When Being and Doing Converge: What I Learned From Being Frustrated During Ministry
There is a difference between who you are and what you do.
Who you are is the inner wirings of your personality and the innate gifts that God deposited in you. God has created you to be distinct and unique from others. There are certain inclinations and dreams in your heart that you aspire to be. You also have certain values that guide your life decisions. These put together with your life story make up who you are.
On the other hand, what you do is usually your career or job description that has been given to you by your boss or organization. For a pastor or clergy, what you do is your ministerial activities that you do on a daily to weekly basis.
The reason why I write this post is because I have found myself in situations when who I am and what I do have been in conflict with each other. There have been times for me as a pastor, where certain responsibilities of my day-to-day would frustrate me. Some of the obligations and roles that were assigned to me would wear me out. It’s not that I didn’t love God or enjoy serving His people, but it was clear that certain aspects of ministry would drain me.
This is why I wanted to write this post. Hopefully this can help you understand why you feel the way you do and how you can relieve some of the tension you have in your heart.
Who You Are vs What You Do
In an ideal situation, you want who you are and what you do to fully overlap with one another. You want what you are most passionate and gifted to do, to align with what you are doing for a career or ministry. However for many of us, who we are and what we do hardly overlap. Here is a personal diagram I put together that summarizes who I am and the major things that I did at a previous ministry I served in a few years ago as a youth pastor overseeing and leading ~200 students and a volunteer staff of ~40.
Why Did I Get So Frustrated and Often Feel Disengaged At Church?
When I look at this diagram, it gives me insight into why I would get frustrated and disengaged at times. Whenever what I was doing didn’t align with who I am, it felt like labor; it felt forced. It felt like I was trying to hammer in a nail using a screwdriver. It took so much energy, effort and stress to get the job done.
It was only when who I am and what I did intersected in the middle that I would get excited about what I was doing. For example, preaching invigorates me the most. Why? Because my personality, gifts, passion and values all converge when I stand to preach God’s Word. I am an extrovert with a natural ability to speak. Coupled with that is a passion for God’s Word and for people to encounter God. Consequently, when I stand to preach God’s Word, my being and doing converge.
One of the reasons why many of you might feel depleted during ministry (work) is because you are spending most your time on things that do not allow you be yourself. The more frustrated you are at work or in ministry, the more likely it is that you are doing something that does not match your original design. If you look at my diagram above, only about 15% of who I am was being accessed in the previous ministry. In an ideal world, you want 100% of who you are and what you do to be working together. When this happens, you are at full capacity doing what you love and making the greatest impact you possibly can!
In an ideal world, this is what my diagram should look like:
In the diagram above, different from my first one, who I am and what I do are completely overlapping with one another. When this happens, I am at my full capacity.
Now, I know some of you are reading this and may be thinking to yourself , “I hate my job. I am so disengaged at work. Nothing excites me anymore. Work is so boring. I am just going through the motions.” Or maybe you are a minister and pastor and you are thinking, “I never signed up for this. Why am I sitting in so many meetings? There are more important things to do like reach souls and disciple people! Why is this person so difficult to lead? What did I get myself into?”
These are all thoughts that have gone through my mind and at times, still do. Here are a few words of encouragement if you find yourself discouraged and disengaged at your job or ministry:
- Be faithful, God is training you. Do not quit and find another job. Do not quit and find another ministry. Especially if you are in your early years of your career and ministry, know that these years are more for you than it is for the people you are serving. God has to work in you before He can work through you (Clinton, Making of a A Leader). God at times will place you in situations and circumstances that drive you crazy in order to help you see yourself. You will never know what you love until you first realize what you hate. Be faithful where you are and God will surface the things you are gifted in due time. God is training you through this process. Do not give up.
- Be patient, God is working on your character. When you find yourself in situations that frustrate and irritate you, know that God is doing heart surgery on you. God is purging all the sinful and man-made idols in your heart. God puts His servants in seasons where they feel like nothing is going their way in order to purge their heart from all selfishness. Your character and integrity is being strengthened and tested during this time. Especially for us young leaders (millenials) it is going to take us years upon years before we really know who we are and what we are passionate about. Be patient and know that God is at work!
- Delegate and empower others. If you are a leader and happen to find yourself with the freedom to delegate things to others, do it. One of the problems many leaders have is that they try to do everything. They have a savior-complex where they think to be a good leader he or she has to do all the work. This is cheating both you and your people (leaders). Delegate and empower others to do tasks that they are more gifted than you to do. You will be surprised at how something that drives you crazy can bring life to someone else.
- Find a space to live out your passions. While you are being faithful and persevering where God has placed you, find an avenue where you can exercise your gifts more freely. If you love music but your current job or season doesn’t give you the space to do that, find time in your personal schedule to pursue this. If you love spending time with good friends and pouring into people but ministry consumes all your time, make time and go hang out with some friends. No matter what job, career or ministry you are involved in, make space for you to follow your deepest passions.
Everything I wrote in this post, I have personally gone through and am still going through. There are still many aspects of ministry for me that are difficult, draining and challenging. Through all of this, I have learned why I feel the way I do and how I can manage it well in order to faithfully serve the Lord.
I pray and hope this post serves as a resource and encouragement for you. I wrote another post last month about Leading From A Place of Overflow: What Burning out Taught Me that may also be helpful to you. God is at work in your life more than you know. Love Him, serve Him and enjoy Him forever!