I grew up in a preacher’s house. Looking back, it’s easy to surmise how some of the things that were normal to me, were foreign to others. For instance, going to church. It wasn’t something you did on Christmas Eve to put a nice big bow on the season, or pencil in on the calendar right before the Community Easter Egg Hunt time slot. We didn’t even know it was an option; we just did it. Our week, every week, always pointed to Sunday. Mom called it the Lord’s Day. Everything else took a backseat.
Dad traveled a few times a year to other churches to preach what was referred to as a Revival. Twice a year, it was our turn and a preacher would travel to us. Back then, a Revival was a week long. A bookend Sunday to Sunday event, with services every night. The grand finale was on Sunday morning with a potluck lunch in the Fellowship Hall afterward. Our sweet little church building was small, and about 10 minutes into the finale sermon the smell of pot roast and potatoes wafted through the air conditioning vents and into the sanctuary. That’s when the fidgeting began. We were supposed to be focused on God and all, but by that time our ministry banks were full and all we could think about was how to slip out during the benediction prayer without being caught so that we would be first in line to get our plates.
So maybe my priorities were a little out of whack back then. Don’t judge. I was young.
I loved Revivals. I remember one in particular, because it changed the trajectory of my life. I don’t remember the night of the week or the outline of the sermon, but I remember the tug on my heart and the blue carpet on the altar steps…because that’s where the service ended and my destiny began. I was 13 and didn’t know squat about life but I knew I wanted to give it to Him and trust Him to sort out the details. At age 14, I started playing keys in a Christian band called Still Waters. That was insanely fun! For the next few years we traveled to different churches, conferences, and various events, all across the southern states. By the time I turned 20, I was married to a preacher and finally en route to a new life of service and ministry.
Being in ministry was always my dream destination. Even before the blue carpet. If you were a preacher, ministry was your profession. Those were the cool guys! If you were on staff at a church, you were in ministry. If you were in the band, you were in ministry. Basically, if you had a platform or a stage under the shadow of a steeple, you were in ministry. That’s just how the definition played itself out. Being a preacher’s wife and a musician was a double indemnity. Through the years I was often asked what I did for a living and my go-to response was always, “I’m in the ministry.” To me, it was a big deal. It was pretty much everything.
Then one day, Life folded up the stage and handed me a different passport. It was not a bucket list destination. This transaction gave voice to a new question: what happens when the stage goes away? Do I quit doing the thing that I love? Playing keys had always been my thing. Now I was stuck. And so, I ventured out to the other side of town and camped out on the back row under another steeple (because I couldn’t just stop going.) And there I sat, still, for a while.
A lot of years have passed since I made that trip across town. With the years came a broader lens. I used to think that being in a band on a stage would always be my ministry. That hasn’t always been the case though. I have been through seasons where there was no stage. No rehearsals, no memorizing chord charts, no key changes. I figured the desire would eventually leave, too. Funny thing, looking back, it’s interesting that I taught piano lessons during that season. During the holidays, I’d find myself dusting off an old grand piano at The Lodge Senior Living Center, and playing some Christmas classics for a group of dear souls. Turns out, stages are everywhere.
As much as I tend to gravitate toward constancy, I have learned that ministries are seasonal. Playing keys had always been my ministry. In reality, the ability to play the piano is a gift. Gifts are permanent. The way I use my gift becomes my ministry.
We are born with gifts. They don’t change. Ministry can change daily. Instead of asking, “Lord, what is my ministry?” ask “Lord, how do You want to use my gifts today?”
I hope you choose to fine-tune your gift. Do you like to draw? Take an art class. Do you like guitars? Surround yourself with musicians and watch what they do. Do you like to write? Get a passport and travel, and you’ll have boocoos to write about. Do equations and formulas jazz you? Then we cannot be friends. Ha, just kidding.
Harold Thurman, an influential author and theologian, once said:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Now there’s a note-worthy gift exchange. Go, fine-tune your gift. And then offer it wholly and humbly to God. Once He gets to work, something happens. Ministry will follow you everywhere you go.