Our minister is a very godly man: he has chosen to do something he’s less good at for the sake of the gospel. Let me explain.
John often says that he was a much better doctor than he is a minister. (NB: I find this hard to believe.) But he was so convinced of the importance of helping people understand, believe and obey the Bible, that he gave up medicine for full-time paid Christian ministry.
This was a much harder decision for John to make than most of us. You see, John, like me, is a perfectionist. And, believe me, perfectionists like to stick to the things they’re best at, and they like to do them well.
Now, I’m not advocating (and neither is John) that you should become a Bible teacher if you’re not gifted at preaching. In Paul’s list of qualifications for overseers, he says you need to be “able to teach” (although he spends far less time on this than godliness—see 1 Timothy 3:1-7). There is a place for recognizing and using our gifts. But there is also a time when we need to put our gifts aside, get down and dirty, and serve. There is a time for doing things badly.
Here’s a list of some of the things I’m bad at:
- serving people
- leading singing
- teaching other people’s kids
- cooking meals
Being a perfectionist, I like to do things well. But I do, or have done, these things—not because I’m good at them (believe me, I’m not), but because there has been a need for them.
What a contrast this is to the modern emphasis on ‘finding my gifts’ and using them! I’m sure our obsession with discovering our gifts stems as much from a drive for self-fulfilment and self-discovery, as often as it stems from a desire to love and serve others.
So why not tear up the ‘discover your spiritual gift’ survey, and ask yourself these questions instead:
- What are my primary responsibilities? How can I best fulfil them?
- What are the needs in my community and church? How can I help meet them?
- How can I help God’s kingdom advance? What can I do to proclaim the gospel?
You never know: as you love and serve those around you, you might discover a spiritual gift you never knew you had! Ministering to others and having others recognize your gifts is the best way to discover them anyway.1 Your gift might not turn out to be one of the ‘exciting’ ones—perhaps it will turn out to be service, or encouragement—but you will bless others richly as you use it.
1 This is why ministry apprenticeships are so valuable: they push us out of our comfort zone and help us to discover ways we can minister to others. We might never have thought of serving others in some of these ways, but they can prove very valuable in the years to come. I’ve been astounded at the servant-hearted, entrepreneurial, fruitful ministries exercised by those who’ve done an apprenticeship, including those who never went into full-time paid Christian ministry.