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.
>> I’ve written in more detail here about what we can do whenever we feel invisible and no-one sees us.
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.
This Post Has 12 Comments
Patricia6 Apr 2019
Great post, Robert! Fortunately, I have not yet had this particular issue, but I have had issues with people not appreciating the effort I put into certain things…and unfortunately I tend to get resentful and bitter. However, when I am more focused on God and just working for His glory, instead of just getting recognition, I find that I am much less anxious.
Anne Mackie Morelli6 Apr 2019
Robert, this is such a timely article as so many are struggling to find their place in a church and find spaces to be able to serve and use their God-given gifts. Obviously, there are many women who have been denied the right to speak or lead – even when they have been gifted in these areas. But I also believed that there are many males who are gifted teachers and great with children, or chefs or even run their own restaurants, and are seldom encouraged or allowed to lead in kids church/classes or in the church kitchen or in the area of hospitality. I really appreciated your five comments and particularly appreciated, how we need to separate whether it is an overall church attitude or the attitude of a few. “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.” This is such an important distinction. I also appreciated how you encouraged people to self-examine, seeking to discover if there might be other reasons for not being asked to serve in a particular area. It is so easy to default to certain ideas about the specificity of gender roles – that we can miss that there is something(s) we need to work on before we step into that role. Thanks for the insightful post!
Becky Beresford6 Apr 2019
This is such great wisdom! Thank you for sharing and pointing us back to the God who sees everything, including what we do for Him.
Andrew Kasten10 Apr 2019
Nice, I haven’t seen this talked about that often.
Janene Eldred10 Apr 2019
I have never been in a church that wasn’t able to use my abilities. Usually, churches are begging for help, even when they are large. I was told I couldn’t teach Sunday School by an interim pastor once, which was crushing, but once we got a permanent pastor I started teaching again. I think a lot of prayer would have to go into a situation like this.
Bill18 Feb 2020
Good post, and I have encountered this, but I accept it as simply God’s will, so do not swell on it. I am not a savant when it comes to playing guitar, and being un-schooled in music, I know that every bit of guitar playing talent I have is from God above. In our Church of the past 6 years though I have had to just be pleased with the talent as a way to entertain and edify myself, because I’m not asked to participate in the Church music programs….and other than the preachers wife, I am the only musician at Church.
They know I play, as I was once asked to bring my guitar to a Christmas gathering we had at the preachers home. I did, and I thought/felt that everyone enjoyed my playing, even the preacher and one of the deacons who was there, and even though I can finger pick lots of the songs that we sing on Sundays as a congregation, I have never been asked to honor God at Church with my gift. I have even written a few worship songs, but I have to be content with worshipping God with them by myself at home.
The preacher did call me one Sunday morning real early and asked, “Can you bring your guitar to Church with you today?” I quickly said, “of course!”, and thinking I was being asked to play asked, “what are we doing?” He said, “we have a guy visiting today, and he can play and sing”. My heart sank, but I didn’t let it show, and carried my guitar to Church for another to play.
We had a guy, he no longer attends, who played piano by ear beautifully, and when the deacons found this out they clammored over him asking him to play, and he did, and he did play beautifully. We had a new family join, and as soon as they found that the wife had a gift for singing they promptly asked her to use her gift, and the music leader even went as far as splitting his duties with her….and I must say it is a blessing to hear her sing and I am glad that she does, but here I humbly stand, dismissed and ignored. Don’t get me wrong, I have no resentment for this, and I am just so thankful that God blessed me with this talent because I have been through some physical injuries in my life in which if I did play guitar I would have been bored out of my mind, but rather what I do have is a lot of “Why’s?”. I just accept it as God’s will and go about life wondering why this God given talent I have is not used by my Church….it’s as if they never heard me play.
