Finding Ministry When Life Gets in the Way

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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I used to be a better human being.

When I was a young single guy and into my early married years, I made a robust contribution to society. I served in my church as Elder, Deacon, Outreach Committee Chair, Pastor Relations Representative, and Choir Critic (the last position was self-appointed). I was board president of the Habitat for Humanity affiliate. I co-chaired the annual United Way campaign kick-off. I was best Friend of the Public Library. I was Mr. Civic Minded.

I don't do that any more. Where I once managed the church landscaping team, now I'm lucky to find time to mow my own lawn.

Like a lot of people, my life got in the way of my ministry. I previously had discretionary time and energy to serve. Now I have kids, work, spouse, pets, house, school, parents, and lots of stuff. And those things all came with responsibilities that seem to crowd out my former ministry-focused life. In fact, I'm hard-pressed to name one volunteer position I hold. (Unless you count my continued role as Choir Critic.)

Once I realized that I had fallen off the service bandwagon, I felt bad. I made excuses. ("I'm really busy.") I made rationalizations. ("I've served so much that my hours-served-per-month-average is still pretty high.") I made strange leaps of logic to justify my unproductive activities. ("That television sitcom isn't going to watch itself, you know.") But I mostly felt guilty about not serving. I felt like I was no longer working for the Lord.

Then I read about a biblical servant who didn't get to serve in the way he thought he should. David wanted to build God's temple. He was passionate and focused on it. But because of a combination of David's missteps and God's timing, it wasn't to be. David left life with that supreme mission undone.

Instead, God chose Solomon to complete the task. As Solomon describes in 1 Kings 5: "You know that David my father was unable to build a house for the name of the Lord his God because of the wars which surrounded him until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet. But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, there is neither adversary nor misfortune."

God gave Solomon the gifts and set the unique time to do the task that David wanted to do. But even though David wasn't called to build the temple, he wasn't just sitting around watching American Idol. Instead, he performed many other tasks necessary for the temple's construction. He bought the land (1 Chron. 21:20-30), he prepared the timbers, he saved up money (v. 14), and he lined up laborers (v. 17). David did important but behind-the-scenes things that would allow ministry to be done by others.

In this season of my life, I'm not in a position to serve as I served previously. But God is still calling me to service. The challenge for me—and perhaps for you—is to find what that call is. I may not be able to lead the church building campaign right now, but maybe I can help create a positive environment at work by putting others first. I may not be able to take an overseas mission trip, but maybe I am called to help my coworker meet a tight deadline.

God gifts us to do the ministry he calls us to do, but that ministry and our gifting may change over time. It's not productive to worry about where you're not serving. God invites us—through our prayers and petitions—to seek his guidance for where we should serve now.

Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:

  • David wanted to build a temple, but God had other plans. Think about the specific ways our culture expects us to serve God. What other kinds of service may God be calling you to consider?
  • What does it mean to have a ministry? Are all ministries tied directly to the churches we attend?