Have you ever taken one of those tests that helps you determine your spiritual gifts? They're sort of the Myers Briggs of God's gifting. I find them very helpful.
Between church and our small group, we’ve been talking a lot about what it looks like to “be the church" this week. In our group, we took a basic spiritual gifts inventory. The results? Some were surprised by the results, and some weren’t at all. My results were interesting because I got high marks in exhortation (an area I usually score low in). Exhortation is "emphatically urging someone to do something". And you know what I think caused that? This blog. I've been practicing this skill over the last few months and God is blessing it. I learned that God gives us a few gifts, and uses different ones in different stages. How cool is that? These tests are great and I recommend trying one.
On the flip side, I have a former student named Terry. He pops in my head from time to time because he is a friend of mine on the Bible app. I always get updates when he read a new plan or when he created a verse image. I've occasionally thought about turning off those notifications, but people like Terry cause me to keep them coming.
Tonight, I was driving my daughter home from dance and I got a notification. I asked Anna to check it and she said, “Someone named Terry made a verse image?” I got a chance to tell her about my friend. I met Terry when he was a freshman in high school. As the theatre director, one of my duties was recruiting students to be ushers for the plays and musicals. Because I was always running around like crazy in the days leading up to a production, getting these volunteers was something I often forgot to do until the last minute. Scrambling to find people always stressed me out because ushering isn't that exciting. Sure, you get to see the show for free, but after the first night, the thrill of that perk wears off a little. It's tough to convince ushers to keep coming back for the run of the show.
Isn’t that how we are with serving? The first few weeks or months, we arrive early. We’re crisply dressed and ready to go. As the weeks and months roll along, our enthusiasm wanes. We start to think, “Does it even matter if I show up? Someone else will probably be there to do it.” I know that’s how my ushers felt. But guess what? Often, no one showed up. I’d be dealing with last-minute emergencies with costumes, or technical elements, and I’d look around and I had no ushers. It made me want to lose my mind. If I still had it at that point.
Then, along came Terry. Terry loved being an usher. At least I think he did. He would stop by weeks before the show opened to get a schedule so he could plan for it. He looked sharp in his black and white clothes. He arrived early. He knew where the supplies were and made it so I didn’t have to do anything. He recruited other students to help out. He trained them and I think I even remember a huddle cheer before they broke to greet our audience. When the performance was over, Terry and his team cleaned up. I couldn’t have asked for a better leader. He led by serving others and he did it joyfully. That's why his fellow ushers were great. They were a part of a movement.
Terry had other stuff in his life. He wasn’t some loser with only ushering to live for. He was a cool, smart kid who could (and probably did) serve in different ways. But Terry saw a need (and a tired, frantic teacher) and he just took care of it. He had a good time and made others enjoy serving too. He knew his part of the production was important because before the audience heard one note of music or line of dialogue, they were going to encounter Terry and his crew of eager ushers.
When we serve, we need to be a Terry. God gives us gifts and we should use them to serve his people. But something I learned from Terry, is we can agonize over our gifts and God’s nudging and exactly how we can serve, or we can just get out there and do something. And sometimes that means filling a need.
In my experience, God loves to surprise us by how much we enjoy tasks we didn’t think were for us. Years ago, Ryan and I were looking for a way to serve. The children’s director asked if we’d teach in the 5th and 6th grade room. Both of us had tons of experience with high school kids and at the time, we had preschool aged children, but middle school was something that was foreign to us. We jumped in with two feet. And you know what? We loved working with those kids! It was really fun. If I took some sort of test, I assure you teaching middle school kids wouldn’t have been something I was uniquely gifted to do, but God had another plan. Here's why: not relying on my experience and expertise made me step out of the way so God could show up. And show up he did.
If you've served in some capacity for a long time, burnout is real. You may need to take a short break or move into a different role and that's okay too. We were in a position to serve in the middle school room because I had been in the nursery for too long and needed a change. You'll know when it's time to move on, but don't bail without prayer and always wait until someone else is ready to take your place.
If you've never looked into your spiritual gifts, there are some great online tools to help you get started. Here are a few links to try:
Maybe you’ll be surprised, maybe you won’t, but when you decide to serve, be a Terry. Get excited, make it a team, and keep showing up because your role is important. Who knows what God is planning to teach us, but He has a plan if we jump in and serve.
P.S. If you have a story about how God blessed you in serving him, please share. I love to hear these kinds of stories and I know others do too.