We need to get out of the mindset of being useful and into the mindset of being faithful and effective.
As a leader, there are times when I have gone to the church to help with an event or service and I have been told that there is nothing for me to do. The servant in me cries a little bit…or a lot. I get a little angry at the circumstance. There have also been times when I have walked away from helping with an event or service and felt that I was more of a problem than I was a solution. It is easy to feel pretty bad about that. It is easy to feel useless.
I have a perfectionist type of personality, and I am constantly evaluating my performance and often comparing myself to others. Satan has used this many times to render me ineffective. I have come to learn over the past few months that useful and effective are two different things. I want to take a couple moments to create a contrast.
Useful has to do with the match of ability and opportunity. Someone can be good with kids and a position is available in the kids department. That person steps in and fulfills the need. We would consider this useful. Useful is doing a task well, especially in the eyes of someone else. It depends on many factors, not just the host. There are times in our ministry when we will be very useful. We are the only one with musical ability, so we lead worship. We are the one who knows about computers, and we can fix a problem. However, we should not aim to always be “useful” or to hire “useful” people. If that is our goal, we will often leave disappointed in ourselves or in others.
Instead of useful, we should strive to be effective. Effective has to do with who we consistently are, not necessarily our performance. Effective has to do with our character, habits, and state-of-the heart. Are we consistently available? Are we consistently looking for ways to help others or to encourage others? Are we willing to fulfill whatever need is there? Are we willing to train and equip others to fill needs, even when it is easier or more enjoyable to just do it ourselves? Do we have a bigger vision than just the momentary need? People who embody these things are sometimes useful, but always effective.
God doesn’t ask us to be useful, but rather He asks us to be faithful. He rewards us based on our obedience. When He speaks, do we listen? When He calls, do we act? When He moves, do we respond?
We must also remember that we are only a part of the big picture, so we must live with a bigger vision. God did not call me to fulfill all the needs of the world. He called me to do my part. It is easy for me to want to fulfill every need and to jump into every opportunity without first reflecting on the bigger purpose. Here in Ambato, we are raising up leaders to take our place. That means that I must always be thinking about how I can equip others to do work for the Kingdom. I love teaching my pre-teen class, but I have someone under me who will soon take my place. Therefore, my priority is to invest in her, develop her skills, and encourage her leadership. I must always have a goal that is bigger than the moment. There will be times when we must step in and fulfill an immediate need. There are times when I will be asked to do something that I am not good at nor do I have all the skills I think I need in order to be “useful”. However, an effective person habitually sees past the moment to the bigger goal.
One more thing: Satan is the father of lies. He will discourage wherever there is opportunity. So don’t listen. Don’t let him use the lie that just because in the moment you aren’t being useful, that you aren’t an effective person. Instead, invest in your relationship with God. Seek to develop in your life the characteristics of an effective person and don’t give up. You aren’t the Kingdom; but rather, you are a part of the Kingdom. Live to please Christ, not men. Your integrity and success come from who you are in Christ, so keep your eyes fixed on Him. Always do the best you can, be faithful and obedient, let the pieces fall where they may, and walk forward in the victory and power of Christ.