Monday, April 21, 2014

4 Ways to Keep the Resurrection Alive After Easter


Most of us just got done with this 40-day season called Lent. It concluded gloriously with Easter  - Resurrection Day - itself. Big church services with big attendance and -  typically - shorter, to-the-point sermons. Many of us had big meals with families, enjoyed some spring sunshine, and perhaps even spent some extra time thanking God today for Jesus, His sacrifice, and His resurrection.

But now what? Now that the big lead-up to Easter is over, what are we supposed to do as a church and as Christians? Certainly the truths that we heard about resurrection and new life should have some continuing resonance. And certainly the fasting we did over Lent doesn't suddenly lose all its significance until next February or something. Right?

Right. But how do we keep these concepts going? Well, here are 4 ideas on how to keep the concepts of Easter alive as we move forward into the year.

ONE: Add a spiritual discipline.
Lent was an opportunity to recognize our sin and depravity, and to - in small ways - join Jesus in His 40-day fast in the wilderness. People give up all sorts of things - sweets, social media, negative comments, you name it. 

Now that Lent has come and gone, this season of Eastertide (that it's official name) can be a great opportunity to add a discipline. Now for many of us, that "adding" should be something like silence, solitude, meditation, a continued fast...something that actually helps de-clutter your life. For others, it could be more action-oriented, such as prayer, hospitality, or giving. 

If you need a list of possible spiritual disciplines, head here. You could also...

TWO: Read the book of Acts.
The literal, historical resurrection of Jesus makes the most sense out of what happened afterward: the birth and unprecedented expansion of the early church. People tend not to give up their lives for made-up stories about the dead coming back to life or failed messiahs being crucified. It makes the most sense that Jesus really, truly came back to life and empowered His disciples to make disciples of the world.

For a glimpse of just how convinced, dedicated and empowered the early church was by Jesus' resurrection and His call to make disciples, read the book of Acts. You will be amazed by the faith, courage, and audacity that these early church-planters had. Look specifically for the word "resurrection" and the effect it had on people (hint: it's used 11 times).


THREE: Bring something to life.
Easter has to do with new life and new creation. Jesus, as the "firstfruits of the resurrection" (1 Cor. 15:20), is the start of the world being re-made and re-created, without the fall, reconciled with God. And, nearly just as excitingly, God has made us agents of that reconciliation! We get to help put the world back to order; we get to be agents of God's resurrection power!

There are all sorts of simple ways to do that. But one of the most simple is by getting our hands dirty and planting some flowers, a tree, even some vegetables and herbs (which Emily and I hope to do this spring...we love basil!). When we help something grow and live, we are joining with God in His sustaining of creation, obeying our original commandment to "work the the ground, and take care of it" (Genesis 2:15).

FOUR: Remember that every Sunday is a mini-Easter.
Christian worship moved from Saturday to Sunday because it was "the Lord's Day" (Revelation 1:10); that is, it was the day when Jesus was resurrected from the dead. This was the pivotal point on which Christianity stood. Without Christ's resurrection, Christianity was worthless (1 Cor. 15:17). Because of the magnitude of this event, we see evidence from the earliest records of the first-century church that they worshiped on "the first day of the week," i.e. Sunday (1 Cor 16:2; Acts 20:7; Didache 14:1 [mid-late 1st cent.]).

So, when the church gathers together each Sunday, think of not just as a nice way to end the weekend; think of it as a weekly celebration that Christ is alive and is making us alive in Him! Every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday, a day to remember this glorious truth: 
Romans 6:4-11. We were...buried with [Christ] through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. 
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Favorite Albums of 2013

December is always a good time to look back on things that have made an impact on you over the past 12 months. Since music is such an integral part of my life, I thought I'd see what my "most played" albums were and share them with you.


Best New Artist: The Lone Bellow
I have never been a country fan, but I grew up listening to it quite a bit (thanks, Dad!). I still avoid your typical country artists as much as possible, but I am a fan of the new folk movement, as well as some of the more interesting and artistic country artists.

