Where does your significance comes from? Is it your job? What about your marriage or kids? Is it your faith? Do you ever struggle with feelings of insignificance?
Significance is ultimately shaped by our sense of belonging. It is found not just in realizing “who” you are, but “whose” you are. Belonging is powerful because with it comes a feeling of connectedness to a purpose and to others.
There are three ways in which belonging relates to our feeling significant. First, we need to understand our belonging as it relates to our identity in Christ. Secondly, we find significance from belonging to a community of other Christians. Finally, belonging to a meaningful purpose or cause can provide significance and meaning to our lives.
SIGNIFICANCE THROUGH CHRIST
Foundationally, our sense of belonging as Christ followers is built on our identity in Jesus. Everything we do flows out of that. It is quite common for ministers to get too focused on doing ministry for Christ instead of actually being, living, and dwelling in Him. If our works do not flow from our identity in Him, then when ministry disappointments and wounds come along — and they will — it can be devastating.
In the past decade of ministry, I have gained more revelation of how Jesus wants me to find my significance in pursuit of Him, rather than the fulfillment the work of ministry can bring. Such a realization is freeing. I recall a day when I tried to focus on my next ministry goal, what next book to read or write, or how much Scripture reading I needed to complete. While journaling my thoughts one day, I sensed the Lord say, Jeff, I allow you to use your gifts to touch others and to find meaning, but I would rather you simply desire to hang out with Me more than anything else.
The revelation that the creator of the universe wanted to spend the day with me more than He wanted me to do another ministry project blew me away. That day changed the way I viewed my feelings of significance.
I now find that by taking time to sit in Jesus’ presence and listening, waiting, sharing my heart, frustrations, and dreams, is what brings the ultimate feeling of significance. No brilliant sermon, successful numerical church attendance goal, or another academic degree could ever match the fulfillment of listening to His voice as I sit at His feet. His presence is far more meaningful and significant than my projects.
SIGNIFICANCE IN COMMUNITY
Secondly, belonging to a spiritual community can bring meaning by connecting with Christians who can challenge and support us in our search for purpose. Whether it is mentoring others, being discipled ourselves, or finding encouragement from other followers of Christ, belonging to a group of believers who we can draw strength from is a large part of feeling significant.
There have been many times when I have found spiritual direction for my family and myself, and have played a role to do the same amid an authentic group of Jesus followers. This interaction not only produces personal growth, but can produce a fulfillment of being a part of the universal Church of Jesus Christ. The fact that you are finding an avenue to use your gifts within a community also results in a feeling of belonging and significance that allows us to be part of something bigger than ourselves. People’s needs draw upon our God-given gifts and strengths.
SIGNIFICANCE IN PURPOSE
Thirdly, learning how we fit into God’s greater plan, results in finding meaning. Once you have discovered your gifts and passion, then Scripture tells us (Proverbs 18:16) that a man or woman’s gift makes room for him or her.
I recall how my wife and I developed a passion to see marriages strengthened and restored. As we prayed and shared our hearts while connecting with our faith community, the Lord began to open ministry opportunities. Area pastors contacted us for couples’ counseling, requests came to lead marriage retreats, and even to organize valentine banquets. We both have found opportunities to use our vocational gifts on short-term mission trips.
It is important that when we find our purpose that we learn to stay in our lane, and not try to be someone else. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand. He only asks us to be faithful with the gifts He has given us, and not compare ourselves to what our peers might be accomplishing.
Before the Lord led me to be part of Emerge Counseling Ministries, I struggled with the fact that I was in a comfortable position at my church and also as a clinical manager at a large counseling center. I was at the age where it would have been easier to just coast into retirement, but the Lord stirred my heart to not settle for the good over His best (Philippians 1:9). I connected with a former pastor and life coach who gave me direction by challenging me about how God fulfills His purpose in us. He showed me how the Lord was combining my gifts and passions with an opportunity to reach other ministers through Emerge. Through encouragement and coaching, God was bringing together my gifts, calling, and passion for His purpose. He can do the same for you as you accept the uniqueness of your gifts.
Our significance comes from knowing who we are in Christ, while finding a belonging in community, and allowing our gifts to lead us toward our purpose!
Jeff Gray is a licensed professional counselor at Emerge Counseling Ministries, the primary mental health partner of the Assemblies of God. Also a licensed AG minister, Gray specializes in treating marriage and family needs, trauma, and pastoral/missions stressors. He serves on the minister enrichment team at Emerge.