This is a guest post by Loren Pinilis. Loren blogs on time stewardship at Life of a Steward.
For a long time, my desire has been to not waste my life. I wanted to do great things for God and to bring him as much glory as possible.
But I was going about it all wrong.
My thinking was refined by Dave Harvey’s Rescuing Ambition and by what Matt has said here on What’s Best Next.
I had an individualistic view of good works. Productivity was all about what I personally could contribute and accomplish. I looked for ways to use my strengths and to follow the callings and burdens that God had given me.
But I’ve realized the New Testament model for effectiveness is strikingly different. Instead, we see God working through his church. We see the passion of the apostles to build up this corporate body. We see God creating, refining, and growing local congregations of believers — and expressing his love to the nations through them.
This should radically change our view of productivity. We shift from a model that focuses on personal effectiveness to one that centers on organizational effectiveness. The most important thing is the team record, not the stats of the players.
This organizational productivity is not about finding fulfillment in our ministry. It’s not about making sure our gifts are utilized to the fullest. It’s about what’s best for the church.
There is a relationship between personal effectiveness and organizational effectiveness. God did, after all, give us strengths and gifts that he intends for us to steward well. But when spiritual gifts are discussed in the Bible, it’s in the context of the church. These gifts are given so that we join with others who have complementary strengths – and together we build up the church, serve the needs of others, and fulfill the Great Commission.
The danger, however, is when the church becomes merely a vehicle for us to pursue our personal ministry goals. In the desire to maximize our own individual productivity, we end up devaluing the local church. Instead of the church being a functioning body, it becomes some Frankenstein’s monster of individual parts sewn together.
I like the way Dave Harvey puts it: “The church shouldn’t merely accommodate our ministry; it should help define it according to the present needs of the church. This means if you have a burden for adult education but the church needs someone to teach kids, then grab the milk and cookies and get your lessons ready.”
“Having a heart” for a particular area of ministry is a signpost pointing you to an area where you may be the most productive. Passions are often God’s way of showing you how you can contribute to the greatest organizational effectiveness of the church.
But the performance of the body is the final measure of success — not our fulfillment. Not our individual accomplishments.
If the pursuit of our lives is to bring God glory, let’s make sure we’re doing it in a way that honors him and his body. Let’s do what will help the church the most — asking first “what needs to be done,” rather than simply “what would I like to do.”