I had a dream last night that I was back in a church like the unhealthy ones I’ve been part of. In the dream, though I didn’t really know anyone, I was asked to “do” a banquet–big decorations, some of the food, all of the set up. In my dream I accepted because I was being chosen to minister. As I was decorating, other were coming to interrupt, telling me they needed things. I told them I had to complete my tasks. (The things they were asking for were petty and whiny, so I still don’t have a problem with having said no.) I drug stuff all over the place, decorated everything, cooked three dishes, got the plates and food ready to be served… and no one would eat. The pastor’s wife then announced that she had prepared individual plates of food already which would be of more interest. I felt like I’d failed at ministering to everyone because they wouldn’t eat.
When I woke up, I realized something that it’s taken nearly 30 years for me to realize. NEVER, in all the times I was asked to serve in any capacity that was beyond what should have been asked of me or was beyond my talent, was I being looked at for ministry (which is what I’d always hoped, that I’d somehow become part of the inner circle). Ministry at these churches was considered being a pastor, pastor’s wife, church leader, singer, musician, or great speaker. I was (and never would become) any of those.
They didn’t choose me for ministry because there were plenty of people to speak and sing and do all of those things. Those came with position and recognition and praise and were far more sought after. Besides, others got a better emotional response from people. They were respected more highly for ‘letting the Holy Ghost move through them so powerfully.’ I wasn’t good at evoking emotional responses from others, but even when I did, they said it wasn’t enough. Instead, they asked me to do the ‘dirty work’, the behind the scenes, often overwhelming tasks that they either didn’t want to do or wanted to show me or others they could do better, whether I was any good at them or not. It never once occurred to me that whether anyone said it or not, I was letting the Holy Ghost work through me every time I bent over backwards trying to do everything that was asked of me with a right attitude, and every time I did these things because I loved those I was serving.
I’ve been to churches that took the spiritual gifts assessments since leaving my unhealthy group, and I’ve run away fast. I don’t want them to know that one of my gifts is giving. I don’t want them to see that I’m a responsible, ethical, independent person who will do way more than any one person should be asked, just to get a job done and just to ‘help’. I know what happens when the wrong people find this out, and I know in the end I feel wrung out and walked over… and too often put down and insulted because I either ‘didn’t do enough’ or didn’t do ‘it’ right.
The thing is, no gift and no ministry should be about someone tagging you to do EVERYTHING. No gift or ministry should leave you burned out and used up. Gifts and ministries are meant to be used cooperatively with others’ gifts and ministries and should leave all of you feeling energized and complete, even if you are exhausted (which sometimes does happen in a good way).
Still, my former church had it wrong. They would say of singers and speakers that ‘the Holy Ghost move through them powerfully’ when the crowd had an emotional response and overlooked those whom the Holy Ghost moved through powerfully not for a few minutes but for hours and days as they poured themselves into their tasks and into others because they loved God and others or even just because they were willing.