What If I Can’t Serve In The Way I Want To?

There have been a few times over the years when first-time visitors to our church have informed me they have a particular ministry.

One couple informed me their first Sunday they had a teaching ministry.  I thought, Well, let’s see if you come back next week.  Then let’s see if you join the church.  Then let’s see if you’d be happy setting up chairs.  Then maybe later we’ll see if you have a teaching ministry.

What if you can’t do what you want to do?  What if you’d like to sing on the worship team, but there aren’t any open positions? What if you’d like to be in ministry but have to work a secular job?

Should you slide into discouragement or bitterness?  Give in to believing people are thwarting you?  Resign yourself to being unhappy till you are able to serve in the way you want?

Here’s what you should do.  Just start serving wherever you are.

Look around.  There’s something you can do.  Don’t worry about if you have a “call” to do it.  Just serve.  In his providence, God put you where you are for a reason.  Consider Chuck Colson’s experience:

“On July 8, 1974, Chuck Colson went to prison. Only a couple years before he had been chief counsel on the Nixon White House staff he was nearing his 44th birthday when he went to prison for his involvement in Watergate. On January 31, 1975 he was released from prison after serving seven months. ‘When I arrived in prison, my caseworker told me, “Just settle in, accept it. This is where you live now. Don’t think about your home.” Reading Bonhoeffer convinced me to do just the opposite…. I drove myself to work as hard as I could. My entire day was consumed with writing, studying, doing my job in prison laundry, and exercising, and helping other inmates. I seldom allowed myself any recreation. More than anything else, I feared doing nothing.’”

“Today Colson is thankful for his seven months in prison. He knows God used those miserable days to prepare him for a great ministry. His time in prison made it possible for him to begin Prison Fellowship. Now he thanks God for the circumstances he faced that put him in prison. “I thank God for Watergate. Not only did prison radically transform my view of life, but the experience also gave me the one thing I thought I would never have again — an opportunity to serve others in significant ways. In my case that service has been in ministry to prisoners around the world.” — Chris Brauns, Unpacking Forgiveness

God may not exalt us like Chuck Colson but we can learn from his experience to serve where we are.  When Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt, he didn’t succumb to self-pity.  He served his master.  Even when thrown into prison unjustly, he busied himself looking to the interests of others.

Don’t think about what you don’t have or what you can’t do.  Ask yourself, Who can I encourage?  Who can I bless?  Who can I invite to my place for a meal?  Who can I offer to babysit for?  God will exalt you if he wants to.  But you can be fruitful no matter where you are.

photo by eddiejdf

  • Beth

    Wow. This really hit me in the gut. Ever since my husband and I have moved to a new state, I've been struggling with where we fit in at the church we've been attending. I feel I already "know" what my ministry calling is – of course it must be same type of ministry I've served in for years! I'm just baffled in how to get there – this is a much larger church, and we're just a few small fish in a sea of congregants. My focus has been solely on getting where I want to be, not on who I can serve. This post is humbling me and challenging me to not only confess my pride, but also to start actively looking for all the small areas to serve in. Thank You.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Hi Beth, Thanks for your humble comments. I know the Lord has much fruit for you to bear, possibly in ways you haven't thought of yet!

    • lisa

      I really respect your honesty and humility, Beth. Thanks for this comment!

  • http://www.DomesticKingdom.com Samantha

    Thank you, this is a great reminder for me too. I have a 4 month old baby, and this has reminded me that I need to think NOT about what ministry I want to do (and how my baby 'hinders' that), but rather about what NEEDS to be done that fits in with the season that I'm in right now.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Hi Samantha, I'm sure you know this, but I can't think of a more important ministry for moms than caring for their children. Thank you too for your humility to share this.

  • http://www.aboutonlinedegrees.org Study Online Masters

    That's what we call a "Change" what Chuck Colson has experienced in prison. That's the most significant reason why people are sentenced in prison.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Do you mean people are sentenced to prison because they need to change? I assume that's what you mean. If only everyone sentenced to prison could experience the Lord like Chuck Colson did…

  • JackW

    This can be a tough lesson to learn. I remember falling victim to some of those “gift” finding tools that assured me that I had the gift of teaching. I was feeling somewhat confused that I didn’t have any real opportunities to exercise that gift. It was about that time that I visited Alistair Begg’s church and he preached on James 3:1. Needless to say, that freed me from that burden!

    So now I serve in a church plant with my feeble guitar skills and a desire to introduce them to good worship music and … what do you know, it turns out to be a teaching ministry after all … just not in the way I thought it would be.

    Thanks for the always needed reminder Mark!

    • Mark Altrogge

      Hey Jack, I've always had some concerns about some of those gift assessments – not that they're wrong, but they can foster an attitude that "I must use this gift and if I can't I'm not fulfilling God's call on my life," to some degree or another. Thanks for adding your comments Jack! And yes, worship definitely has a teaching component!

  • Elaine

    When we moved several years ago, we left behind vibrant ministries where the Lord had allowed us to serve – how we missed them. how we mourned for them, and how I longed to go back. It was a difficult time for us because our focus was on what we had lost and not on what we had.

    The truth was the Lord did give us opportunities to serve Him – every day – whether it was my dear husband serving his family by working so hard at his job or me doing those "here we go again" chores of laundry and cooking supper. The Father began to use Psalm 84:11 to change our thinking about serving: "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly." That good thing for me became looking at serving in a new light.

    After a time, the Lord placed us in a new church home – what a blessing it is! And He has given us many opportunities to serve Him – yes, it is different and there are still times I miss what we had but we are learning to focus on serving Him and His people -wherever that is and whatever that looks like.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Elaine, I can't wait to see your rewards in heaven, especially for those "here we go again" chores – I hope I get to polish some of your crowns! Thanks for these great comments.

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  • http://www.servanthoodasworship.com Nate

    Right on Mark. love this

    • MarkAltrogge

      Thanks Nate.