Next question: So what?
It’s time we help folks move from looking at ministry as their avocation–something they do in their discretionary time–to looking at their life in terms of vocation.
Back to Wikipedia again: Christian vocation includes the use of one’s gifts in their profession, family life, church and civic commitments for the sake of the greater common good.
What happens when we guide someone through a discovery process designed to help them look at the whole of their life, rather than just how their spiritual gifts apply to ministry in and/or through our church? What if we encourage them to apply what they learned through that discovery process to their 8-5 job, their family life, their friendships, their neighborhood… to their 24/7 life? Our questions might be…
“How do you see your spiritual gift of mercy applied in your workplace?” rather than “Would you like to exercise your gift of mercy by helping with the church’s benevolence ministry?”
“I see you are using your experience of God healing your marriage as you listen to your manicurist share her frustration with her own marriage,” instead of, “Would you like to teach a marriage enrichment class for the church on Wednesday nights?”
Do you see the difference? If we shift our paradigm away from task-based ministry in the church toward equipping people to see the whole of their lives as ministry–as vocation–what effect might that have? Would the church become the diaspora (the church dispersed) at least as often as she is the ecclesia (the church gathered). Would the gospel spread more effectively? Would people’s lives be more holistic and less fractured if we stop compartmentalizing ministry? Would we hear less, “I just don’t have time for ministry!”?
In my experience, the majority of church members don’t see their lives in terms of Christian vocation. They consider themselves Christians because they believe in Christ and they go to church regularly. What a shallow view of the life hidden in Christ! But if we show them how to intentionally apply their unique vocation in their every day living, wouldn’t that lead to spiritual formation* at its best?
The last thing I want to say about this (well, for now!) is that the equipping processes we use may not really need to change much. It’s the context in which we preach, teach, and lead those processes that needs to change. To approach equipping in the context of true vocation, however, will require that we let go of our need to fill ministry slots–no matter how thoughtfully and effectively we think we are doing it–in order to gain the attention and trust of those we lead. In the end, however, I think it will be much easier to get the “ministry tasks” done as each individual discovers their unique vocation in the whole of life (which includes church!) and delights in fulfilling their role when the body of Christ gathers.
*Spiritual formation: the process of being conformed to the likeness of Christ for the sake of others. -Dr. Robert Mulholland (emphasis mine)