Finding Your Place
By S. Robert Maddox
Aug. 5, 2012
Thousands of teenagers across the nation try out for high school volleyball teams every year. As an assistant coach, I evaluate many players and help develop winning teams.
Volleyball requires a variety of team members. The backcourt needs shorter players who are able to move quickly, bend low, and accurately pass the ball without fear of banging onto the floor or being hit by a ball. The frontcourt needs taller players who are able to jump high, hit powerfully, and block firmly. Other players are needed who are willing to study the unique ability of each hitter, masterfully managing the court and skillfully setting a ball to an anticipating attacker.
Great teams require players who trust and help each other — those who are teachable, passionate and willing to do what is best for everyone.
Teams also need coaches who oversee conditioning, teach technique, and provide strategy. Even with proper training, some plays in a match will defy human ability and produce a sense of wonder. Achievement occasionally appears impossible. The best preparation cannot always explain great accomplishments.
Matches need court officials, line judges, scorekeepers and libero trackers who enforce the rules and safeguard the integrity of the game. The sport requires team members, coaches and officials who put all their abilities, skills and effort into the program.
There are many similarities between volleyball and church ministry. Both need people with diverse giftings and talents, as well as various leaders who are able to give training and guidance. The difference between the two is that God provides gifts to fulfill the Great Commission and expects the church to depend on the Holy Spirit for achievements that are beyond human ability.
The Bible describes three groups of giftings, which work to motivate believers toward harmonious operation in the church (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:27,28; 1 Peter 4:10,11). God provides mentors who further develop the abilities of church members (Ephesians 4:11,12).
Finally, in the Holy Spirit, ministry is supernaturally enhanced, especially at critical moments, with greater results than humanly possible (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). The eternal outcome leaves a sense of gratitude and wonder.
In Christ, you are gifted by God and are able to contribute to the church’s mission. Discovering your gift is not difficult. What do you enjoy doing? What comes naturally to you? What are you passionate about? What excites you?
Are you comfortable in front of people, or do you prefer to be involved behind the scenes? Do you like a steady and predictable environment, or do variety and change lift your spirits? There is something for every personality and talent, in every setting and circumstance.
Ron was a junior high teacher in Minnesota. A quiet and reserved man, he attended church each week with his three children.
Our small church building needed painting. The project began during a church workday, but more needed to be done. Painting could only be done in the summer, which was a busy time for farmers. As a result, not much help was available.
Ron normally painted houses during breaks in the school year for additional income. He sacrificed several painting jobs to help me finish the church project. The Bible speaks about God looking on the inside; it is equally true that people look at the outside (1 Samuel 16:7). The congregation started to experience growth soon afterward.
I was privileged to oversee two great churches in the Chicago area. The church in the northwest suburbs was a musically talented, high-energy group of believers. Everything was done with excellence, but also at warp speed. Things could easily become chaotic without a steady hand behind the scenes keeping things organized.
Darlene was a highly efficient, methodical person who preferred a quiet and predictable working environment. She was the right person to monitor the church’s schedule and deserved credit for strengthening our efforts.
Mark was a successful banker with a humble spirit and tremendous love for God. As the church treasurer, he made great decisions possible by giving excellent financial information to the leadership council. Mark was fervent in prayer, faithfully participating and occasionally leading the Saturday morning prayer gathering. He joyfully took teaching assignments and felt privileged helping others develop in the faith.
Jerry, an extremely busy corporate leader, had a passion to give missionaries construction support. He organized teams, recruited workers, hosted fundraisers and led overseas trips. He enlarged the church’s involvement in world missions.
The church in Chicago Southland had many diverse ministries. Church activities required coordination and detail work. Bob and Bea were gifted, detail-oriented people who faithfully addressed various demands in numerous events. They gave many hours of labor and provided much-needed solutions. They added to the church’s success.
My wife, Brenda, approached our various assignments by asking God to show her areas where she could apply her skills. In one assignment she taught a group of girls. In another she provided secretarial support. She often joined special holiday choirs. Our home was an enjoyable place for family and guests.
Brenda is especially gifted with the ability to help small children feel loved and safe. The church unexpectedly needed leadership in nursery and toddler care. Although being asked to do something outside her comfort zone, for two years she organized, supervised, recruited and managed 50 preschool workers.
In each ministry assignment I was blessed with highly qualified and skilled leaders who provided additional pastoral assistance. Our efforts, however, would have been less successful without the hundreds of volunteers who eagerly exercised their giftings, provided important support, and exponentially increased the spreading of the gospel.
Sometimes church leaders show people where they fit in the mosaic of ministry. In the early years of pastoral leadership I was privileged to lead worship, direct choirs and produce musicals. During holiday seasons, extra choir and cast members were needed. I often approached people in the lobby and asked them to participate.
When asked to join the choir, people commonly responded, “I can’t sing.” My usual reply was, “Why don’t you let me hear you. If you can’t sing I will let you know.” Although not normally soloist quality, those who tried out could carry a tune. I taught them musical notes and blended their voices with those of other choir members.
I asked John to join the choir. Like many others, he replied, “I can’t sing.” I gave him my standard response, but he would not audition. A few weeks later we were worshipping next to each other in a church service. He had a terrible singing voice.
I leaned over and said, “You’re right! You can’t sing!” John burst out laughing and thought I was one of the most honest leaders he had ever met. We became good friends, and I invited him to be part of the construction crew.
Church leaders, like coaches, place people where they can be successful, train them with additional skills when necessary, and raise their level of performance with affirmation and encouragement.
Like game officials, church leaders also serve as the individuals on the court of superstar players who wear the striped shirts and possess the whistles. They call the timeouts and the fouls, and safeguard the integrity of the game. Respecting the coach and officials keeps a player on the court.
Similarly, working with church leaders ensures satisfying and lasting ministry. The end result is hearing the Lord of the church say someday, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, NIV).
Here are a couple of things you can do right away. First, make yourself available. For most people, the issue is not about being gifted. Believers are gifted! The problem is a lack of discretionary time. There will always be things to keep you busy. No matter how limiting it may be, let your schedule count for God. Pray and seek changes in your time usage.
Second, explore opportunities. Dawn was invited to be part of the publication team for the church’s quarterly newsmagazine. Although this was new to her, she enjoyed developing layout, interviewing people, writing copy and meeting deadlines. Dawn took her newfound skills and eventually wrote features in a local weekly newspaper. Other opportunities could be awaiting you as you exercise and develop your gift in ministry.
God has given you special motivational gifts. Church leaders will gladly mentor you. The Holy Spirit will help you — supernaturally when needed — to fulfill ministry. You will witness eternal results.
S. ROBERT MADDOX and his wife, Brenda, attend James River Assembly of God in Ozark, Mo., where their children are on staff.
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