The Power of Purpose
If there is one thing the last 23 years of serving kingdom organizations and leaders has taught me, it is this: the most powerful influence on earth (outside of God’s hands-on work or intervention) engages when a faithful man or woman finds purpose in a clear calling from God that requires a wholehearted investment of their giftedness.
When calling and giftedness converge in a purpose, nothing stops it...
When calling and giftedness converge in a purpose, nothing stops it; not persecution, not pandemics, not politics, not poverty, not disadvantage, not war and not even complacency. Movements are born, impact increases, ministries grow, and people give all of who they are –sometimes including their very lives. Nothing glorifies God more than this. Nothing gives human beings a greater sense of purpose.
Much Scripture is devoted to describing the connection between calling and giftedness, as are volumes of biographies about the heroes of our faith. We learn through these accounts that this journey of purpose can appear less than linear as it is being lived. However, through faithfulness in success, failure, and occasional detours, God harmonizes all of these experiences and their outcomes. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28, ESV).
Two Sides of the Purpose Coin
So, why can we oftentimes experience feelings of wandering and questioning about whether we are living out of a clear sense of purpose? Why can we feel frustrated, ineffective, or, “on the bench” of ministry instead of on the playing field? Why do we observe once-passionate colleagues or team members operate like they are going through the motions instead of pursuing a deep sense of kingdom purpose? The answer can often be a lack of clarity or connection between two sides of the purpose coin.
- The Calling Side of the Coin
After fleeing his royal upbringing and being shaped by tending flocks he didn’t own, Moses received something many of us would love: a burning bush and the voice of God. While most of us haven’t received a sign that dramatic and clear, a careful look into our own hearts usually reveals a calling, burden, or passion placed there by God himself. For some, it is given once and remains constant, while for others it changes or morphs from one season of life or leadership to another. Sometimes we chase it, sometimes we run from it, and sometimes we must wait for it. Understanding the themes of calling in our lives is critical to a resilient sense of purpose.
Through the years, I have developed a number of “calling questions” that can help clarify or at least open up a meaningful exploration of calling. Answer these for yourself or use them in a discussion with those you lead to see what you can find:
- What passages or stories in the Scriptures really cause my heart to “quicken” when I read them? What is their focus?
- What needs or causes in God’s world burden me the most? What can’t I ignore or walk away from?
- What has my church or my brothers and sisters in Christ affirmed about how I am called? How has it been described back to me?
- Who is the “people group” I am most drawn to serve? Is it a broad group or a specific one?
- When I share with others about what is important to me in leadership or ministry, what “broken record” themes seem to keep replaying?
- What does my own personal story of brokenness, restoration or special life experiences point to? How has God used it?
Usually two or three of these questions strike a “calling chord” for people, especially if there is some heart, soul and emotion attached to the answer. Pay attention to that. You’ve likely tapped into key themes of calling. Capture for yourself or for others some thoughts about the calling side of the coin in a few simple statements.
- The Giftedness Side of the Coin
When we look at a motivated and gifted person in Scripture such as Deborah, Paul or Peter, we can often be amazed and wonder, “How were they able to do that?” God makes a special point in the Bible to show us people who were totally unqualified for their job, alongside others who required a change of lordship in order to focus their giftedness on the things he wanted. These testimonies help us see that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10)
Giftedness is made to be expressed in everything we do, in a way that brings glory to the gift giver.
Giftedness is made to be expressed in everything we do, in a way that brings glory to the gift giver. Because giftedness is a part of our Imago Dei design, it is infused with motivation, passion, drive and a sense of joy that we actively experience when we use it.
Some of the “giftedness questions” I use can help open up an exploration of major themes and elements. As with calling, answer these for yourself or use them in a discussion with those you lead:
- When I am effective and feeling motivated, what gifts naturally flow out of me and into the work I do? What do I love to do?
- What have others consistently shared with me about what I do well?
- What are the common threads I have seen through spiritual gift and/or strengths-based assessments I have taken?
- When I am on a team, what role or tasks do I seek to take on whether it was expected of me or not?
- What are 3 or 4 examples of efforts or roles I have engaged that seemed like they were “made” for me? What common threads of joy-filled strengths were present in those examples?
Similar to the section above, a few of these questions should tap into themes of giftedness and motivation in yourself or in others. List a few words or statements describing aspects of giftedness that stand out consistently.
Clarity and Connection or Confusion and Dissonance?
If it is true that the connection of calling and giftedness produces the most powerful impact on earth, it stands to reason that we must diligently steward this connection so it is not snatched away from us by the forces that hate God’s purposes. Through faithful reflection, prayer and advice from those who know us, we must always press for clarity in purpose.
When our calling is unclear, the ultimate “why” of our purpose is absent, and we wander about looking to simply use our giftedness to meet a variety of random needs. When our unique giftedness is unclear, the ultimate “how” of our purpose is missing and we can be overtaken by frustration and a sense that fulfilling our calling feels out of reach.
As you think about the answers to the questions above, what is most clear about the two sides of your purpose coin? How closely is your sense of calling connected with your unique giftedness today? Is there a clear harmony between them? Is it time to press into purpose more deeply or to make a change in your ministry role or focus? Likewise, as you engage others using the questions above, how can you help guide them to discover and live more of their God-honoring purpose?
There is no better time than now to live and lead from the power of your purpose.
For more than 20 years, Mark Stevenson has served the leadership needs of Christian executives, pastors, boards and teams as the Founder of Clarity for Christian Leaders (www.mkstevenson.com). His passion is “to resource leaders and organizations to thrive in their vital part of God’s restoration project.” Mark is a member of Christian Leadership Alliance’s national Advisory Council.