I’ve filled out many applications in my day and almost all of them have been filled out with the goal of promoting my personal abilities. Only recently have I been faced with the paradox of a self-promotional application process for serving in ministry. Or so it would seem that it is self promotional . . .
This is the second time this year that I’ve wanted to back out from a volunteer opportunity once I see the application. One reason applications intimidate me is because I view them as a form of self-promotion. Assuring volunteer coordinators that you are equipped to handle responsibilities makes sense but the self-promotion part does not make as much sense – at least for ministry service.
When I am volunteering to serve in ministry, I should see volunteer applications as a way to affirm that I am trusting God to guide my life, giving volunteer coordinators confidence in that and not just in my personal abilities and “flawless” moral character. If I make the application all about me then I will look at it as a series of high standards that I fall short of – I don’t have enough references; I don’t think I’m as good at loving Jesus as other people; etc. I should have more confidence. God has led me this far in the process so why should I doubt that He will equip me to move farther if He chooses to?
As a volunteer in children’s ministry, parents need to be able to trust me with their kids so I understand why the standards are so high (experientially and spiritually) but why do I have so little confidence in the fact that God will equip me for what He’s called me to do? If He hasn’t called me to children’s’ ministry then I will go another route but it shouldn’t be because I lack confidence. It should be because I hear God. And self-pity is probably not from God so to say that I am hearing God telling me to back out for that reason is certainly false.
I despise applications. They make me feel like I have to prove myself to others (in this case, prove my love of Jesus to others). I want my faithfulness to be apparent because it naturally flows from who I am in Christ. I don’t want to manufacture the appearance of faithfulness through words on a piece of paper. And why do I feel like those words would be manufactured? Do I not trust Christ to shine through me and show others that He is inside me? Do I even believe He’s inside me? If I don’t have enough faith in that then I will focus all my energy on manufacturing the appearance of Christ rather than actually communing with Christ.
The words I write on my application to prove my faith could go one of two ways and both would have a similar outward appearance but the heart behind them would be completely different: I will either write about how much I love Christ and throw in an extra amount of flowery language just to drive home that point or I will ask God to guide me and I will write about how much I love Christ yet not with a tone of desperation or persuasion. Both look very similar on paper but at the heart level, one is authentic, the other inauthentic.
With volunteer applications (or any application for that matter), the pressure to please people is strong. However, when I sit down to fill out this application I hope and pray that I will resist the urge to write with the goal of pleasing people. I pray that the words would come from my heart, and if my heart doesn’t immediately feel a deep love for God then I will patiently wait because I know it will. I will not fake it in the meantime.
God doesn’t want me to be inauthentic. Ultimately, no matter what I write on that paper, it’s up to God whether or not I become a volunteer. So my purpose is not to persuade but to be authentic and see what happens.