I was talking this weekend with another pastor. We were talking about discipling, mentoring and developing a church. During the conversation some things about purpose and destiny started to become clearer for me. I wanted to share it with you on the off-chance that it helps you too.
While I pastor a wonderful church, Open Gate Fellowship, I also work full-time as a software developer. I’ve been doing that work for a lot longer than I’ve been a pastor and in some ways it is more familiar and comfortable to me still. When I first started out in the field of software development, if someone had asked me, “What do you do?” I would have given them a whole list of activities. I write code. I track down bugs. I write up design specifications. Those kinds of things. While all of that is true in a sense, it is also the answer of someone with a severely limited understanding of their role.
After 14 years of experience, when someone asks me the same question, my answer is different. What do I do? I solve business problems. Writing code, fixing bugs and writing specifications are all common ways in which I engage the thing that I do but they aren’t what I’m actually DOING. If I can solve whatever problem a client brings to me without writing a single line of code, then I have added value to that client and been worth the money spent to hire me. If I write millions of lines of code for my client but don’t solve the core problem that they need addressed, then I have failed. I have failed even if my code is brilliant. I have failed because I have misunderstood my purpose.
Let’s take this conversation over to the church. Many people I talk to are somewhat dissatisfied with their life in the context of the church. They are often quite busy with church activities. When asked what it is they do in the church, they answer like I used to as a beginning software developer. I sing on the worship team. I help with the children’s ministry. I’m on the hospitality team. Those are tasks that may or may not effectively engage with your purpose. They aren’t your purpose. Let’s look at Jesus as an example.
Jesus is in the synagogue and he reads to everyone from the book of Isaiah.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.
In this quote, Jesus announces to everyone what He is there to do. He gives good news to the poor. He releases captives and frees the oppressed. He gives sight to those who can’t see. Those are all declarations of purpose. Jesus didn’t say He was going to spit on dirt and rub it in people’s eyes. He didn’t say He was going to send demons into herds of pigs. He didn’t mention how He was going to take a whip and chase money changers out of the temple. Those were all specific ways in which He engaged His purpose. They weren’t actually His purpose.
When you verbalize what it is that you do, it shouldn’t be bound too tightly to specific tasks. “I heal the broken-hearted.” is a statement of purpose and significance that will open up a myriad of opportunities for expression. “I serve coffee after church.” is a statement defining a specific task. Each of us has down inside of us a statement of purpose that expresses what it is that God put us here on the earth to do. Satisfaction will follow on the heels of discovering that purpose and being obedient to the voice of the Lord in following it. Satisfaction doesn’t come from being busy doing a lot of stuff.
So… What do you do?**Side note: My intent was not to belittle any of the tasks I mentioned above. All of them are worthwhile works of service. I have even done most of them myself. The point is knowing WHY you are doing those works in the first place.