My wife and I have been married for 12 years. When we first got married, we were probably like most young couples, we didn’t have a whole heck of a lot. So, naturally, when it came time for registering for gifts, we did what most people would do, we registered for all of the things that we knew we would never afford ourselves in hopes that our generous family and friends might start picking things off of our list. One of those things was a Kitchen Aid blender.
This Kitchen Aid blender was really talked up to me by my wife. She told me all of the things that it could do, told me how her parents had their blender for a long time, and told me that it would last us a while. The day it broke the first time was a frustrating day for me. How could it have broken? Well, the part that they call the coupling, which actually causes the blender to blend, is made of rubber. During the blending of something, I picked up the canister and it basically shredded the rubber coupling.
Fast forward a few years. My wife enjoys making a lot of things that she finds on the internet. She’s been a champ in trying to find new and interesting gluten free options for our family as well. In the age of Pinterest and Etsy, there are so many options to explore. A few weeks back, she found a recipe for mango sorbet that she wanted to try out. The recipe didn’t call for a blender though, it called for a food processor. My wife decided to try the blender anyway.
The results were similar to my own experience of moving the canister off of the base, in an effort to work harder than it ever worked before, the coupling was overloaded and began to fray, rendering our blender, once again, useless (at least temporarily).
Knowing that this wasn’t the end of the world (or our blender), I went online and ordered some new couplings. As I sat down at the computer to search for the parts, I began to think and process in my head all that this meant. I know, I know, I’m a little over-analytical at times, but bear with me. The key to this mishap was the directions, the recipe, which had specifically instructed the reader to use a food processor. In fairness to my wife, she simply wanted to work with what we had rather than going out and spending money on a new appliance.
Since I have spent all of my life within the church and the last 9 years in full-time vocational ministry, I constantly see life through that lens. So naturally, as I thought about the misuse of the blender, my thoughts went back to the church. The situation with the mixer reminded me of a situation that we so often see in the church. We have to fill a position and we have a warm body, therefore, the two can be matched together, regardless of whether or not they actually fit together or were made to be together.
A person comes into the church and there is a position open. The person shows that they are reliable, kind, and somewhat spiritual. The plotting ministry leader approaches the unsuspecting person to offer them the opportunity to fill a position that they weren’t created to fill. There is no assessment done other than a brief and cursory once over. The once over results in the discovery that this person is very nice, smiles a lot, comes regularly, and seems reliable. Match! They are instantly thrust into a volunteer position.
The problem is, the recipe said something different. In due time, the most likely result will be that the person becomes frustrated at best and jaded at worst. They have been filling a position that they were not created to fill and they’re beginning to show signs of burnout. Their gifting lies somewhere else, but they instead continue to try to fill a hole that doesn’t match how God created them.
Don’t misunderstand me, I fully believe that we all need to feel a little unprepared, ill-equipped, and unqualified to work for God. If we didn’t, would we really be trusting Him and relying on Him? But there’s a difference between being unprepared, ill-equipped, and unqualified versus lacking the gifts necessary to passionately serve.
We’ve all been given certain gifts and abilities with which we can serve. The problem is, there seems to be a disconnect many times when it comes to using those gifts and abilities within the church. We don’t need THOSE gifts, we need THESE gifts. Well, you’ve got THOSE gifts, so I think we can make it work in order that you can fill THIS position. The inevitable result is that when we place people in positions about which they are not passionate or gifted in some way, we end up with a mess and a miserable person. People get burned out when they operate outside of the place where their passion and gifting lies.
Again, don’t misunderstand me, I fully believe that God equips us with everything that we need to accomplish His will, but I also believe that God created us with gifts, talents, and abilities in order that we might use those very things to bring glory to Him. When we operate outside of those things, those gifts, talents, and abilities lie untouched while we struggle and strive to love what we’re doing despite the fact that it flies in the face of all of our gifting.
I read a phrase a in a book a few weeks ago that has haunted me since I read it: start where you are, not where you want to be. I have not gone a day since I read that phrase where I haven’t at least uttered that once in the course of the day. It’s a simple phrase of truth that can be really helpful if we apply it, especially to situations like these. We’re constantly trying to get somewhere else, wishing that we had this or that and failing to see what we’ve been given.
It’s a lesson that I have had to learn over and over again in the course of ministry. You are never handed an ideal situation, perfect and ready to be seized. Textbook scenarios are rarely experienced (unless your textbook is the DSM, but that’s the subject of another post), yet we constantly try to force the situation to match what we want rather than what’s right before us.
What would happen if every time a person came into the local church they were asked where their heart lies? What would happen if they were given the opportunity to share their passions and strengths rather than being forced into positions that hardly seemed appropriate? What would happen if people’s gifts were paired with the position that they were filling? I think we would see less burnout in the church.
Sure, we might not have all of the fancy programs and activities that we’d like to have, but if gifting drives what we offer, we will find ourselves being way more organic and will find our people feeling a lot better and more fulfilled about being used as they were created rather than as we wish they were created.
This is all still a work in progress for me. I’m constantly trying to figure out what it means to start where I am rather than where I want to be. I have to be careful not to be defeatist and settle into where I am rather than striving to move forward, but I think this kernel of truth can be helpful if I take it seriously, if we take it seriously, within the church. I guess I’ll have to let you know how it’s going in 6 months.