The Lone Bellow bills itself as "Brooklyn country," and it somehow fits. Their tight harmonies and steel-y instrumentation are fantastic...nearly as good as their lyrics. Frontman Zach Williams wrote many of the songs based off his wife's near-fatal horseback riding accident, scribbling thoughts and lines into a journal throughout the ordeal. The music that has come from those songs makes for soulful, honest, and yet-somehow-hopeful lyrics.

Favorite track: "Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold."



Best New Worship
Obviously, as a worship leader, I listen to a lot of worship music. When you've been doing this for a while, it shouldn't surprise you to know that it takes something special to impress an old, cynical church musician like me. Though the bands below don't exhaust all the decent worship music that came out this year, these three stand out.


The Digital Age
The first concert I paid to go to with my own money was a David Crowder*Band concert. I've spent my own money on many more DC*B shows after that. So to say that I was seriously bummed out when I heard that they were "breaking up" would be an understatement.

Fortunately, although David Crowder and the band were going separate ways, it didn't mean that they were done making music. Crowder's new album comes out in 2014, but the rest of the *Band formed The Digital Age. Their first outing is a concept album around the themes of "Evening and Morning," i.e. the liturgical day. They are one of the few bands that can we re-do an already popular song - such as All Sons and Daughters' "All the Poor and Powerless" - and do it in such a way that's both familiar and interesting.

Favorite track: "Believe."


Hillsong Young and Free
I've said for a few years that the next trend in modern worship music is going to be the dance-pop sound that you hear on the radio so often. Soaring synths, four-on-the-floor digital bass drum thumps, obnoxiously-catchy lyrical licks. A couple of churches and worship bands have tried to pull this off with mixed success (I'm looking at you Newsboys).

The youth group of the uber-successful Hillsong Church has their own worship team (of course) and they have at last released their first album that absolutely nails dance-pop worship. They create a soundscape that at once accurately follows the musical zeitgeist as well as avoids an easy rip-off of actual pop artists.

The question of "attainability" for typical, average churches always comes up with albums like these. But for once that necessarily wasn't Hillsong's intent nor should it have been. This album proved that Christian artists can make music with the best of them. It may have taken years to prove that point, but the point remains.

Favorite track: "Alive."


Honorable Mentions: Dustin Kensrue; Hillsong United "Zion: Acoustic Sessions."

Favorite Soundtrack: Broadchurch, Olafur Arnalds
When you write as much as I do, you have to invest in some good "background music" without lyrics, that doesn't cry for attention, and isn't interesting enough to draw you away from the work at hand.

Arnald's soundtrack to the iTV miniseries Broadchurch fits none of those requirements. His soundtrack is so unique from anything else in film and television that it stands on its own as a musical achievement. It's brooding instead of in-your-face; it uses motifs without using them to death (John Williams, you could use this lesson); its haunting without being creepy.

Favorite Track: "Suspects."


Honorable Mentions: Hans Zimmer, "Man of Steel"; Murray Gold, "Doctor Who Series 7."

Overall New Favorite: Sleeping at Last - The Atlas EPs
I'm not entirely sure how I even came across Sleeping at Last; I'm less sure how I missed it for so long. 

Sleeping at Last is made up of one member, Ryan O'Neal. The genre is best defined as "indie rock," though this really does little justice to everything Sleeping at Last achieves. A mix of orchestral, folk, and ambient sounds combine to produce soul-lifting melodies that just make you feel good. O'Neal's voice is unique without being overly novel; soaring without being cloying.

This past year he has been releasing a series of concept EPs called Atlas, each one focusing on themes of light, darkness, and space. It's in these albums that his lyrical skills truly shine. I don't know anyone who wouldn't have a better day by waking up to "You Are Enough":
“You are enough.”
These little words, somehow they’re changing us.
“You are enough,”
So we let our shadows fall away like dust.
“You are enough.”
These little words, somehow they’re changing us.
Let it go, let it go, “You are enough.”
So we let our shadows fall away like dust.
Favorite Track: "Light."

