Friday, May 18, 2012

Cog in the Machine

When asked what he does for a living, a coworker of mine usually replies, "I'm part of the bureaucracy." A few years ago Monster had an advertisement where kids described what they wanted to be when they grow up. "I want to claw my way up to middle management" was one reply, followed by "I want to be a yes-man," "yes-woman," "yes, sir!"

Maybe you're stuck in a rut at your job and you feel just like this. Part of the bureaucracy, a cog in the machine. I doubt many of us aspired to this and we wouldn't describe our dream job this way. And so we come home exhausted, defeated, or burned out. We long for the weekends when we can literally take a break from the world and rest before we have to get in the car and go do it again.

Doesn't sound ideal, does it? Have you ever looked at church the same way? Is it a drudgery to participate as you take repeated glances at your watch to see if anything has changed? This description might not be your first thought, but I bet you can relate. Just like if you're stuck in a rut work, if you're stuck at church maybe it's because you're not doing what you want to. Or better yet, what you're meant to.

Isn't that how it goes? You go blind staring at your computer screen at work knowing you were meant for more than this. Isn't that what piles on to this feeling of frustration? Church is no different; as we fight off falling asleep during a sermon we think there must be more than this.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers [leadership roles], to prepare God’s people for works of service [service roles], so that the body of Christ may be built each part does its work." (Ephesians 4:11-12, 16) American church (TM) culture has convinced us that it is the few in front of the church, up on the pulpit, who are responsible for everything while the rest of us sit back and drop a couple of bucks in the tray to pay them. But the Biblical model of the church is not like this.

"As each part does it's work." Just like your job, well just like anything really, if you feel valued and are participating as part of something bigger you are more likely to derive satisfaction from your work. So we all have roles and it is just a matter of identifying what those roles are. Paul gives us samples here in Ephesians, but also in Romans 12 and twice in 1 Corinthians 12.

Of course, frustration also comes when we mis-identify our roles. At our jobs, we might think we'd be just right for that promotion but when we finally rise up, it proves to be too much for us. There's this concept called the "Peter Principle" where one can only rise to the level of their own incompetence. What that means is that theoretically, you keep getting promoted until you can no longer do your job (and your weaknesses are exposed) at which point you're stuck.

Other times it may not be the rise in position that we lust after, but a different position all together. Yet it might just be right where you're at is where you're supposed to be. This too can be frustrating. And it is no different at church. While there isn't really any means of promotion, we can all feel like we should be doing something else.

For me, personally, I've been frustrated at church because I have mis-identified my role. I've called myself "teacher" and on this blog "writer". I've considered that maybe I'm a "prophet" in the context of being inspired by the Holy Spirit to give a message in a specific context. But so long as I've been a disciple of Jesus people have told me, "you have the gift of administration!" and for the last twelve years I've been resisting that fact.

Back to work, the coworker I mentioned earlier and I have spent the last 4-5 weeks pushing paper, writing page after page, reviewing every word to make sure every i was dotted and t crossed. And as tedious as that has been, I've been good at it. Recently, I put together and hosted a meeting that was very involved and took up most of my time. I complained about how busy I was, but deep inside I could not deny that I actually liked it.

I've been on my church's board of directors for the last six years. Some meetings go better than others, but when I am honest with myself I see that this is what I am good at. I am good at organization (which is ironic since I am so unorganized): putting people where they need to be to be most successful (at work) and bring the most glory to God (at church). I prefer to work behind the scenes and while I crave the spotlight for the sake of my own ego, I am not comfortable there. I'm an "idea guy" and spend a lot of time thinking about how-tos. This is who I am and I need to embrace that.

After this last big meeting we had a board meeting. And all this hit me. My gift is administration. I paused and prayed about it, thanking God for making me just like he did. And I felt a peace enter into me that has been missing for some time. I realized that much of my stress and frustration came from trying to be someone I am not. Peace came from thanking God for who I am. I am a cog in God's great machine. And I am ok with that.

So what are you gifts? What do you aspire to?


Grayson Pope (A Parched Soul) said...

My gifts are knowledge, teaching and discernment. My passion is writing, so that is how I join the three together. I enjoyed your article. I love learning and discussing spiritual gifts. It's something missed by so many.

Fatha Frank said...

Grayson, glad you stopped by. Praise God you've been given an outlet to apply your gifts in a way that brings glory to God. I'm still working that out for myself, as you can see. But for now, I'm going to keep writing away here as I work things out on the other side of the computer screen.