Recognizing and Effectively Utilizing a Hidden Asset in the Church

Exhausted nursery workers, smocks spattered with dried formula and spit-up; elderly children’s Sunday school teachers ready to retire but alas, there’s no replacement in sight; overextended pastor’s wives heading up the understaffed women’s ministry committee; frazzled kitchen workers, needing many more hands to prepare food for the flock—any of that sound familiar?

It should. Surely you’ve noticed that there never seem to be enough volunteers to fully staff the church on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights? Just look in the bulletin or take a gander at the fancy screen mounted up front—you’re likely to see announcements for several positions or areas of need. Better yet, keep your eye out for the disheveled children’s minister or wide-eyed nursery manager darting swiftly through the aisles drumming up last minute workers. It’s a scene replayed weekly in most churches in America.

In fact, the latest statistics show that around 20% of church members do the bulk of the work within the local church. The purpose of this post is not to answer the question of why this is the case but instead, to point churches to a quiet, covert, underutilized group of people who may actually help with this urgent and persistent situation.

Tell me more, you say? What am I missing?  Well, you’re forgetting the most underutilized group in society at large—the introverts!

You’re missing them because: They will not show up for a volunteer tryout of the praise team—even though they may have a lovely voice. They will not hunt down the head of the nursery department to tell them they would love to serve. They would never knock on the pastor’s door to let him know they have extensive experience in business and would, therefore, be an asset to the finance or personnel committee.

Introverts are reluctant to put themselves out there. They often have the skills and confidence for the job at hand. They are not necessarily shy and can actually be comfortable in front of a crowd. They are often excellent leaders/speakers. A trait shared by many, if not most, introverts is humility. Therefore, seeking out a position—even though they know it’s in their wheelhouse—smacks of pride and self-promotion. That’s something that many introverts just can’t get past. 

Another issue for introverts is that extroverts are everywhere at church— busily working, leading, serving, overextending. An introvert would never push them aside. In fact, the leadership of your church loves extroverts for their enthusiasm, visibility, and willingness to serve. ( We’ll get Susie to do it, she never says ‘no’) Remember the old saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”? Well, your church leadership loves that saying. After all, it’s hard and time consuming to search out the introverts quietly watching from the bushes. 

How do you recognize the introverts in your church? Introverts can definitely be very faithful attenders. They love the church and treasure their deep relationships with friends and fellow Life Group members. They are often the quieter ones at a church fellowship, perhaps in a deep conversation with one or two other people, or maybe they are sitting by themselves in the church cafe, quietly drinking a cup of coffee.

When it comes to plugging introverts in at your church, think: informal counseling, committee work, kitchen help, teaching, choir opportunities, helping with ministry projects, ushering. There are introverts in your church who would love to serve in these areas and many more. Remember, however, introverts will not want to be overextended due to the fact that having time alone for quiet reflection is so important to them.

Your congregation is filled with gifted believers with willing hearts. It may just take some extra effort to find them and ask them to help. Never assume that your introverted members don’t want to help/lead/volunteer/teach. Many of them are at home thinking about how they would love to teach or to be on a particular committee. They are just waiting to be asked face-to-face or reached out to in an email or text. When extroverts are the only ones recruited to fill all the volunteer positions in the church, introverted people are robbed of the blessing of serving, and others are robbed of the joy of serving alongside these calming, caring, talented people.

Here’s one caveat: Unfortunately, a common trait of introverts is that they often let calls go through to voicemail (!), preferring to prepare themselves mentally for the issue at hand instead of giving an off the cuff response. But, hopefully, church leadership will be persistent and patient with the introverted sheep in their diverse flock and begin to mine this hidden jewel of eager volunteers. 

 

 

 

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How Should Believers Respond When the World Has Turned Upside Down?

Few would argue that our country is in for a wild ride over the next few years. Laws will change. The educational climate will change. Daily living will change. Culture will change. America, itself will change in ways we never thought possible. In fact, life as we know it, will probably never be the same.

How should we, as believers, respond to this unprecedented upheaval of traditional values and beloved American freedom?

Well, this one thing, I know: God and His Word will never change!

