In our last installment of this series, we examined the general principles of ministry challenges, which can sometimes lead to someone leaving a ministry post.
In this installment we will examine the other side of the coin…
Should You [Enter] the Ministry?
Have you ever heard a well-intentioned Christian say–as they are considering a long-term investment of their lives in ministry–that, “…there is a ministry need over here or over there, so therefore that need justifies my call to that particular ministry or position…“? There is no doubt a consideration of need that should be filtered before entering the ministry, but placing too much value on a need apart from a primary consideration given to FIT can leave one between a rock and a hard place real quick. Perhaps you’ve also heard a good-hearted Christian say, “…I feel called to do this or to do that…“? This type of ambition is a general way of subjectively moving toward a particular ministry or position. However, when the difficulties mount, and the spiral of sin makes its way to this person’s sphere of influence, will that subjective feeling of a call remain? If you’re like most people, you doubt–many things–and that doubt coupled with a subjective feeling of a call can find itself uprooting nascent ambitions faster than a duck on a junebug.
So, if need doesn’t primarily justify a call to enter a ministry or a ministry field, and if a subjective feeling of a call doesn’t either, what does?
What is FIT?*
FIT is matching your particular God-given spiritual gifts AND your personality bent TO a particular ministry position or outpost. In other words, FIT is coupling or pairing how God has uniquely made you to a ministry position that allows you to operate and function (for the most part) within your God-given gifts and personality bent. For instance, you can use a wrench to drive a nail, but a hammer sure works better–and everyone (including the operator) find pleasure in the both the process and the final product!
*[Be sure to read below what I’m not saying about FIT…as well!]
So, how is FIT determined?
- Deliberate experience…this is you “kicking-the-tires” or “exploring passions” in the right sense of the phrases. This isn’t a light-heartedness or a trivial testing, but rather a moving toward a passion you feel for a particular ministry position or responsibility and then you starting to get reps in that particular area. You’re not committing your life to a ministry or position at this point, but you are investing deliberate and prayerful time in a particular ministry or ministry position right where you are–right now. Be faithful, deliberate to know the ends and outs of the position, show up on time, and commit a short-time (6 months or so) to that ministry position or outpost. While you’re doing that you will begin to experience biblical conviction in that particular ministry or position, which leads to the second point…
- Biblical conviction…this is your resolve felt (affirming your FIT one way or another) during your deliberate experience within a particular ministry while you’re reading the Scriptures and spending time in prayer. God will work on your heart as you are in His Word and prayer, you will begin to feel peace about the ministry position, and then you should seek a multitude of counselors to affirm this conviction or to guide you another direction.
- Counselors’ affirmation…this is a group (elders of your church, close friends, small group, etc.) of people who come alongside you and are able to observe you in action and affirm (or not) that your particular gifts and personality bent FIT a particular ministry position or outpost. They have observed you in a ministry context for a period of time…they have seen you be faithful, and they have an operating opinion either way that provides insight on your decision to [ENTER] a ministry position or not.
All this sounds good…on paper. So, what’s the catch?
The catch is…having the right perspective:
- We live in a fallen world, therefore we need to remember that we will NEVER find our PERFECT FIT until we get to heaven.
- We are surrounded by sinful people, therefore we need to remember that we will ALWAYS have difficulties, trials, and tribulations.
- We are sinful, therefore we need to remember that we will ALWAYS be dealing with our own insecurities, doubts, fears, and failures.
However, the benefits of pursuing your particular FIT within a ministry position, field, church, etc. are well worth the time of pursuit, consistent consideration, prayer, and examination of God’s Word to find out for yourself and GO.
Is it worth the effort? Why should one seek to find their FIT before entering into ministry?
Because it could be a matter of…
- Your satisfaction experienced and your purpose lived out despite difficult circumstances, people, and trials…
- Your faithfulness to God’s unique design for you…
- The Church being built up and edified…
- Your longevity in a life of ministry…
- God being most glorified through you, because He has taken a weak and broken vessel and used him/her to make His name known and His gospel proclaimed through their faithful exercising and operating in the way in which He made them…
***What I am not saying is that [EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE FOUND YOUR CLOSEST MINISTRY FIT]***
- Finding your FIT is the ONLY way to be faithful to God in ministry. This is wrong, obviously. There are myriad thousand upon thousands upon millions, etc. faithful people in ministry who have not spent 1 second considering their FIT. On the other hand, we’re living in a unique time period with many overwhelming options. And so, what is being discovered in many circumstances is that focusing on one’s strengths far outweighs time spent bolstering your practical weaknesses. This is intuitive, but it’s also practical. One usually doesn’t ask (in an Olympic training scenario) a shot-putter to stop working on his or her shoulder strength and to begin a training regiment for the marathon. In the same way asking a person bent toward communication and gifted as a teacher to stop spending the majority of their time on public preaching and to instead start spending their time inputting data and working on follow-up spreadsheets from the previous week’s church services.
- Ministry or your position in ministry will be easy. This is wrong, obviously. We can’t escape difficulty, and there is no utopia this side of heaven.
- Ministry won’t require you to be a living sacrifice. This is wrong, obviously. Daily you will have to die to yourself. Daily you will face your sin, the sin of others, and the brokenness of the world, and therefore you will have to die to self!
- Ministry won’t require you to trust God. This is wrong, obviously. Daily you will have to trust God. Just because you find a ministry FIT, and you begin to invest your life into your responsibilities that doesn’t mean that you aren’t still having to trust God. Every day you have to trust God, and trust Him to be strong through you.
- Ministry won’t require that you be stretched, uncomfortable, and in daily need. This is wrong, obviously. Because you will always be called to do more than you thought you could do or were capable of doing! Is it possible to find your FIT, but to still be stretched, to be uncomfortable, to even doubt while you are operating within your ministry context? Of course.
- You have ARRIVED! Functioning or operating in your FIT within a ministry or position doesn’t mean that you can now take it easy and not continue the oftentimes laborious and wearisome tasks associated with ministering to people.
- You won’t burnout! Some of my closest mentors have faced burnout in ministry doing the very things they love and were created to do. Balance, rest, retreat, reflection, and wisdom are always needed while functioning within a ministry.
May the Lord guide you to your particular FIT as you consider [entering] ministry, and may you enjoy the process. May also the greater promise of heaven and the New Jerusalem guide you into a humble and intentional consideration of embarking upon the journey and mission of serving God’s Church through your unique design!
“The Christian, in relation to heaven, is in much the same position as this schoolboy. Those who have attained everlasting life in the vision of God doubtless know very well that it is no mere bribe, but the very consummation of their earthly discipleship; but we who have not yet attained it cannot know this in the same way, and cannot even begin to know it at
all except by continuing to obey and finding the first reward of our obedience in our increasing power to desire the ultimate reward.”
The Weight of Glory–C.S. Lewis
— October 12, 2017