So these are the albums that I kept putting on repeat this year. What about you? What music moved you to tears, to dance, to worship this year? Let me know in the comments!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Niceness Isn't Everything

From Storylineblog, by Allison Vesterfelt

When you can’t tell the truth about yourself, you cease to exist as a person. 
Being “nice” kept me from doing what I was made to do. 
Trying to manage my “nice girl” image kept me trapped, working to control other’s opinions of me, rather than doing what I knew was right. I couldn’t send an e-mail or even a tweet without hours of deliberation. I stayed on the margins of my life, scared to get into the thick of things, terrified that I was going to hurt someone, or offend someone, or mess everything up. 
I avoided jobs I wanted, parties I wished I could attend, and friendships I longed for, with the excuse that they could be the wrong job, wrong party, wrong relationship, or that I would make a mess of them. 
If I didn’t do anything, I couldn’t do anything wrong. Right? 
I’m starting to see how doing nothing is sometimes the worst thing you can do.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Holes and Transplants

CC Image Courtesy of Stephen Poff on Flickr
Most of you know that I was born with a hole in my heart (a congenital condition called Tetralogy of Fallot) that, due to the conditions that I grew up in, went untreated until I was 6 or 7 years old. This hole prevented blood from receiving oxygen; therefore this unoxygenated blood would flow through my body, unable to give my body's cells the nutrients they needed.

Clearly this is a problem.

Eventually, I was put into the care of an aunt and uncle who cared for me properly, ensuring that I received open heart surgery and had a healthy recovery process. The surgery was an all-day event that required surgeons to crack open my chest, sew up one hole and patch up another. And these holes were no small divots. One was the size of a quarter. In a 7-year-old heart. This was a big deal.

It was such a big deal, in fact, that I remember being a young Christian using this surgery as an analogy for what Jesus did to our spiritual hearts. "Just like I had a hole in my heart that needed to be closed, I had a hole in my life that needed to be filled with Jesus." Which, I admit, as a pious 12 year old, that sounds like a pretty neat analogy. Especially when I have scars on my chest to help give my point some more punch.

But this isn't how God works.

The prophet Ezekiel is given a message from God to pass on to Israel:
I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may follow my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God (Ezekiel 11:19-20, NRSV).
From an early age, I made the mistake of thinking that all God wanted to do with me was stitch up some issues with my personality (my spiritual, emotional, soulish heart, the seat of my impulses and desires) and send me on my way. 

But God doesn't mess around with stitches and patches.

Our God is the God of heart transplants.

It would be nice if we could reduce God's work in our lives to that of a finger against a leak, a plug in a hole. It would make the Divine work in our lives a lot easier to manage. Shuffle some issues over here, move over some problems over there, make some time every once in a while on a Sunday, and voila, a Life Improved By God.™

But God is not really into life improvement. God desires - demands - much more of us than this. And not just because He is a needy or demanding God. The fact of the matter is that our hearts are far more screwed up than a few holes or some blockage or a little too much cholesterol. No, our hearts have turned to stone. They can't pump blood at all. Which means, in spiritual terms, they can't even begin to be aware of God's presence and work in our lives, much less respond to His presence.* Remember, it was Jesus who said we had to born all over again (John 3).

What must happen is not just a plug-the-hole kind of spirituality that has just enough room for God. It calls for a complete transplant, a removal of the old, and a replacement with the new.


*This is the theological idea of total depravity. We'll talk about that soon.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Thoughtful Inaction

There was one these ancient things in the apartment
 I lived in from a very early age.
Recently I have spent entirely too much time thinking about writing more than actually writing more. I suppose that this is a touchstone of the human experience. We spend exponentially more time thinking - dreaming, wishing - about the things we'd like to do - experience, achieve - than we actually spend time doing those things.

