In the second of a three-part series, I’ll be discussing what you can do if your church doesn’t recognise your gifts and you feel that you aren’t appreciated.
Sometimes you do have a gift and others have not only confirmed it but seen it in action many times before. You may even be professionally qualified in that area. However, you might think it would be straightforward to operate in that gift in church, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, despite your background and experience, the church may still not acknowledge your abilities.
What do you do in that kind of scenario?
Here are 5 ways to respond if your church doesn’t recognise your gifts.
1. Distinguish between the whole church and individuals failing to recognise you
You might wonder why on earth the church would want to bury your talents and not allow you to use them. Surely everyone would want you to let your light shine and not hide it under a bushel. Don’t leaders want others to come forward to help serve in the church and make use of their gifts?
One important thing to note is that when we refer to “the church”, we mustn’t forget that the body of Christ is made up of individuals. Each individual is a flawed and sinful human being. This means that those particular individuals may not always be capable of recognising something or may have their own agenda. Their own experiences may also colour their perception of you.
It’s easy to write off everyone as being “the church” when it may in fact be only one or two individuals who may not recognise you. Now it’s true that those individuals may be in positions of authority, and they may influence others which may affect your ability to operate in any meaningful way. Their decision may also represent the final word on the matter, at least for the time being. However, it’s important not to direct your disappointment to everyone as a whole.
2. Understand that there may be many different reasons why you might not be recognised
Let’s say that others do confirm your gift (see part 1 for more on this) and you are even formally qualified in that area. However, one particular person in authority is unable to recognise it. Then you need to check if there are other underlying reasons why they are not keen to give you that opportunity. Sometimes it may be something else you need to work on. Other times, it may be that the fault or prejudice is on their part. You’ll need to prayerfully find a way to change their opinion of you.
There are many reasons why your church might not recognise your abilities. We don’t always know what goes on behind the scenes in a church. For example, there could be various politics going on that prevent you from using them.
In Hollywood, actors are typecast in certain roles. Studios or directors don’t offer them certain jobs because they can’t imagine them playing a different kind of role. In a similar way, people in church may have only seen you in a particular light. As a result, they may have trouble believing you may be able to do something that they haven’t seen you in before.
Your own “personal marketing” may have an effect on how others perceive you as well. If you have mostly kept to yourself or have allowed others to perceive you in a particular way, you might have a hard time changing their opinion of you.
Additionally, it’s not always about talent but teamwork. How well do you get along with that person or others in general? There may be a personality clash and this leads to someone not being willing to work with you or use your gifts. They may simply feel more comfortable in someone else’s company and prefer to work with someone with whom they have a more natural affinity. However, they might not take the time to explain that but simply reject what you have to offer. It’s similar to if you were to go for a job interview but are turned down.
There are many more reasons. I’m not going to go into too much detail here. Each of us have our own stories. The more important thing is how we respond when others don’t recognise us, and what we can do on a personal level.
3. Overcome that sense of entitlement to use your gifts
James 1:17 tells us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
Your talents and skills are only yours in that they’re something God has given you for your enjoyment and the benefit of others. It’s not something you can claim as your own outright.
You’re only a trustee of all your talents, not the ultimate owner of them. In other words, owners have rights, while trustees have responsibilities.
We have a responsibility to use our talents and God-given abilities for the greater good. But it is not our right to demand that we get to use them.
When we begin to make demands, this can make the person you’re speaking only focus on your demand. They can then misinterpret your insistence as only wanting to serve your own needs instead of the needs of others.
Once someone has made their mind up about you, they may refuse to see things any differently. If you try too hard to convince them they are wrong, they may simply believe you are protesting too much. This can make them refuse to listen as they become more entrenched in their position. As a result, they will view you even more negatively and refuse to work with you in future or see you as a difficult person.
Now sometimes we do need to persuade and challenge others, particularly if they are unfairly prejudiced against you. However, we must try to do so in a way where we’re moving in humility and submitting to the authority of the church.
4. Don’t allow resentment to build up
When others don’t recognise you, it’s easy to allow resentment to build up. This is a way that the enemy can get a foothold and cause division within the body of Christ. I know this all too well as I’ve been guilty of this myself.
When we begin resenting others, it’s easy to become wary and suspicious of everything they do and say. As a result, we no longer valuing anything they have to say. More importantly, their own ministry can become no longer valid in our own eyes. The more we dwell on their inability to recognise us, this can open the door to negative thoughts and lead us into sin.
Matthew 5:23-24 says
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Now while this verse refers to our offerings, I think there is some application there when it comes to offering our gifts and talents to God as well. In the first part of this series, I talked about how our gifts are there to serve and edify others within the church. However, the very thing that should be bringing unity can also be a cause of disunity if we are not careful.
Ask God to bless that person and pray for them, whether or not they ever recognise or acknowledge you. You should do that even for the sake of your own spiritual health to avoid bitterness and unforgiveness.
5. Know that God sees and recognises you even if others don’t
Sometimes it can feel as if no-one sees you as you truly are or recognises what you have to contribute. In times like that, it’s good to remember Genesis 16:13. In that passage, Hagar, the slave of Abram and Sarai, runs away to the desert after Sarai has mistreated her. During her anguish, she addresses God as “El Roi”, which means “The God who sees me”.
13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
This is the only instance of the name “El Roi” in the Bible.
We can take comfort in the fact that God also sees our pain and anguish whenever we feel invisible or unappreciated. God knows about our gifts and has seen what we can do even if no-one else does.
In Matthew 6, Jesus also refers to the Father as “The God who sees in secret.” Sometimes we feel that unless others are watching, they won’t believe you are doing the very thing they think you’re lacking in.
In times like that, it can almost feel as if we have to do things for show to be recognised. While there may sometimes be an element of that, we need to find the right balance between doing something genuinely and only doing it for show.
Jesus warned against the Pharisees standing on street corners praying for the benefit of others to see them. You don’t want to be a hypocrite. There shouldn’t be a huge disconnect between who you are in public and what you do in private. If you’re doing something anyway in private, then it should spill over into what you do in public. It shouldn’t be that you are one way in private and then a completely different person in public.
Knowing that God sees what we do in secret, we can trust in Him to make things public that seem to be hidden from others.
Don’t forget to check back here for part 3 coming soon.
Have you tried to use your gifts in church but others have failed to recognise them? Were there any instances where you genuinely had the gift and everyone else knew it, but still someone in authority didn’t acknowledge it? How did that make you feel and how did you respond?
I’d love to hear what steps you took and whether you were eventually able to operate in your gift or whether you sought alternatives elsewhere. Leave me a comment in section below.
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Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.