God’s Word still gives us direction for life. It still holds a treasure trove of wisdom and guidance for life’s difficult choices and challenging seasons.

My mission, as a believer, is still the same. Here is a verse that I have claimed as my life verse for many years:

“He has shown thee, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of thee? To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” Micah 6:8

That mandate hasn’t changed. It hasn’t changed for you, and it hasn’t changed for me.

We are still called to treat others justly— our neighbors, our friends, even our enemies. When the world is unjust, we are to act justly.

We are still called to show mercy to others in dire circumstances—and in this time of pandemic and political upheaval there are many— those who have lost their jobs or are experiencing desperate illness. There are people who are emotionally distraught due to new stresses or strained relationships. All of these situations call for mercy—mercy with hands and feet!

We are still called to walk in humility and love knowing that we are sinners—lost forever were it not for the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Our greatest weapons against satan’s tactics in the world are humility, love, and prayer rather than arrogant and hateful discourse. We can disagree. We can call and email senators and representatives. We can (and should) vote! We can even engage in political discussion to a certain point, as long as the atmosphere remains a loving and respectful one and humility is the attitude of our hearts.

But prayer is truly our greatest weapon in this world—an underrated and underutilized tool for change. Believers should be on their knees praying for our country and its leaders daily.

“The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.” Psalm 145:18

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” 1 John 5:14-15

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16

And we can rest in the fact that God is still in control! He is still on His throne overseeing and sustaining this world that he created. We will absolutely not understand everything that is happening in our world in these challenging days. But God knows. He tells us in His Word:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

And, as Moses said to Joshua as he was preparing him to lead the Israelites into the promised land:

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8

Fellow believers, there is no need to fear as we face these unprecedented changes and assaults on Christian liberty that will most assuredly happen in the coming days. We can have inner peace and confidence that God is with us. As Jesus was preparing His disciples for His impending death He reminded them not to be afraid:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

So how should we, as believers, respond to the the troubling, life-altering events in our world?

Pray! Love! Help!

Take this opportunity to be the image of Christ to a lost and hurting world.

 

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The Importance of Quiet Time, Prayer and Bible Reading in the Life of a Believer

Where do you go when you need help, solace, or wisdom? What about when you have overwhelming feelings of despair, loneliness, or anxiety? Many of us had feelings like these as an unprecedented worldwide pandemic inserted itself into our lives this past year. When faced with difficult feelings some turn to exercise or entertainment, some throw themselves into their work, or even seek counseling (which is, of course, sometimes necessary for deeper issues). And some of us just stuff our feelings inside an already over-cluttered psyche. There is, however, a much better solution for difficult feelings. Did you know that the God of the universe is there for you to turn to for wisdom and comfort? He’s there at any time of the day or night—no further than a whispered prayer or a broken cry for help. We can call on God anywhere—our car, our kitchen, a mountaintop or a back alley–no question about it. But, for believers, it’s also important to set aside (prioritize) a specific time in our day to seek God.

Perhaps you hadn’t really thought about the fact that it’s possible to personally commune with God. In fact, spending time with God is a crucial discipline of the Christian life. We all need to find time in our day to sit in a quiet place, without distraction, seeking help and wisdom from the Lord. You see, just as you must plan to spend time with a friend in order to deepen the relationship, so must you also plan to spend time with the Lord to grow in relationship with Him!

My “quiet place” is at my little antique desk in our bedroom, facing our wooded back yard. I am, in fact, sitting at my desk right now as it is also the place where I write. My husband is at work and our children are grown and out of the house for the most part so finding quiet at our house is not hard. I know it can be a challenge for many of you out there who are in the throes of child-rearing or who work long hours outside the home, but if you can find a creative way to work it into your daily routine, it will bring a new dimension to your life and improve your spiritual and emotional well-being beyond measure.

