I was talking with my son around 1:30 in the morning (we do tend to be night owls at times). We were talking about ministry. He mentioned that when we first came to the Philippines he wasn’t sure whether we were really helping here or not (a very fair and understandable assessment) but that he now sees his mom and I as having an important positive role here.
I said something like this:
“When we first got here, we were students… trainees. We weren’t really doing anything that others did not do or could not do. We did, however, at least act as catalysts. We helped form a couple of mission teams. One was DPDM (a medical mission group). We helped inspire people to get this in motion, but others had talked about it before we got here, and people in the group were doing medical missions before we arrived.
We also cofounded a pastoral care group, but a couple of groups had been set up before we set one up. The others may have faded away, but we did not do anything that new or amazing.
The thing is that over the 11 years that we were here, we did some good stuff… but in the first 7 or 8 years, if we weren’t here, there is a pretty good chance that someone else would have done it. In the last 3 or 4 years, however, it seems like we have found the place where we fit into ministry… God’s work. A place where if we weren’t doing it, perhaps it would not happen. Over time we eventually found our ‘fit’ in ministry.”
My son thought that was a bit profound. A lot of people focus on Passion as far as ministry. But maybe one should look more for Fit… where one Fits into God’s work.
That got me thinking. Consider the idea of SHAPE. SHAPE is often used to find what God as created a person to do ministerially. It stands for:
- Spiritual Gifts
I like to add a sixth, “Sphere of Influence.” That makes SHAPES. But I will go along with the singular form. I think there is much to be said for the idea of SHAPE in getting some idea of what God has made you to be and do ministerially…. at least initially.
However, as time goes on, our SHAPE changes. As we minister our Heart, Abilities, Experiences, and Sphere of Influence changes. Our Personality also changes, although many think of personality as invariant. And, yes, I believe our Spiritual gifts change… (I believe the idea that spiritual gifts are given at salvation and never change is a modern Christian myth.)
As one matures in ministry, I believe our place is less about our SHAPE. Rather the changes mold us to FIT into God’s work.
Certain ministries we discover are Fulfilling. We find satisfaction in our place in God’s work. It is not always about Heart or Passion. Rather, one feels that one is where one is meant to be. Does this always happen? I don’t know. But it can happen and does happen. It feels, in many ways that it has happened with us (or at least is in the process of happening).
Who we are an ministry becomes more Interactive. Ministry affects our SHAPE, and SHAPE affects our ministry. We grow into roles and grow out of roles.
These changes are tied to Need. Over time, one discovers where one is truly needed. We are often told not to focus on where we are needed but discover how our gifting (SHAPE) informs us as to our role. However over time, hopefully, our SHAPE and a clear Need begin to come together. The need clarifies and our SHAPES becomes attuned to that need. When I say need, I am not talking about a warm body to fill a billet. Rather it is an understanding that there is a need that we specifically are effective at filling. Additionally, we start to see what we are effective at. People sometimes like to say, “Don’t pray that God bless what you are doing, but pray to do what God is blessing.” I think there is truth to that, but perhaps it could be said, “Pray that you do what God will bless when you do it.”
These changes are also Dialogic. That is, they are part of broader “conversation” between each of us and God, as well as with others inside of and outside of ministry.
The result is that Our Ministry is always in flux as is our SHAPE. The goal is to help them FIND each other so that we know where we FIT into God’s Work.