Is that all bad? I would argue that, up to a point, no, it's not all bad. I think we're all well aware that if we acted on each impulse or "great idea" we came up with, then we'd all be in heaps more trouble than we already are. Ideas take processing. Thoughts need chewing. Sometimes the wisest action we can take is a well planned moment of inaction.

But - and I'm preaching to myself here - "thoughtful inaction" can soon become an excuse for well-pondered lack of effort. I've enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember. I have journals that I started keeping from second grade. As my brother reminded me today, I began writing science fiction since fifth grade (ripping off character names and plot ideas from someone else's creativity; Hollywood calls it a "reboot"; my critics called it "lack of imagination"). 

When I was fourteen or so I bought "The Writer's Guide to the Christian Publishing Market" and began submitting unsolicited articles to magazines. Boy, I was pretentious back then. (But not now, no, of course not, don't be silly). 

I've been published exactly once and it was a great feeling; a really great feeling in fact. But pretty much ever since then I've stopped writing for anything but what has been assigned to me ("Write this paper"; "Turn in this this assignment;" "Craft this sermon"; "Sign this birthday card"). And while that has only further helped craft my skills (my birthday card signature is awesome), it is not always the most life-giving thing to write only because someone else has asked you too. 

Even brownies, when forced to eat them, lose their sweetness.

And so I think it's time to put a little sweetness back into this whole writing thing. To attempt to write well, not because a grade demands it, but because it's what I would like to do.

Enough thoughtful inaction. It's time for thoughtful action; action in the form of well-crafted words. 

Here goes.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lions, Dragons, and Reading Your Bible.



“Stop doing spiritual disciplines.”

Oh gosh, did I really just say that when preaching last Sunday? I think I did. I didn’t intend to say that, but I'm pretty sure that’s what came stumbling out of my mouth as I tried to articulate that you don’t need to convince God to love you, like you, or accept you. What I really meant, though, was “stop doing spiritual disciplines for all the wrong reasons.”

Because there are wrong reasons and right ones. 

Convincing God to give you something you want? Wrong reason. 

Trying to impress God with how spiritual and mature you are? You just proved otherwise with that very thought.

However that doesn’t mean the disciplines are all for naught. For those of you who were at church on Sunday, you heard me read a passage from C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader about the story of Eustace, the spiteful boy whose insides became his outsides - he turned into a dragon. Then Aslan the Lion, the Christ figure, invites Eustace to unclothe himself of his dragon skin and bathe.

To push Lewis’s analogy far beyond its intention, this is what I would like to suggest about spiritual disciplines. The act of Eustace trying to scratch and peel his own dragon skin off is much like performing spiritual disciplines with the idea that you are going to somehow make yourself better, make yourself clean, remove sin from your own soul. You can keep on scratching, you can keep on peeling, but that old dragon skin just ain’t gonna budge.

But when Eustace sees the Lion call to him and then Eustace follows....when Aslan says “let me remove the dragon skin from you” and Eustace puts himself under the Lion’s care…those are what spiritual disciplines are meant to be like. They are an act of submission to God. When we pick up our Bibles, or go to our prayer closets, or fast from food, we aren’t doing these things to clean up our own act or to somehow impress God with how holy we already are. Rather, we do those things to put ourselves under God’s loving—but penetrating—scalpel; God is the one making us holy; God is the one removing the dragon skin once and for all.

The disciplines are about putting ourselves in a posture of obedience, in a place where we are allowing God to do His work in us, on us, and through us. The disciplines are an active posture of submission.  Not to make God love us—that was never the issue. Not to make ourselves holy—that was never an option. But to let God wash us clean—as only He can do.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Never Alone

Ascension from the Rabbula Gospels.
Source: http://gnccne.ws/JZhWU1

What can you say when
There's much too much to be said;
Verbosity stinks.
--My haiku on having to give a blog update after too long of a gap

Since the last time one of us wrote, I have since traveled to Florida for school, together we went to Indiana for vacation, and now we are in the throes of change. These things are all happening simultaneously:

