A few days ago, ESPN released its rankings of NBA coaches, GMs, and overall franchises. It was a compilation of on-court performance, drafting, salary cap management, and other factors as observed by a panel of NBA experts. No surprise, perennial title contenders San Antonio, Golden State, Cleveland, and recent successes like Miami and Houston were ranked highly. At the bottom though is a glaring one: Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks.
Little history if you're not an NBA fan, Phil Jackson has 11 championships. One for every finger. And his big toe. He won 6 with MJ and another 5 with Kobe (and Shaq). He's regarded throughout basketball as one of, if not the, greatest coaches in history. His triangle offense opened up scoring titles for Jordan and Kobe, and he was able to navigate the biggest egos in a generation in basketball.
So when he was hired by the Knicks to run the franchise, a lot of people assumed he'd be able to work the same magic he had in Chicago and LA. Until he didn't. Now he's ranked at the bottom as a GM, he's burned through coaches, he has a roster of players without an identity, and doesn't have much prospect of free agents or the draft.
The reason? He's not serving in his giftedness. It's the same reason great salesmen don't always make great managers, why great players don't make great coaches, why some managers can't be innovators, and why great bands don't always have great solo careers.
Serving in ministry means serving where you're gifted, passionate, equipped, and called. There's nothing worse than serving outside of that-I know my last 18 months in student ministry weren't pleasant for anyone, including me-because my sense of calling and gifting had changed. In the Body of Christ, every member has a part, and every part is important, and every part has its function. Beyond vocational leadership, it's important for volunteers and other leaders to be serving in their areas of giftedness. I think you can ask yourself 7 questions to know if you're in the right area.
1. Am I good at this? - This is the core, do you have the skill and ability? Spiritual gifts are often mixed in with our natural talents. So when you're serving in something you're good at and something you've got experience with, you bring a level of expertise to the table. That's valuable. If you can barely keep a beat and you're the praise band drummer, it might be time to explore your options.
2. Do I enjoy it? - Our emotions are fickle sometimes, we can go from highest high to lowest low so quickly. But if we enjoy how we're serving, if we look forward to each new opportunity, if we find ourselves excited about it, then chances are you're in the right place. We can't be too dependent on our emotions, but they can be a barometer for us. If you don't enjoy kids, don't be a preschool minister. It's that easy.
3. Do I daydream about other things? - If you're serving in an area and you're wondering about what else is out there, you're struggling with contentment. Sometimes we get a restless discontent, which I believe is often a God-given internal drive to explore His calling elsewhere. And other times we have a selfish discontent where we want the praise or position someone else gets.
4. Have others recognized my gifts? - In my book Dream Teams, I wrote a whole chapter on calling with the idea that God never calls in a vacuum. He always brings in people to confirm, friends, pastors, other leaders, your spouse. Do others recognize a gifting you have that serves you well where you are? Or do they see you gifted and called to something else? Wisdom is one of God's great gifts to the Church, and we need others to speak into our lives.
5. Is there a fresh passion? - Do you look at your ministry service as something fresh each time, or do you find yourself walking through the motions because you've done it long enough? Again, don't put too much stock in your emotions, but if you find yourself going through the motions, you're not serving with a fresh passion. So either take some time away to recharge, or start asking questions.
6. Has something changed? - Life changes. When you're single you can do so much. When you get married that drops. When you have kids it gets even less. Have you gone through a major life event that means you need to realign your priorities? Have you gotten additional training and education to prepare for something else? Has the leadership around you changed and you're not sure you can follow where they're heading? None of these are bad. In fact it's really good to recognize changes. That's healthy. That means it's not about you.
7. Would someone else be a better fit? - We always hear about the boss who stays too long and doesn't raise up others, or the coach who muddles through the last few years because they're a legend, or the volunteer who never rotates off. Sometimes, we need to ask if we're the right person for a ministry assignment, and be honest with ourselves if someone else is a better fit. I had a group of junior high guys I discipled for a long time, and when I knew I was moving away, it was such a relief to let someone else step in and take over that group. He was a better fit, he was staying in the area, and he had a freshness about him.
How else have you asked if you're serving in your giftedness?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.