What exactly are the components of a quiet time? Well, in my case, I begin by pouring out my heart to the Lord with praise and thanksgiving (even during this pandemic I have found numerous things for which to praise and thank Him!). I then ask for forgiveness of sins that I know I have committed and I seek help for those nagging sins that continue to plague me. Then, I simply talk to the Lord about my life. I pray for each member of my family specifically. I always pray that my young adult children, although they are all believers at this point, will develop a deep and abiding relationship with the Lord and continue to walk in His ways. I pray that the Lord will protect them from believing the humanistic and godless ideals of our day and that they will understand the importance of raising their children to love the Lord and His church. Next, I lift up other people on my prayer list or those who God has brought to mind, who need healing or comfort. In my quiet place I can pour out all of my fears, doubts and concerns with no worry of condemnation or judgement. God knows my heart and he knows how to calm and heal it. I also ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Word as I read and study it during my quiet time. I usually have a devotional book of some kind that I am reading so I read the entry and scripture for the day. Then I will open my Bible and read from a particular book. I am currently studying Genesis with some other women in a Bible study so that is where I read today.

An important part of communing with the Lord is listening. No, don’t expect to hear the Lord speak to you in an audible voice, but do expect that he will speak to you in your spirit— giving comfort, wisdom and sometimes, conviction! You will hear him loud and clear! I know I have.

If you are new to having a quiet time and don’t know where to start reading, pick one of the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. You will get a beautiful telling of the life of Jesus and will learn about the incredible sacrifice he made for us. Or, you could start at the beginning and try to read the Bible through in a year! Also, maybe ask a pastor or Christian friend for a recommendation of a good devotional to use as a guide.

One more thing before I close: I love to listen to worship music while I clean or prepare dinner, and there are some wonderful, moving, uplifting worship songs out there. Listening to music can be a part of your quiet time but, always leave a block of actual quiet time so you can focus on hearing from God and can really tune-in to what you are reading in the Word.

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me.” Proverbs 8:17 (NKJV)

“Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:3-5

“But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

“And you will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” Psalm 145:18

“O God, you are my God; Early will I seek you; My soul thirsts for you; My flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1

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When Covid Closes In

I don’t know about you but, this Christmas season was very unusual for us. Up until recently we had not been personally touched by COVID-19. Being responsible citizens, we, of course, had worn our masks in public places, avoided large crowds and curtailed large gatherings of friends in our home so, in those ways, COVID had affected us. And, we had certainly heard of people who had come down with the virus who were several layers away from our immediate family and circle of friends, but other than that, COVID had not yet reached its dreaded tendrils into the flesh of our family life. This Christmas, all that changed. We found ourselves having to navigate the uncertainty of antibody tests, nasal swabs, and quarantines as we discovered person after person in our circle who had been affected.

First, we began to hear of close church friends who had the virus, then, a member of our daughter’s boyfriend’s family. Next, my son’s in-laws. This was all unfolding as Christmas was approaching and family was flying down for the holidays. Making decisions about who can and cannot join us on Christmas day and who has to stay out on the back porch as we pass their gifts out to them (Yes, we did that) was stressful and heart-wrenching. It was really the first time I felt helpless and at a loss as to how to handle the situation. We wrestled with questions like: Is this finger prick test reliable? If I am positive for antibodies how long am I immune? Can someone with antibodies who has been around a person with COVID transfer the virus? So many questions…very few solid answers. There were tears, anxiety and disappointment. Our son and his wife left early to fly back to their home in the northeast. It made this mama’s heart sad to miss celebrating his birthday with him as we had planned. It was a very disappointing, and atypical Christmas for us. But even with COVID dampening our spirits, we tried to keep our focus on the true meaning of Christmas—the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I know we were not the only ones navigating these uncertain COVID waters. Christmas was different this year for many of our friends. As the dust settles now in the new year I feel a bit sad and disappointed that our Christmas celebration wasn’t what I had hoped, but also, relieved—relieved that the holiday is over and we are back to the day-to-day routine that we’ve become accustomed to since first hearing the term COVID-19.