  • Our close friend and compatriot Jon is moving out of Okoboji to Wyoming (which might as well be Mars, in our mind). Which means goodbyes. Which means tears.
  • We are moving out of our current condo and going to be renting a house about 4 miles north of us. Which means packing. And taking down wallpaper and painting at the new place. And then taking what we've packed out of one upstairs-and-up-a-winding-staircase location into a much-easier-to-move-into location. (Who wants to help?!)
  • I am wrapping up my second semester of grad school. Which means papers and final exams.
  • We are moving our church's worship location from our Julia campus to the Tabernacle for the summer. Which means long work weeks, lots of untangling of XLR cables, and the annual experience of discovering the ghosts in the system.
  • We are launching our Pilot Missional Community, which means organizing a gathering of 35 adults and 18 children into meaningful gathering of worship, learning, fellowship, and mission.
As I compile these things into a list, it can seem a little daunting. Not to mention, it can make you want to shake your first at...whatever it is you like to shake your fist at. Because why on earth do all these things need to happen in the same 31 day period?
__________

I've been considering the Ascension of Jesus recently. It is celebrated 40 days after Easter,  so this year it will be Thursday, May 17 (and/or the Sunday of May 20). It is a time to meditate on Christ's final instructions to the church, the (delivered) promise of the Holy Spirit, as well as the promise of Jesus' return.

What I'm thinking about currently is Jesus' promise, "I am with you always, even the end of the age," (Matthew 28:20). The thought that we are never alone, never left by ourselves to deal with the up's and down's of life is (here comes an understatement) encouraging. Downright uplifting. Jesus' presence is with us; the Holy Spirit of God makes us His tabernacle, and the whole earth is filled with God's glory (Isaiah 6).

But in yet another stroke of genius, Christ is with us in another way than a spiritual sense. Jesus setup His church to act as His presence on this earth. In fact, the church is meant to be the very body of Christ. When people ask, "Where is God?" in fact they are asking perhaps the harder-to-answer question, "Where was God's church?" But on the flip-side, when we are looking for God's presence, protection, and love we need look no further than the Bride, the Church itself.

So when I think of us moving, us saying goodbye to a dear friend, us launching a fresh, never-done-before ministry at our church, we take heart in the fact that we are not alone. We never were and we never have to be. The very Body of Christ, His presence, manifest in the church (local and universal) is here with, strengthening, bolstering, and helping us.

And that (here comes an understatement) is encouraging.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Welcome 2012!

I suppose I should call this blog post the perfunctory New Years post. Though it may be cliche, there’s really nothing wrong to take the time to reflect on the past and dream about the future. In fact, a good reflection is probably needed more than once a year. We can’t really know where we’re going without knowing where we’ve been or how we got there.

All this to say that 2011 has been a good year for the Parrott household.

It’s been a year of travel (Hawaii, Switzerland, Italy, Grand Rapids, Minneapolis, etc). It’s been a year of new experiences (concerts, grad school, church planting, etc). It’s also been a year of settling. We’re coming up on two years as residents of Okoboji, IA, and it’s been a wonderful two years. We now feel very much at home here in this little corner of the Midwest. We’ve adjusted to our jobs, made friends, and probably can’t use the excuse, “we’re new here!” any more.

This idea of settling in has really got me thinking as I’ve been reflecting on the past year. Up until this point in our lives, neither Anthony nor I could really tell you what settling in somewhere meant. We’ve gone from school, to graduating, to getting married, to job hunting, and now are finally here. Up until this point, we hadn’t had a job longer than a year (not a real job, anyways)... we had never lived in a home longer than a year (unless you count growing up with our parents!). So now we find ourselves in this whole new realm of life. We’re past college. Past some of the uncertainties of life. And we’re here. At least for now.

