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Using Your Talents as an Act of Worship

In this week’s Adult Bible Study Guide, the text invites the reader to think about worship in the book of Palms. As Christians, we oftentimes categorize worship as something done outside of our daily lives, forgetting that it is what we do with our lives. A lot of people think worship entails showing up to church each week; but that’s not all. It involves being the church every day of our lives, how we express God’s love to others. As Wednesday’s lesson points out, worship includes singing, praising, and “bringing gifts to His temple” (Psalm 96:1-8). Additionally, the lesson notes, “. . . Psalm 96:1-13 highlights one not so obvious aspect of worship – the evangelical dimension in proclaiming the Lord’s kingdom to other peoples (Psalm 96:2-3; Psalm 96:10).” 

Rick Warren, founder of the Saddleback Church, introduces the S.H.A.P.E. acronym in his book The Purpose Driven Life. This acronym is a tool to help people discover what their unique “shape” is and how to use it as an act of worship. The acronym stands for:

S – spiritual gifts

H – heart

A – ability

P – personality

E – experiences

When we are using our talents to the fullest, that is when we feel alive, because we are living out our created purpose. This is our ultimate act of worship that takes place daily.

What if “the church” puts restrictions around our SHAPE and dictates what gifts are acceptable or not? What happens when church members attempt to decide who God can use or not, even going so far to write policies to gain control? What if “the church” who taught little kids songs like “This Little Light of Mine,” become the ones trying to hide that light under a bush?

Unfortunately, there have been moments in my own life when I experienced some of those things during my years as a female pastor. And I am not the only one. Every female pastor I have ever spoken to has experienced similar situations. I sat in the church I grew up in, listening to people tell me that God could not use me as a pastor because of my gender. These were the same people who told me as a little girl in Sabbath school that God wanted to use my talents for the advancement of His kingdom. Multiple people have told me I was “going to hell” for being a female pastor, which is amusing to hear since Adventists don’t believe in that kind of hell. I have been verbally and physically assaulted by some church-goers, including those who work at the “highest level” of the church. My fellow female pastors and I have been called “rebels” by some people because we decided to keep worshiping our Creator by living out our calling. 

I was taught as a child that persecution for following Jesus would come from the outside world. In my experience, some of the worst forms of persecution came from inside the church. However, not everyone in the church has acted this way. Some have sacrificed their standing by backing up women pastors, including male colleagues who have raised their voices in support to the point of refusing to be ordained until their female colleagues receive the same credentials. A few brave souls in positions of authority within church leadership have been called rebels themselves as they open doors for women to use their gifts.

Discussing women in ministry is not new. During my senior year of college, a professor of mine gave me an assignment to study the topic, knowing I would face backlash for living out my calling. That research project grounded me over the years to come as people tried to snuff out my light. As more and more women confided in me their desire to live out their calling in an act of worship to God, I was inspired to dig out my old research project, update it, and add it to my blog. My wise professor’s assignment resulted in encouraging hundreds of people to bravely shine their light.

As I continue to encourage young women to live out their God-given calling, I remind them that high-ranking church officials may try to squash their gift or try to gaslight them into remaining silent. However, all of us answer to God, not man. Our lives are the ultimate form of worship. Like the old song says, “I have decided to follow Jesus . . . no turning back. . . .” Even when members of the church tempt us to abandon our calling, we choose to worship God, not man.

Through the persecution I have faced, I can honestly say that although it hurt, I am grateful for it. All it did was cut away any attachments I held to people’s opinions of me. I am liberated to live out my gifts in an act of worship to my God, even if I am shunned by some for doing so. Don’t let anyone snuff out your passion. Living out your talent for God is the ultimate worship for the Creator who made you.

Image Credit: Pexels

About the author

Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin is the former vice principal for spiritual life at Auburn Adventist Academy. She has served as a minister, teacher, and administrator in the Seventh-day Adventist Church for over two decades. She is currently completing a PhD in Transformative Social Change, with an emphasis in Peace and Justice Studies. More from Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin.
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