Aquilla U Butler22 Dec 2021
Your comments touched me deeply. I’ve experienced this same spirit many times in the church. I coin it “Church Hurt!” I’ve learned that you must recognize your validation comes from GOD not man. GOD gave you your gift not man, the pastor, church, nor those in the power positions. You have a great spirit and attitude in not taking offense. GOD honors that. However, I encourage you to play outside your congregational clique. Join a community choir or ensemble. GOD will give you the support near and far for your gifts! He did it for me and continues to do so. When you stay humble before the Lord he will most definitely make rooms for your gifts where he wants them to shine. Just as the above article stated there are numerous reasons why you may be overlooked but I assure you there is someone in your community, circle and world looking for the exact gifts you have to offer! Don’t sit on your gifts use them. Volunteer at nursing homes, parades, the country club, someone else’s church. Create your own social media pages and post your gift for the Lord. Practically, this is exactly what I do. I’m connected to ministry partners locally and globally! I work in the church, but my work is the work of an Evangelist! Remember, Jesus Christ was also a wonderful Evangelist overlooked and killed. But before his death, he did wonderful ministry for 33 years on earth. We remember and reverence his work in every century. Jesus was resurrected on the third day living inside his children. Please resurrect your gifts today for the glory of GOD! Humbly Submitted. Minister Aquilla U. Butler, Church of the Visionary / GoodNuz With Aquilla
TERRENCE BANBURY31 May 2020
Bill, my heart is aching for you right now. I’m a drummer, but moreover, a musician. Drums/percussion is my chosen instrument, making me a “sideman”,ie, need others to make music. Long story short. I initiated a praise band when my church said they wanted to move in that direction. I play with them but have found myself set aside in all aspects except show up and play. I’m in my 60s, have a lot of administrative and life experience and could provide mentoring and improve the mission of the band but I am not at all encouraged to do so. When issues arise, I am left out of the discussion, my attempts to join in are met with vacant looks. Dont get me wrong, I have no desire to lead a parade/band, but I see needs that I could fulfill. Is God saying just shut up and play? Dont know but that’s where I feel I’m at now. Maybe God is keeping me away from things to give other’s opportunity for growth, etc. ??? Meantime, my light is shing at home. By myself, like you. Sad. We praise God together… alone, I guess. TNB
Karen25 Jun 2020
I appreciate your article. I’ve been struggling with this for some time at my church. I’m in a position of minor leadership. I’ve been led by God numerous times to use my gifts only to be ignored by the pastor. I’ve even gone so far as to put together a formal proposal with a mission statement the last time God asked me to do something for the church. I received the normal thank you, I will pray on it and never to be talked about again.
It is discouraging because the pastor encourages us to use our gifts. He knows my giftings but will only allow me to use certain ones. How do we grow if we can’t follow what God leads us to do for others? I get discouraged often and cry a lot because of what I see as narrow vision and unwillingness to grow. I pray often about this because I don’t want to have my heart become so hardened that I no longer want to be a member. I know God places us in church bodies for a reason; to learn and to teach others.
I recently tried to point out an issue regarding reopening the church building during the pandemic because many of us have serious health concerns. My concern was brushed off. I prayed and asked God why am I always ignored. What is it about me that is so distasteful? What God showed me is that when He sends one person to a leader and they do not listen He will then send another. And, just like that, it happened. My husband attends the services because he is needed for the audio team. He pointed out to another member in leadership one of the problems I had earlier mentioned to the pastor. It was immediately resolved. While I was initially hurt by this, God’s explanation put me at ease. I know I hear Him and He hears my heart. My frustration lives because I’m an imperfect person but I’m also learning to live with imperfect people.
Holly Marie14 Jul 2020
Wonderful post! I really appreciate your ability to see both perspectives and allow more for grace. I am currently researching material for Bible study and your blog has been a breath of fresh air! Thank you.
Cissy25 Feb 2021
I left a church that we went to most odd our lives. First started when three pastors wife was giving piano lessons and she told me that she was no longer going to do lessons and then I found out that she kept giving piano and singing lessons to one particular family in church exclusively. Then it was cliques, snobbishness, favorites. I started a clothing ministry and the pastoral wife took it over and wanted to run it. I offered to help in a ministry and id get passed over and it was always given to the members of the same family that was getting the music lessons as well new friends of the pastors wife that started coming to church. Over the years tensions with the church leaders heightened. You could cut it with a knife. We left. I couldn’t walk in that building without feeling physically sick.
Evan Kwiatkowski16 Jul 2021
A wonderful article, as I read it, without any doubt it makes me feel more comfortable in what is taking place in my church life right now. I have a gift to share and even two of our pastors mentioned it to me. However, now that it is game time, they don’t want me to share it. I want to share it with all those in attendance, but for some reason they feel I’m not competent enough to do so. I have reached out to others churches and they too will not let me share my gift. I will be honest in that the common thread is the leadership of the churches seem to be afraid. My church encourages everyone to find and use their gift, but they only want you to share it where they tell and want you to. They seem to want to control when, where and how the church members are educated on Scriptures and their application in our lives. I did not see anywhere in the Bible where God said that we can only learn about the Book of Exodus during the month of June or only hear Scriptures on the importance of repentance at 12:00 pm on the third Saturday of July during a leap year.