‘Each next risk is the biggest one’: James MacDonald talks with Mark Driscoll
Wed May 22, 2013
by Mark Driscoll
Tue May 21, 2013
by Amanda Edmondson
From prison to ReTrain: Russell’s story
Mon May 20, 2013
9 types of leaders in Scripture
Mon May 20, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
5 bits of wisdom for the professional Christian woman
Sun May 19, 2013
by Shandel Slaten
Don’t push your gifts
God often calls us to things outside our comfort zone. But sometimes we can take it too far and end up stretched beyond our gifting. When that happens, we better pull back quickly to Christ—or risk burning out.
He messaged me while I was on a trip catching up on some email, saying he wanted to talk to me—now. I got offline, prayed, and called him. It caught me by surprise. I thought he was doing OK. He enjoyed his job, seemed to be doing well in his family relationships and spiritually was experiencing joy and intimacy with the Savior.
When he told me over the phone that he was under psychological care and was in the midst of an emotional and physical meltdown. I was stunned. I felt like Job’s friends in the beginning, not knowing what to say, how to react. He is multi-gifted and a leader of great capacity and energy. “How did it happen?” I asked. “You seemed to be doing great?”
There were two or three contributing factors for my friend, but the one that caught my attention was one I had seen before in other leaders with whom I have been involved. My friend told me he accepted responsibility for things that were beyond his personal design, gifting, and passion.
God has boundaries and limits for all of us.
In the process of saying yes to these things he was moving away from the things that were an expression of who he really was. He had slowly been exchanging “definitely me” for “not me” in some major areas of his responsibilities.
My mind started in with the questions. Why did he allow this to happen? Did he know it was happening? Could it have been avoided? Why would he knowingly do this? Was it because of guilt, loyalty, fear, money, peer pressure, or desire to keep everyone happy?
Stay within God’s boundaries
Within days of my phone conversation, I read 2 Corinthians 10:13: “Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us, and this plan includes our working there with you” (NLT 1996).
God has boundaries and limits for all of us. We are not infinite—only he is.
It seems to me that we exceed our God-given limits and boundaries for a number of reasons:
- We are fearful of saying no to a boss or supervisor
- We are overachievers and have no solid view of appropriate Sabbath
- We are driven rather than led, driven by selfish ambition or an unhealthy and unbiblical proclivity toward comparing and competing with others
Comfort zone vs. gift zone vs. danger zone
I have learned a lot and have been able to be of help to others as I continue to reflect on his experience. Here is one observation that came quickly to me.
We should be open to the challenge to move out of our comfort zone, but careful about moving out of our gift zone into the danger zone.
Think of three concentric circles. The inner rim is my comfort zone, and the outer rim is my gift zone. When I move out of my comfort zone, I allow God to stretch me, challenge me, and give me experience to believe and trust him in areas that are new or uncharted. This can be and should be exciting and stimulating.
But when I move beyond my gift zone, I could very well be violating God’s plan and purpose for me. This can be draining and conflicting. There is a big difference between saying, “I don’t feel comfortable in doing (this or that),” and saying, “(This or that) is just not me—it is in violation of how God has designed me (Ps. 139) and gifted me (1 Cor. 12).”
Push it and you’ll lose it
Now I know we need to be careful not to confuse gifts and responsibility. “I don’t have the gift of evangelism” is no excuse for not participating in sensitive and meaningful outreach. Understanding “I don’t have the gift of intercession” is no excuse for not praying for others.
But still, my experience has taught me that when a Christian leader is spending large portions of his or her time in activities that are “not me” by design and gifting, it’s just a matter of time until something gives, resulting in breakdown, burnout, or destructive anger.
How’s your joy in your work?
Where are you in all of this? Are you safe and comfortable? Has the joy disappeared from your work? Are you allowing God to move and stretch you beyond your comfort zone? Have you moved too far and find yourself outside of your gift zone? Are you tired a lot, losing motivation, discouraged, or depressed?
Could it be that a lot of what you are doing is not a reflection of how God made you? Is it time to make some changes? Talk to some close friends, your boss? What will you do? When will you do it?
We need to get a grasp on who we are in Christ and what God’s purpose for us is in light of our design and gifting. Then we want to make sure we are operating within his boundaries and limits for us, asking him for wisdom as to what that does—and doesn’t—include.
Dave is the author of two ReLit books, Leaders Who Last and Mistakes Leaders Make. If you would like him to come to your church or area to speak on leadership, you can contact him here. You can also find more leadership resources on his site.