in the direction we were going. We learned that it was best to set our compass and pick something not too far away, right on the straight line we had to go, as a marker. As long as we kept that marker in our vision and arrived there, all we had to do was line up the compass in the direction we had to go and choose the next marker. We may have been veering off course on our way to the marker, but when we reached it we would realign our journey in the correct direction and off we would go again.
You may be thinking, “Ron, it’s too late, I am way off course, I’ve gone the wrong way! I can’t minister for God.” Oh, yes you can! My wife has a bumper sticker on her car that says, “God allows U-turns!” Isn’t that true? God knows that a life of ministry is difficult and that we can get off course, even go the wrong way but Praise God, He allows u-turns, He helps us recorrect our course. We can ask God to give us wisdom and show us the way.
In Proverbs 2:1-10, Solomon writes about seeking wisdom and understanding. He writes,
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
This was designed to help you seek wisdom and understanding about your involvement in ministry. It was created to help you learn all about yourself so you can constantly recorrect your course. Ask God to open your mind so you will have understanding about your ministry in life.
Lord, I pray that you will open my eyes that I may see how you made me and how I can best serve you. I pray that I will have a better understanding of my ministry and be faithful to live my life for you. In Jesus Name, Amen.
So what is stopping us? Let’s get our map, strike out a course and recorrect when we have to. The thrill is in the adventure. May God help each of us to see how we were created for ministry and give us the courage to launch out and start serving Him.
There is no limit to what God could do as you and the others in your church are Spirit led in the use of these gifts. What are some ways that you can use your gifts? You can find out more about that in our workbook How Am I Wired For Ministry? CLICK HERE for your FREE download of How Am I Wired for Ministry.
Want to know more about Spiritual Gifts? Download your FREE copy of our Spiritual Gifts Test and Workbook. CLICK HERE for a Spiritual Gifts Test and workbook