Yesterday I had the opportunity to lead worship at our church’s lunchtime prayer meeting. I am forever grateful for the generosity The Vine shows towards fledglings like myself – they really do believe in giving people the chance to develop, with the understanding that these things can take time. I have been plugging away on the worship team for what…16 years now, and although on the one hand that sounds very impressive in a long-term commitment sort of way, on the other hand it really just goes to show how patient church is with me as I continue to grow at my own pace and try my hand at different areas of ministry.
Anyway, the reason for this post is to put some thought into the idea of playing to one’s strengths. This is no new concept, but one that I do find troublesome. I have heard the idea preached by Brian Houston and John Maxwell, as well we discussed in pastor’s meetings here in HK. I am just really unsure of it.
I mean, I get the concept- if why invest in taking one gift from a level 2 to a level 4 when you could put the effort towards taking another gift from a level 7 to a level 9? That’s the general premise.
I have spent years of my life envying people who are really really good at one or two things. I am not one of those people. I am a little bit okay at a lot of different things. I have come to accept this now, mostly as the result of no longer having the emotional resource to fight it.
The problem I found was that the times I have tried to shelf all but a couple of my inclinations in the name of playing to a strength or two, I have wound up miserable. I don’t dabble on a whim. I do it because I feel that I have been given an idea, and it is up to me to make something of it. It is almost a duty. If I turn a blind eye to those duties, I end up feeling depressed and unfulfilled.
There are some people in the world who hold such regard for the idea of excellence that they simply will not attempt something unless they are more-or-less certain that they will be happy with their outcome. I understand this and cannot argue against it because I have seen these people excel numerous times. What I will acknowledge though, is that I do not possess their same level of self-control. If I get the thought of auditioning for a Masters Degree in Jazz Dance into my head, there is little that can stop me from trying, even though my chances of success are limited, so that at least I can know that I tried. Let’s not go into that specific example right now though. I think it’s just two different types of people – two different ways a human brain can be wired.
The disadvantage of my wiring is that I am very familiar with failure. Again, that’s not meant to sound heroic in any way. Anyone who has actually failed at something important will know that a visit to failville is not an enjoyable experience, nor one that is easy to recover from. The advantage is that I have enjoyed the process of trying new things, and have also developed some wisdom from experience, but most importantly, I feel, some tenacity.
Anyway, the main question I am grappling with right now is that if everyone only focused on their strengths, then would we perhaps be missing out on the awesome experience of uncomfortable stretching, and that thing that happens thanks to 2 Cor 12:9 where God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness? I’m no theologian, but my lay interpretation of this verse is that if I’m too strong then I don’t leave much room for partnership with God. I honestly don’t know if I’ve got that muddled or out of context in some way, but I am most open to discussion.
I’m not saying that mediocre worship leaders should be given the right to get on stage at church or anything like that – that would not be fair on the rest of the church body. I am saying that if someone feels that they want to try to develop their skills in areas of level 2-6 abilities, then why not just let them? I can say for sure that with or without the chance to get on stage, or publish, or sell art or whatever, I would still be doing what I do simply because I get uneasy when I don’t. If I do get given the those opportunities then how nice, but I think that life is more fun if we just get on with doing what we believe we were made to do, as long as we aren’t hurting anybody, regardless of audience size or response.