In the light of our recent experiences with COVID I have come to certain realizations that I’d like to share with you:

  1. We cannot necessarily be clean enough, vigilant enough, compliant enough nor distant enough, to be absolutely sure we do not come in contact with COVID-19. Why? Because we are not in control. God is in control! We can do our best according to the knowledge that we have but then—we have to trust God with our health and safety. Trusting in God is the only way we can have peace to move forward in a world turned upside-down by a worldwide pandemic.
  2. Believers have an unprecedented opportunity to exhibit peace to the lost world in the face of uncertainty and danger. There has never been a time when people have been more fearful and uncertain about their own life and health and that of their loved ones. We can show the unbelieving world that our hope and faith are in Jesus Christ and that by putting their faith in Him, they too can have this peace and the hope of eternal life.
  3. God has not left the building. God was not surprised by COVID-19. He knew it was coming and he knows how this will all turn out. He will continue to work his plan in the lives of believers and in the world itself.
  4. Our mission has not changed. We are to be salt and light— the hands and feet of Jesus to the needy, the hurting and the dying. Many people are scared, confused, angry and hopeless in these times. We are to be the face of love and hope to them.

Maybe next year our Christmas will once again be the joyful, carefree family celebration that it has always been. No one watching the festivities from the back porch. No one flying home early to avoid being exposed. Lots of extended family around the table for Christmas dinner. But for now, I am just grateful. Grateful for the gift of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Grateful for the hope I have in him. Grateful for every day I get to spend with my husband and children.

And, grateful that although I do not know what the future holds, I know who holds the future!

Happy New Year! Find a way this week to spread love, grace, positivity and hope…someone is in desperate need of your gift.

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Reflections of Covid19: Finding Meaning in the Stillness

 

As I sat outside this morning watching the birds in my yard dart from tree to tree, stopping to sip from the gently bubbling, crushed stone birdbath, it occurred to me that I have learned a very valuable lesson during these last few months. I have learned to just be.

As the dreaded Covid19 swept across our country, our routines changed, stores and restaurants closed, our busy schedules ceased to be and we found ourselves at home with extra time on our hands—unheard of in this age of over-commitment and hurried living.

My morning quiet time was once again a joy—something I looked forward to and could actually focus fully on as I studied God’s Word and spent time in intentional, pointed, prayer. It was no longer a rushed, ‘check that off my list’ task I completed while simultaneously wrestling my mind back from thoughts of the day’s to-do list. There was now time to truly seek God and to hear from Him.

Also, before Covid19 I spent very little time outside on my patio enjoying the natural world around me—too busy with errands, appointments and duties to spend any time out there. However, after the implementation of stay-at-home orders and self-isolation, I suddenly found great joy in spending time in the peace and quiet of our rural backyard which is bordered by a forested area of oaks, pines and elm trees. I began to watch the birds and squirrels (my college-aged daughter, home early because of Covid19, often sat outside with me) and learned to identify the 15 or so bird species that inhabit our Florida backyard. Funny enough, I began to see numerous bird and backyard photos on social media from my friends who were also apparently, finding new joy in nature and in God’s feathered creatures. Who knew all this was out here?! Haha!

As an aside: One day as I was sitting by myself on the patio watching the birds, a full-grown black bear came lumbering around the corner of my house onto the patio—not more than 15 feet from me—looked me square in the eye, then turned around and sauntered back into the woods—a close encounter with nature that I hope I never have again!

So without an endless list of places to be, things to do and responsibilities to fulfill, there was suddenly time for reflection—time to look into the eyes of our loved ones and truly see them. Time to play board games and have dinner together. Time to enjoy nature and study the subtleties of God’s amazing creation. Time to reconnect with God through His Word and in prayer. Time to just be.

To me this time has been a great gift. As the country slowly returns to normal and my calendar fills once again with events, meetings and appointments, I hope I will continue to make time in my life for quiet reflection and stillness. It is in those times that God speaks to us—guiding, directing, shaping—leading us toward better relationships, clarity of purpose, inner peace, and most importantly, a closer walk with Him.

This week make time to just be.

The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.              Exodus 14:14

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.                                               Psalm 46:10

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.                                     Psalm 5:3

For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.                                                                                             Isaiah 30:15

But now ask the beasts and they will teach you; And the birds of the air and they will tell you; Or speak to the earth and it will teach you; And the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?                                                                                                   Job 12:7-10

 

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