Posted by: William | March 10, 2008

My Element

I generally enjoy doing ministry—provided of course that I’m in my “element”; my element usually consisting of human interaction on a highly relational level. I generally enjoy spending extended periods of time talking to folks, getting to know people, hearing about people’s lives, encouraging, talking about Jesus, whatever. So long as I’m operating in ministry within a sort of fluid, organic mode, I’m really serving the Lord. Please note the twinge of sarcasm there. Yes—I do find myself most easily serving the Lord within the realm where I am most naturally gifted and yes—a good deal of time that service is genuine and good. I in my carnal state though, I’m prone to take that and run with it until my service to God isn’t really service to God so much as it is medication to myself. By only serving in a way that is easy and enjoyable for me, I fulfill what my mind would like to see as “duty” without actually having to give much, if anything, of myself. Before long I might quietly say to myself: “Bill, your gift isn’t really stacking chairs, you should probably just migrate over to that snack table with everyone else and really serve God.”

I’m pretty certain now that the attitude is totally wicked and for me to over-emphasize God’s gifting in my own mind really just leads me down a dangerous path to complacency and selfishness and ultimately a whole slew of more disgusting sins.

This past Saturday, I had an excellent opportunity to be really challenged in this area. I was asked to help a photographer at my church take portraits for low income families. The idea was basically that he would set up the families, take their picture, hand me the memory card, I would process the picture and print out a high-quality eight by ten. We had everything set up in a gym with a about forty or fifty families. There were games, arts, crafts and other attractions. There were so many families that for about five hours it was a constant process of receiving the card, dumping the files on the computer, processing the pictures, printing the pictures and handing them off to be distributed to families. There wasn’t really too much breathing room.

My function that afternoon was largely mechanical. Totally synthetic. I couldn’t really have been too much more “out of my element”. At one point in the afternoon I became aware of this, and stubbornly I tried to extend myself into my element, despite my current commitment to serve in a different way. I decided to speak to a young man who was sitting in a chair a few feet away from me, gazing out the window. It took me a while to get it—he was deaf. It was unbelievably awkward and the commotion and madness around me didn’t really offer the opportunity for me to find some way to work around the communication barrier (which provided a different circumstance would have been appropriate). I got the point though—“Bill, stick to your duties; you’re serving in a different way right now.”

Having the chance to serve the Lord in a manner that isn’t particularly comfortable for me, or even that I’m naturally super good at, was stretching and encouraging. I am a part of the body of Christ; usually when opening a door, the hands are used but sometimes, if the hands are full, then a leg is used to open the door. It’s good to see that if I’m a leg, sometimes I’ll do a hand’s job. Either way, it is an honor and a privilege to serve the Lord.

Jesus, thank you for chances to be stretched and encouraged. Thank you for ordering your body as you see fit to your great glory. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your body. Jesus, I pray that you would continue to stretch, teach and encourage me. With the power of the Holy Spirit, sanctify me and your church for you glory, God.



  1. I read this and was suprised to see you say you were “out of your element”. I guess I naively assumed that you were good at photography, and enjoyed photography, so playing that role would be very much “in your element”…or at least working wtihin your talents and giftings.

    I was talking to Taegan on Saturday, after the event, and she told me about one of the kids. Apparently he said that one of his favorite things was getting his picture taken with his family. I love this because having pictures and the ability to take pictures is something most of us would take for granted. we probably have probably have pictures of family from each year, several times a year. We have cameras galore and probably take more photos than one could possibly need. On the other hand, there are others in the world (and apparently in our own backyard) who may not have such luxaries. For him to say that was his favorite thing (and not games or snacks or the funny guy with all the jokes… the things we expect to “bless” a kid), makes me think there was something special about that for him personally. I don’t know what it was, but I see so clearly how God, in a very pratical way, showed that little boy how much He loves him. Even though, it may have seemed mechanical to you…God saw it differently and used you and your ability/willingness to take pictures in order to reach him in a way that you may not have expected as you were living in that less relational moment in time.

  2. Doing out-of-ordinary is humbling. I tried to teach kindergarten sunday school once. I pretty much suck at that one.

    And Jordan and I have seen people who truly lack chair stacking gifting… Upside-down, backwards… a mess. I wish I was like that.

  3. It’s strange that I feel like I am a talented chair-stacker….

    The Bible study that I was privileged to lead for a couple years at MACC was helping a woman do some things around her house. Most of what we did were things that I’m not very good at… But I know the woman we were helping was blessed greatly by our efforts there.

    So thanks for your blog, Bill, for your message is true: it is good to serve in many ways, regardless of our gifts.

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