Several times in the last few days I have seen Facebook posts that ask this question: If _________ were an Olympic Sport I could with the gold medal. The point being, of course, that all of us have some talent or ability that we feel we could match against the best in the world. It isn’t a question of whether or not we have that kind of talent, it is just about finding our niche.
Of course most of realize that we don’t have anything approaching a world class talent, no matter the event, but that isn’t the point. We like to believe that we do.
Watching these Olympics, it is clear that many athletes there had to take this approach. They worked hard for years to become a world class competitor, only to find that they weren’t good enough. But someone along the way suggested that they try something different. So they went from being a backstroker to playing water polo. They went from trying the long jump to being a pole vaulter. They went from being a jockey to being a super heavyweight boxer. Ok, that last one probably didn’t happen. But there have been numerous stories of late bloomers who simply took a long time to find their niche. Now that they have found it they are competing on the world stage.
What I am wondering this morning is how much does this relate to spiritual gifts? Each of us who is a follower of Christ is empowered by the Spirit to serve. Further, Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit bestows gifts upon us to do the work God calls us to. But one of the greatest challenges in the church is helping people discover their gifts and finding a place to serve that fits them. Watching the Olympics has made me wonder how many people we have serving in the wrong places. They are filling a need for us and serving, but they aren’t excelling because it is the wrong sport. They are long distance runners trying to sprint or trampolinists trying to be vaulters.
Why is this so hard? I am not sure, but here are a couple of theories I would love your feedback on.
1) Like Olympic sports, there are certain gifts or roles that are commonly desired but uncommonly bestowed. This leads many of us to trying to be something we aren’t meant to be.
2) Too many churches are looking for volunteers (people who fill supporting roles for someone else’s vision) rather than leaders (people who create and seek out their own vision).
3) This is hard work and it requires a significant investment of time directly into people’s lives to help them identify and develop their gifts. Few of us are willing to invest that much time and energy.
4) Our lives are so busy that we have no idea what true discipleship looks like, nor do we have any room to use our gifts. We don’t know how to listen to the voice of God, we don’t know how to respond to it, and we aren’t willing to anyways.
Those are my theories? What do you think?