All of this has really made me adjust my prayer life and desires for the next year. I can see how easy it can be to let apathy creep in once one is settled in somewhere. How easy it can be to become comfortable. And how easy it can be to let that comfort dictate our lives. My prayer for this next year is that Anthony and I live intentional lives. That we be intentional with our time, with our love, with our money. My prayer is that we would seek God’s desires above all else and follow them even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it seems “weird.” Even when (and especially when) it pulls us away from being comfortable. I never want to lose that desire from God that love and grace really can change the world.

So hopefully our lives can reflect this in the year 2012. Hopefully we can continue to learn to hear His voice and let that guide us. That is my prayer for us, and it shall be my prayer for you as well!

Happy New Year!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Autumn for the Parrotts

There's nothing I loathe more than writing a blog entry after it's been dormant for a while. (obviously, this is an exaggeration because there are a lot of things I loathe more than this, but stay with me). I've been thinking about writing something for a couple weeks now, but every time I've moved to write, I freeze up. Do I just ignore the past couple months of silence and pretend like it never happened? Or do I clumsily attempt to fill the reader in on what's been happening and then go ahead and write about what I originally wanted to write about?


Well, I guess the good thing is that I didn't have a specific topic in mind for today, so you get a little of everything!

This fall has been full of work, church, and school for us! Anthony is almost finished with his first semester of grad school. The homework thing has been an adjustment (for both of us), and it's been busy, but he has been doing well and is excited for the semester to be over. Here are some highlights from the past few months:

* In September, we had a wonderful 2 day visit from the Boards, who were in the process of moving back to the States from teaching in South Korea. It happened to fall over my birthday, which made it extra special! We reintroduced them to American culture with the Clay County Fair and lots of fried food :)

* The first weekend in October, I traveled to Michigan City, IN for a girls reunion weekend! There were 8 of us who got together over the course of the weekend, and words can't express how wonderful it was to see my lovely roomies from college.

* Also in October, Anthony I and traveled to Minneapolis with 10 other members of the worship team at Good News for a David Crowder* Band Concert. It was his last tour with the band, and it was a fantastic concert! And with Gungor opening the concert, it's hard to go wrong.

* We celebrated 1,000 days of marriage on October 7th! Gotta love reasons to celebrate!

* Towards the end of October, Anthony and I made a trip up to Minneapolis again. This time to visit with some family! Anthony's sister lives near Minneapolis and his other sister and bro-in-law were in town for a conference. We seized the opportunity to eat at Benihana's and talk the night away. It was a good, though brief, visit.

* This fall we also participated in a Spiritual Retreat in Sioux Falls, SD. This was part of a class that Anthony and I are taking at church. The retreat was just a day long, but oh-so-beneficial. To set aside a day to rest in the Lord was very refreshing and much needed.

* In November, we found our traveling once again to Minneapolis with about a dozen members of the worship team. This time, it was for a Hillsong LIVE concert. Yes, it was 2 concerts in 2 months, but can you really pass up the chance to see David Crowder or Hillsong? I think not. The Hillsong concert was a wonderful night of worship. As Anthony said, it was nice to go to a worship night and not be the one planning it or facilitating it. We both thoroughly enjoyed the concert.

* Sometime this fall, Anthony made the tough decision to change schools. Originally registered at Fuller Theological Seminary, he discovered that their distance program was not what he thought it would be. They offer limited classes online and are limited in the intensives he would need to take at the school. So in January, he will officially be a distance student at Asbury Theological Seminary (based in Kentucky). His classes will transfer, and at Asbury, he will be able to complete a Master's of Divinity in less time than it would have taken him to complete a Master's in Theology. They have a much better program for distance students and have been much better to work with.

* And that brings us to Thanksgiving! Holidays are difficult for us to get away, so this year my parents came here! They were able to make it in time for our Thanksgiving Eve service that we do with the Presbyterian Church. We had a great time of visiting and eating and relaxing. Luckily, the turkey and meal we made turned out well :) I also took advantage of the extra hands and we decorated for Christmas the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We cut down a tree at the local Christmas tree farm, and spent most of Saturday trying to fit it in the tree stand. Word to the wise, don't buy a tree with a crooked stump - it's not worth it!

