Aren’t We Always at Church?

My sister is a very busy woman. She has four kids (ranging from 5 to 15 years old), works part-time from home, maintains a spotless house, and manages to follow the Holy Spirit through an active and ongoing ministry to people around her

She and her family are actively involved in their church, and she serves where she can. God has given her obvious spiritual gifts in mercy, encouragement, administration, and discernment. But most of the time, she doesn’t exercise these gifts in the church building. Instead, she more often finds herself doing ministry at home, at her kids’ school, at the park, and at Wal-Mart.

She tells me she sometimes feels guilty because she doesn’t seem to be meeting other people’s expectations. She doesn’t attend all the social events her friends do. She doesn’t teach a Sunday school class (even though she’s been asked several times). And when another couple asked her if she and her husband would lead a small group because they want to join one but don’t want to lead, she said no.

But every time she starts feeling guilty, thinking that she should be giving more time to “church ministry,” God brings someone into her life—someone in need of her ministry. A friend is facing a tragic end to a pregnancy. A neighbor is grieving a loss and needs a meal. Another mom needs a babysitter and can’t afford to pay. A teenage girl needs a listening ear and a discerning heart to help lead her through a tough decision. So my sister uses her spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ. Every time I talk to her, she tells me about a way she’s helping to bear someone else’s burden. I don’t think she even realizes how much her heart for ministry pervades her speech and attitudes.

I think a lot of women feel the same kind of guilt that my sister feels. Perhaps it’s because we’re such a “doing” culture, heavy on formal titles and organizational roles that help us prove we’re doing something. We tend to think of spiritual gifts as something we use “at church” or when we’re doing stuff “for the church.” And so these gifts feel like burdens—obligations we’ll never be able to satisfy.

But perhaps spiritual gifts are more about being than doing. Instead of obligating us to fill formal roles within the church, perhaps our knowledge of our gifts should help us to seek the Holy Spirit’s direction in spotting the ministry opportunities in our path. After all, as they say, the church is not a building. We are the church—all the time, everywhere. So we never really stop being “at church,” right? Is there a realm in which we are not to use our spiritual gifts?

As my sister puts it, “I may think I know what my job is, what I’m good at, where I could be most useful. But when I humbly just let God put me where I’m useful to him, I’m much more successful. It works a lot better than when I just jump into something because it sounds attractive or because someone else thinks I should do it.”

My sister is finding the church around her, and her ministry in the lives of the people God brings her way. And her ministry makes a difference (as it always does when we use our spiritual gifts under the Holy Spirit’s direction). Maybe that’s why a friend recently told her, “I know I’ve never told you this, but when I drive down your street, I always look to see if your van is there. When it is, it’s a ministry to me—I see that you’re staying home instead of running around somewhere, distracting yourself by doing things. You’re doing ministry at home. It encourages me to do the same.”

I suspect many of you can relate to this. What do you say?

This blog post first appeared here on Christianity Today’s

  1. Kristi says:

    Amy, this is so very true. I have found in my leadership positions, that many women are doers and struggle to see that often times their “being” is having a great impact on others around them. Personally, as our family grows I am seeing much more clearly how my minstry of raising Godly children is having far more of an impact as a minstry than anything else I could be doing right now. But, on the other hand, I am so very thankful that God’s calling on each of our lives is so different. With out the “doers” so many people wouldn’t have the opportunites to seek and find the Lord. Thanks for sharing this post. I love reading what you have to say.

  2. Amy says:

    Excellent point, Kristi. When we become focused on the many opportunities to do good things, we may lose sight of what is most important to God and to the people we love–not what we do, but who we are.

  3. Kate says:

    Thanks Amy! This is a very refreshing reminder of how we are the church, no matter where we are representing it, and to be open to letting god use us where we are.

  4. This is good stuff, Amy. Something every believing woman ought to read. In fact, a lot of what you said: women being ‘doers’ and trying to fit into the ‘organizational’ mold of the church’s construct, is a problem I’ve been chewing on in relation to how it’s affected our health as we grow older – continually allowing the worldly ideas of “ministry” burden and drag us down. Rather than live free in the giftings God gives and accept the opportunities He brings – no matter how unconventional they appear – we feel some guilty obligation to make it fit into the organizational church box. This, of course, drags us down and leaves us tired, ineffective and even suffering many pervasive and nagging physical ailments.

    I’ve very much felt as your sister expressed: guilty I’m not doing more in the church’s organized ministry opportunities, but unwilling to be pushed into those positions (mostly because I DID spend years there) which make me tired just to think about. I struggle daily to be comfortable using the gifts God DID give to minister to others, even if it’s in seemingly unconventional ways and can’t be outwardly seen by others -even myself (writing, being available to encourage a friend, teach an impromptu homeschool co-op, host book clubs, help a neighbor, organize blanket making for kids in Ethiopia, say yes to the get-together my husband wants to host for his colleagues, etc.).

    Thanks for this post, Amy. I like it : )

© 2011 Amy Simpson.