Sunday, January 16, 2011

Discovering Your Calling: What are Your Talents and Strengths?

Have you ever seriously considered the assumptions that Christians embrace in their church involvement? These are things that we have picked up along the way.  It is unlikely that they have been adopted as church policy or even specifically taught, but they have become ingrained in our psyches. Over the years, I have observed a couple of interesting assumptions that Christians seem to have embraced.

 First, if I enjoy doing something, then it is not “God’s will for me.”   This may come from all the testimonies that we have heard about ministers “struggling” with their calling.  Or it may be a result of the idea that God doesn’t really want us to enjoy ourselves and demands self-denial.  We might summarize this as “If I feel good about it, obviously it is the wrong thing for me to do.”  This says a lot about our concept of God, doesn’t it?

Second, there is the idea that there are some things in the church that anyone can do.  For example, “Anyone can be a greeter. How hard is it to say hello to people and give them an order of worship?”  Well, for some people, meeting absolute strangers is an agonizing task (and don’t think that the strangers don’t realize it when they encounter such a person).  Putting a person in the wrong place of service does not help the person or the position of service!  It certainly does not contribute to spiritual growth.

In Growing and Engaged Church, Albert Winseman cites research that “individuals have the most room for growth in their areas of greatest talent.”  He argues that when we take an individual’s talents and strengths seriously, we can unleash great human potential.

This should not be so surprising for Christian leaders.  Throughout the New Testament, we read of people who were specially gifted for the work they did.  They were not called to “positions” but to “ministry” that grew out of their God-given gifts.  We also read about people who had developed certain talents over the years—artistic, musical, organizational, etc.—and used them for God’s work.  Paul’s training in Greek philosophy and his skills as a tentmaker would be one example.

People in our churches today have such skills or natural inclinations.  These are valuable resources for ministry, and individuals are often pleased when asked to share them in Christian work.

This “strengths-based” approach affirms that God has created each of us as unique individuals with great capacity for growth and service.  We should recognize that there are areas where we may not be gifted, but why expend time and energy on trying to work on those things and not using what God has already given to us?  We should not make excuses about what we are not gifted to do but accept the challenge to use what we have.

Rather than wishing for more, let’s learn to discover and use what we already have.

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