Dealing with Expectations of Ministry



Several people block the church door exit. “We think you are the perfect person for the job,” they tell you. “Will you do it?”

Not another job! You’re glad they have confidence in you, but aren’t you doing enough already? What areas will you have to neglect in your own life to do it?  What will they think of you if you say “no”? What will God think?

Deciding whether or not to take on another commitment can be tricky. How can you tell the difference between God’s will and others’ expectations?

An article I read recently is typical of the most common approach Christian authors use to solve this dilemma. It talks about needs in ministry, and using your gifts and passions.

The article reminds us that need doesn’t equal call. Just because there’s a need in a ministry doesn’t mean God wants you to meet that need. Learn to say ‘no,'” it says. “Don’t live by others’ expectations.”

According to the article and common Christian thinking today, when faced with the needs of a new ministry these are the most important questions: Would this energize me? Can I feel passionate about this?  Does this fit in with my dreams, gifts and desires? What will it cost me and my family? Would it make me feel fulfilled?

There is some truth in all of this, yet something is missing. The article never suggests I ask, “What does God want me to do?”  The emphasis is on me, me, me. So then who is master, who is servant, and which one do I capitalize?  Have we forgotten that the main point of serving Christ is doing His will, not mine; of service, not self-esteem; of meeting His needs, not mine?

It is true that need does not equal call. I should be using my gifts to serve the Lord, but the matter does not end there. I believe the questions above can be valid if we keep them in balance. The Holy Spirit does gift each one of us for service.

We need to look for ways to use these gifts with all our hearts. But today we hear some say we should only serve in areas in which we are gifted and passionate. That presents a problem. Who does the jobs that no one feels gifted to do, ones for which no one feels passion?

My husband and I serve in a small mission church in New Zealand. We face this reality: Some things just need to be done, even if no gifted, passionate person exists to do them. I don’t feel gifted to clean the church or paint tables and chairs. I don’t enjoy watching the nursery or confronting anyone.  Yet we and others in our church do these things because they need to be done.  I’ve never been good at sports, but when we led the youth group I became an aggressive basketball player.

A missionary to Jews once told me, “I don’t believe Christians are required to have a passion for souls, but they are required to witness.” If we all waited to feel passionate about witnessing before we did it, few people would come to Christ.

Much of the work that needs to be done for the Lord is mundane and uninteresting. While God expects us to serve Him cheerfully and without resentment, He doesn’t require warm fuzzy feelings, only obedience.

It’s also true that if we only try jobs in which we feel gifted, capable, and comfortable, we won’t grow much. And we may never discover other gifts God has given us. God can help us do things we don’t think we can do.  That doesn’t mean we’ll do these things perfectly, perhaps even well, in the beginning. We grow in our ability with time and experience.

Before we came to New Zealand our mission church found itself between missionary pastors. Because there was no one to do many jobs, our people ended up doing things they had never thought they could do.  Though they were scared at first, they learned that they could do more than they had realized. Since then, starting new programs has stretched our people to do other things they had no confidence in doing. It began with their willingness to try new things. They analyzed what worked and what didn’t and experimented with different methods. In time they grew in their ability to do things they had previously thought they could never do.  God isn’t looking for perfection the first time around. He does want us to learn and grow.

So what do I do when someone at church asks me to do a job? How do I know if this is something God wants me to do, or if it’s simply the other person’s idea? Here are four questions to consider:

Is this a need only I can fill?

As we have said, Need doesn’t equal call. When a need arises I should ask myself if this is a need only I can fill. Would I be taking the opportunity for ministry from someone else? Is this something someone else should be doing?  Does it need to be done at all?

Am I gifted in this area?

The Holy Spirit has not gifted me for service for no reason. I may not be able to use all of my gifts at one time. Some talents may need to be put on a shelf for a time, awaiting the right opportunity to use them. Yet I should be involved in areas of service that I believe in, that I can get excited about. Am I finding an area to use my gifts and passions?

Is there a need?

The job may not be one for which I feel particularly gifted. I need to ask the Lord if He is laying this need on my heart so that I will do it. Is it something that I can do without resentment? Maybe the Lord wants me to learn and grow in a new area. Does the Lord want to use this need to stretch me?

Most of all, I need to be doing what God wants me to do. I can never meet all the expectations of others. I shouldn’t even try. I will never fill a position quite like my predecessor. But I must be faithful to becoming the person God wants me to be, doing the tasks He wants me to do.

Serving Christ should be our greatest joy. Yet experiencing that joy is not our main motivation for service. Bringing Him joy is.