Finding Your Ministry

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Part of any Christian’s life purpose is actively serving God and neighbor through your work. In one sense, the whole Christian life is ministry; but here, I’m going to focus on volunteer and paid jobs that are directly connected to influencing the world toward Christ.

Paid Church and Parachurch Work

Obviously, the ordained pastor is in “ministry.” So is the president of a Christian college, the publisher of a Christian magazine, and the president/director/owner of any Christian organization. And so are their paid staff.

Paid Christian work is a noble calling, but there are at least two potential dangers:

  • People may choose it to “please God” when in fact He has other, “secular” work for them. Though this issue was more common before the Protestant Reformation introduced a “priesthood of all believers” concept, it still surfaces with individual believers.
  • Those not specifically called to Christian ministry may consider themselves exempt from responsibility to witness in day-to-day life, when in fact every believer should “always be prepared … to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV). (More on “everyday evangelism” in a moment.)

Volunteer Church or Parachurch Work

Again, be sure this is what God wants you to do before diving in. Too often, Christian leaders take a “We need help here so much; please don’t let us down” emphasis that pushes individuals into work they aren’t suited for or don’t have time to commit to. Even retired people and stay-at-home moms have limits on how many volunteer hours they can manage alongside other legitimate responsibilities.

Yes, you should consider your church’s needs and how God wants you to contribute to them. Yes, He may want you to fill this or that volunteer slot even if it doesn’t click at first glance. No, “somebody should do it” is not sufficient proof God wants you to do it. Trust that He is capable of finding and convincing the right person to fill that need without rushing the first semi-willing person into it.

Independent Christian Projects

This blog you are reading is an “independent Christian project”–a Christ-focused ministry individually designed in accordance with an individual calling. If you have a passion for cooking, sculpting, or carpentry, why not invest some of it in projects with Christian themes, or in service offered to others “because I love you as Christ loved me“?

“Friendship Evangelism”

Also known as “everyday” or “lifestyle evangelism,” this means witnessing to friends and acquaintances in the natural course of life–“giving the reason for the hope that you have” as noted above. You don’t have to take a “convert ’em on the spot” attitude–in many cases, this does more harm than good–but you shouldn’t treat your Christian commitment as a secret, either. Act as you naturally do in overtly Christian settings–whether that means wearing a cross or referring to Scripture during everyday conversation–and be ready to share a bit of your personal testimony when someone asks.

If met by tough questions or anti-Christian stereotypes, remember what Peter says about giving your reasons “with gentleness and respect.” If you aren’t gifted in tactful persuasion and discernment, the following responses can defuse hard feelings:

  • For tough theological questions you can’t answer on the spot: “I’m not sure: let’s look that up together.”
  • For negative comments about Christians in general: “Have I given you the impression that’s how am? Is there anything I can do to make amends?”
  • For “what kind of God would let this happen to me?” questions: “I don’t have a real answer, but could I pray with you/do anything to help?”

Independent Prayer 

Whatever your gifts or situation, every Christian can and should spend some time every day praying for others. Don’t worry about being a great “prayer warrior”: God can work wonders even with 15-second requests. And as in every ministry, you’ll improve with practice and a sincere desire to seek His will!

IT’S HERE! Pre-order your copy of 100 Ways to Live as an Optimist in a Pessimistic World and get a plethora of ideas on improving your outlook–including ideas for serving others effectively while staying joyful yourself.

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Finding Your Purpose

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Since Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life was first published in 2002, “purpose” has become an everyday word in the Christian community. So far as it keeps us motivated to seek God’s will, that’s a good thing. But it has its dangers, especially for Christians who tend toward perfectionism and legalism.

Who’s in the Driver’s Seat, Anyway?

I admit I don’t care for the phrase “purpose driven.” Drivenness in general is responsible for much frustration in my life: too much hurry, too little rest, too much fear of failure, too many “urgent” short-term activities at the expense of forward-thinking action that fits real purpose better. While it’s good to have a larger sense of purpose guiding daily activities, the only One with the right to drive our lives is the Lord of the easy yoke and light burden.

It’s not really a purposeful life if you’re wearing yourself out trying to steer it personally.

Rest Stops

One classic time-management tip, called “Lakein’s Question” after author Alan Lakein, is to ask oneself regularly: What is the best use of my time right now? Anyone intending to make frequent use of that question, though, had better first run a check on tendencies to equate “useful” with “obviously productive.” There are always a few more things that need someone to do them, but just because no one else is doing them right now doesn’t mean you have to–especially if you’re already frustrated, burnt out, and sleep-deprived.

Just about everyone needs one full day off each week; seven or more hours of sleep every night; regular breaks in the course of a day’s work; and a few week-or-more vacations each year. If you’re getting less than that (or if you’re going through the motions but still thinking about “what else I could be getting done”), chances are you’re sabotaging your own ability to discern and fulfill your life’s purpose.

As anyone who’s ever memorized the Ten Commandments knows, “time off” is an entirely Biblical concept. God may be more displeased with nonstop motion (often used in attempts to usurp His authority) than with outright laziness.

Enjoy Life, It’s Good for You

Perhaps unfairly, the “Protestant” or “Puritan” “work ethic” is frequently construed as containing an Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not enjoy thyself.” This world has its share of sinful pleasures, but choosing a career or volunteer activity that appeals to your personal passions isn’t among them.

More often than not, your natural skills and passions are clues to God’s purpose for your life–and while not everyone can turn a love of painting into a full-time career, we all can find opportunities to glorify God, bless others, and cultivate our favorite talents through volunteer projects or leisure activities. Nothing is idolatrous or self-indulgent if it enhances your ability to love God and neighbor.

The Greatest Purpose

We individualism-minded Westerners tend to forget that the Bible was created in societies where the average person had little direct say in what career he would pursue or whom she would marry. While that worldview is hardly without disadvantages, its forming the backdrop for Scripture is evidence we needn’t fret too hard about the one exact career/spouse/education/hometown that coincides with God’s will for us. Stay in touch with God, cultivate your natural passions, consider big decisions against the question, “Will this help me seek God and serve my neighbor?”–and then act in confidence that our Lord will work all things out for good.

Centuries before The Purpose Driven Life, the Westminster Shorter Catechism summed up purpose in the simple statement: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” That’s applicable to any believer in any life situation.

  • A blog for naturally melancholy Christians tired of being told to "snap out of it"; for Christians who struggle with mental-health issues and long for assurance God delights in them nonetheless; and for naturally optimistic Christians who want to understand their "gloomy" loved ones.

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    I am the go-to writer for people with tough stress issues and special emotional needs—and for those who love them, organizations that serve them, and anyone who just wants to better understand the world of mental/emotional struggles. Or who just wants to pick up some good stress-management tips! Visit my main website at www.PositiveContentFactory.com.

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    Bible quotes used in this blog are from the New Living Translation or the New International Version (1984). See http://www.biblegateway.com/ for copyright details.
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