I was reading the above article, on the website for The Gospel Coalition. The gist of the article was that members of the body with artistic talents are often discouraged in using their gifts within the church. It could be an art form that is not really understood, or that the church staff don’t know how to actually include it into the service of the church. It isn’t always that they don’t want to, they just may not know how to.
But I would challenge that is discouragement isn’t just for those who have artistic gifts, but any gift or talent that isn’t being utilized. I have been in churches that were welcoming of gifts and talents & would utilize them if the person was willing to commit. I’ve also been in churches that will dismiss the gifts they don’t understand or can’t seem to figure out how that gift fits in to the vision of the church.
From an artistic standpoint, I can totally understand. As a professionally trained actress, who also has ample back stage experience, I have offered my gift to churches in the past. Some embraced it with open arms, others dismissed it as something not relevant. Dismissed so quickly that I never even had the opportunity to explain that expertise. In 2005, I directed a Christmas musical for the church we were attending at the time. It just so happened that at one showing there was a television producer in the audience. He loved the show, and they came back and filmed it. They ran it every few days, where they had an empty slot, all the way through Christmas Day.
That was an exciting day for me. Yet, too often, when I share with a church or ministry that I have a theater background they instantly want to put me in charge of a children’s production. That is NOT my specialty, it is not my gift. They do not understand the impact that LIVE performance can have on a group of people. Perhaps this is because too few churches have trained professionals, maybe they haven’t enough trust in the quality or commitment. What saddens me is to be shot down before you even get a chance to try. The Lord blessed me with a gift, specifically a talent, one that I want to use for HIS glory. It is sad to see it get brushed aside because someone else doesn’t “get it”.
Being dismissed and discouraged is not only an issue with the arts, but can come about in many different forms. I watched my husband’s spirit get completely squashed by a men’s ministry leader because he made an assumption about my husband without even getting to know him. What most don’t know about my husband is that he has the ability to talk to anyone about God. It’s really amazing. I envy his boldness at times. Every day he is out among the community, doing his job, and sharing the gospel where he can. He has prayed with people, give them encouragement, and even his own Bible if they didn’t have one.
He can do this because God gifted him in that manner. My husband also went through Evangelism Explosion training to learn how to present the gospel to every day people in a way that they would understand. Bringing them through the steps from accepting Christ, to getting plugged into a church, and more. When we were married and our family was growing, a huge burden was on my husband’s shoulders. He became lukewarm, going through the motions. One weekend he went with a men’s ministry to a conference, and my husband was ON FIRE. He was ready to get back on the horse.
The leader of the ministry didn’t know my husband that well. He assumed that my husband was caught up in emotions. Since he didn’t take the time to really listen to my husband, to ask any questions about his experience… the man quickly extinguished that fire. My husband said “I’m ready to serve. Where can I plug in????”
The ministry leader patted him on the shoulder and said: “No brother, where can we serve you.” My husband wasn’t even given the chance to share who he was, or the gift that God has given him. To this day, my husband has not stepped forward since. He was rejected. Instead, he has become my biggest supporter and advocate. Instead, he has continued to share the gospel in his every day encounters.
One church damaged my husband, and he just hasn’t recovered. Over the years, he has had ideas for ministries where he could serve people in our church or community. However, that inspiration is fleeting.
I believe that we have to be very cautious as a church to NOT allow our vision for the church become tunnel vision. We must be open to see how the different gifts and talents of the body can be used in that vision. It is easy to see things our way, within our own understanding and abilities. It is easy to see how things ought to go and progress, and make a list of what gifts and talents are needed to move that vision forward. It isn’t always easy to see how the gifts of others can fit into that vision, or be molded into that vision. If we see things too black and white, we miss the many gifts that fall in the middle.
As leaders we need to be careful with the gifts and offers of service from others. We need to not just immediately dismiss a person because at first we can’t see how their gift fits the vision. We need to not dismiss a person as a capable kingdom worker without taking the time to get to know them. We may be throwing away the most amazing gifts… and affecting people in ways we never realize.
This doesn’t mean we throw caution to the wind, accepting any and everything. We can be judicious and gracious at the same time.
- Thank the person for offering their gift or talent to the church/ministry.
- Ask them questions about their experience or training.
- Get an idea of how they think their gift or talent could fit within the vision of the church, or help the ministry/community.
- Take some time to really think about the conversation, pray about it. Is there room for this ministry idea? If not, is there an existing ministry that we can plug this person into that fulfills their desire to serve with their gift.
- Follow up with the person, and be honest. If you are not sure how it fits the vision, talk to them about it. They may see something you don’t. If now isn’t the right time, agree to revisit it in 3 – 6 months. If you require more information, ask for it and take the time to review it.
- If this is a brand new member of the church, and you are uncertain of commitment, have them go through the new members class and plug into a small group. Let them know you want to get to know them better, and let them get acquainted with the church first. Then you can talk ministry work.