Well if you've stuck with the blog this far, then BRAVO! You are now up-to-date on our lives! This next month looks to be just as busy: it's advent, we have a wedding in Michigan (yay Brett and Anne!), and Anthony will be taking finals. But we are excited about it all (except for maybe the school work). We will try to be better about writing (don't we always say that?). More to come later. We love you all... thank you for staying with us and supporting us!

Emily

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Living Out Your Giftedness

 A few days ago I got an email advertising a sermon resource website. For a monthly subscription you would be able to download sermon outlines, media, and even entire sermon texts for you to use on your congregation. Now, I understand the need for resource websites. They’re helpful, they spark ideas, and they can come through for you in a pinch.

But the idea of a monthly subscription to this website just made me sad. It made me think of the many pastors out there who feel obligated to use this website, finding themselves called to ministry and yet not gifted in teaching and preaching. It has to be a scary place to be. And I can’t imagine that it feels very good to head to a sermon resource website each week when you’re probably thinking to yourself, Why am I not able to do this on my own!

So what causes this situation, that we have people called to ministry doing things that they don’t feel equipped for? Have we forced our pastors - and ourselves - into doing things that they’ve never been equipped for (either by natural talent, education, or the gifting of the Holy Spirit) because the rest of us, as the church, are not living out the things that we are equipped for.

I think many of us, way too early on in our lives, get pigeon-holed into a certain role or position we believe we must play. Much of our education system is based on the premise that you must pick one thing to major in and then do that one thing as a career the rest of your life. Can that really be healthy? Should our complex personalities, talents, and gifts we whittled down to a word or two?

Sometimes we get pigeon-holed into things we’re not even good at (like the person called to pastoral counseling, but finds themselves having to preach - and hit up sermon resource websites - 52 times a year). Sometimes we are pigeon-holed into something we are good at (like playing piano) and use it as our safe-place, never venturing to discover whether or not we’re good at anything else.

Is it possible that we have churches filled with folks who are simply unaware of their own giftedness? Many times it’s easy to get frustrated because of a lack of volunteers in a particular ministry. But do we simply live in a culture that constantly affirms this lie that you’re good only at what you’re most familiar with?

Now, don’t get me wrong. We can’t be faux-idealists and sit around only doing what we feel “called” to do. As a good friend of mine has said, “Do something you’re not passionate about.” And he’s right. Too many of us are waiting around for the “perfect” opportunity to get involved in something, but - gee whiz - that perfect opportunity just never seems to find us. So, on the one hand, I want to affirm that it’s okay to be involved not only in things you’re good at, but also in things that are just simply good. You may be uncomfortable changing a baby’s diaper, but sometimes they just need to be changed. Everytime you hear an opportunity to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, or help the poor, you can’t just claim, “I just didn’t feel ‘led.’” In the words of James, “If you know the good you ought to do, and do not do it, to you it is sin” (James 4:17).

But, on the other hand, what would happen in our churches - in our lives - if all of us began to seek out the rest of our giftedness? Could the woman who really doesn’t like children (God forbid) be allowed to leave the nursery and start some coffeehouse evangelism? Or the man who really doesn’t like handywork be allowed to pursue photography?

Most recently, I have been struggling under the weight of feeling unequipped to plant a new congregation. I’m fairly introverted, I’ve only led one person to Christ (and that was because I told him I would let him be my friend if he became a Christian. It was sixth grade), and I’m pretty comfortable doing the whole lead worshiper thing.

And then our denomination had me take a personality/giftedness test based on the “five offices” of Ephesians 4 (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher). Go figure, it came back saying I was an apostolic evangelist (apostle meaning “sent out”).

Perhaps there’s more to me than I’ve ever considered.

Perhaps there’s more to you than you’ve ever considered.

And maybe - just maybe - if we began to live out all of our calling, we would stop forcing people to do things they were really never meant to do.