On Day 31, Warren talks about abilities, personality, and experiences and how those things influence your ministry. He says, “God designed each of us so there would be no duplication in the world. No one has the exact same mix of factors that make you unique. That means no one else on earth will ever be able to play the role God planned for you. If you don’t make your unique contribution to the Body of Christ, it won’t be made” (241).
What abilities do you have? In other words, what are the natural talents you have that you were born with. I’ve always been fairly decent at writing, and it has always come pretty naturally to me. When I was fifteen, I decided I wanted to be a professional writer, but I’ve been writing most of my life. I have a scrapbook somewhere with a short-short story that I wrote in first grade. In fourth grade, I wrote an essay about Thanksgiving that my fourth grade teacher sent to our town’s newspaper for publishing (they did - I think that’s in the scrapbook too). In eighth grade, I won a contest for an essay I wrote for school. I wrote and submitted my first short story when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school. I’m a voracious reader, and would rather read than do anything else (most writers are). From that time when I was fifteen, I’ve developed my writing skills so that I am at this point today. I say all of this not to brag, but to tell you that this is either a huge fluke, or it’s something that God gave me to develop and use for His glory.
You have an ability that you’ve been using all of your life too, something that you’ve always done well and comes so naturally to you that you don’t understand why others have trouble with it. That ability came from God, and we all have at least one.
God also uses our personalities in ministry. Do you know what your personality type is? I’ve taken many personality type tests over the years, and none of them have told me anything I didn’t already know. I’m an introvert – also known as the quiet, shy type. If you know me, you’re laughing your head off at this part, thinking, “There’s no way in hell she’s shy or an introvert!” I can be loud, boisterous, and opinionated, it’s true. But put me in a room full of strangers, and I stay in a corner and cower. Better yet, keep the strangers for yourself and let me stay home and read a book. I hate large groups of people, and will escape to the bathroom just for some peace and quiet. I am quite happy being stuck in my office all day long talking to very few people. My husband, on the other hand, has never met a stranger. Strangers, to him, are just new friends you haven’t made yet.
God can use you, no matter how loud and boisterous or quiet and shy you are. He can use you if you’re more of a thinker instead of a feeler, or vise versa. Your personality will only affect “how and where you use your spiritual gifts” (245), not whether or not you use them.
Our experiences determine where we serve as well. Warren says we should look at at least six different experiences from your past: family; educational; vocational; spiritual; ministry; and painful experiences. All of these things combine to make us people able to serve others with similar experiences. And Warren notes that painful experiences are the ones God uses the most to prepare us for ministry. As much as some of these things hurt, as rough as it to go though them, as many times as we cry out to God, He still allows these things to pass so that we can be better ministers. And our experiences make us soft-hearted, so we can show grace and mercy to those who need it.
I have no doubt that Warren is right about the painful experiences part. I feel like I make examples of my own life a lot, but I think we learn from others' experiences, and I want to show you how experience applies in my own life and ministry. Bear with me, you've probably heard a lot of this before.
Jeff and I married when I was 19. We moved to a little town in GA called Jenkinsburg, where Jeff pastored three UMC's in the county as a student pastor. After we'd been there about seven months, we were run out of the churches by two people. This was essentially a firing, and having reviewed this situation more than a few times, I think I can honestly say that we weren't at fault here. There were some local church politics that came into play, as well as a specific situation that someone lied about. Yes, there were probably a few minor things Jeff could have done differently, but what it really came down to was church politics (and a lot of work by the Evil One). We moved to Atlanta and lived there for 6 months before moving back to Illinois and in with my parents and brother. Would we have been homeless then? If not for our parents - most certainly. Jeff's mom paid our rent while we lived in Atlanta and my parents provided us with a home until we could move to Springfield.
Yet we weren't homeless in GA, and I found it more difficult to feel sorry for myself after I saw a truly homeless person for the first time. This was a painful time in our lives, but without it, I wouldn't be where I am today. It seems so trite to say that, especially in a blog, but I think you'll find it true in your own life as well. Nothing in my family, my education, my past ministry, my plans for vocation, or anything spiritual could have truly prepared me for this particular call and vision.
So what you've learned about me here is that I can write, I'm shy, and I have a vision of working with the homeless because of being kicked out of a home once. Now I just have to think of how to really combine those things. Maybe in another post this will come together with my spiritual gifts and heart.