How can I serve with style?


I want you to try something. Please cross your arms in front of you. Get comfortable. With your arms crossed, glance down and notice the position of your hands and arms. Okay? Great! Now I'd like you to do it again. But this time, put the arm that is on top, underneath, and put the arm that is under­neath on top. In other words, reverse your arms. Got it? Do it. It wasn't as easy to do that time, was it? Did it feel awkward? Uncomfortable? Did you really have to think about how to do it? I did. The first time you crossed your arms, it was quite natural, easy, and did not require much thought because you did it the way you always do it. Each of us cross our arms a certain way, and no arm-crossing technique is right or wrong, good or bad.
We are just different.

Personal Preferences

Your God-given personal style is the way you prefer to relate to the world around you. It is the third element in your servant profile, complementing the expressions of your passion and your spiritual gift. Your personal style answers the How can I best serve? question. You have been created with preferences - choices you make when relating to others. As we have just discovered we are more comfortable relating in some ways than in others. Certain responses come more natu­rally to you than to me and vice versa.

In various situations, you may not feel the freedom to express yourself naturally. No matter where you are-with a spouse, friend, or fellow employee; in a family system, school, church, or small group - you can certainly relate in ways other than your preferred style, but it isn't as comfortable. When relationships don't permit your preferred style, they require additional time, energy, and sensitivity. Like if I asked some of you to come to the front and share something personal…

Some can’t wait to be picked, while others are squirming in your seats. The question I want to ask you to think about it this - What if you could serve God in ways that reflected your per­sonal style? What if you could find ministry opportunities that actually required someone with your style? You can be sure of one thing-you'd experience far more energy for ministry!

So How Are You Energized?

Personal style is sometimes referred to as personality or tem­perament. It describes your most natural way of relating to oth­ers. Your personal style is unique to you, and it energizes you. There are some kinds of activities that give us energy and some that seem to take energy from us. God has wired us to be energized by certain interactions. They provide us with the energy needed in other situations that are draining. Consider: Do you find interactions with people to be energy producing? Or do you get energy from the completion of a task?

Let me illustrate this from some real life people at
Christ Church. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Every time Peter has to attend a PCC meeting, he arrives early. He likes to talk to his friends before the meeting actually gets started. It is important for him to catch up with what has taken place in other people's lives since we last met. When he is not able to arrive early enough to mingle with everyone ahead of time, he feels frustrated and unconnected. The details of the PCC agenda do not hold Peter’s attention or provide him with enthusiasm in the same way in which being able to touch base with people does.

Sharon comes into the church each Monday morning to sort through the welcome cards and talents challenge response forms. She knows where to find them and takes them to a computer to input the data. Once it is printed out, she distributes the information to the appropriate ministries. Sharon has an opportunity to meet with some of the staff along the way, but she prefers to be at the desk. She is energized by being able to get the job done each week so that people's needs can be met. Being assigned to produce the news sheet each week would rob energy from Peter - it would drain his battery. And Sharon wouldn't want to sit around talking with the staff until after she had completed her tasks. Of course, Peter can behave like Sharon, and Sharon can behave like Peter even though they wouldn't really be comfortable.

The question is: What gives you energy and what takes your energy?

We function much like a battery-we have to be charged up to be useful. Energy must first be put into the battery so it can be given out. A battery can only give until it is empty. Once it's empty, it is useless until it is recharged and made available for use again. Some sources connected to a battery will charge it up; oth­ers will drain it. Are you aware of what energizes you? Do you find people or tasks more fulfilling?
Both are needed. Both must be served with excellence. God has created some of us with an orientation to people as our recharging source. Others have been designed to receive energy from completing tasks.

This does not mean, if your preference is people, that you do not value the completing of tasks. Nor does it mean that, if your preference is tasks, you do not value relationships. Those two options simply represent your primary and secondary ways of relating to the world around you. Here's another interesting question: Are you structured or unstructured?

How Are You Organized?

Terry and Mary are making plans for the half term holiday tomorrow. They will be driving from Virginia Water to the Lake District. Terry wants to pack a bag, throw it into the boot and head north. Mary wants to go to the W.H. Smith’s and get all the maps and tour books in order to plan where to stay, which historical locations to visit, and what to eat along the way. When free to do so, Terry and Mary organize their lives quite differently: Terry is unstructured. Mary is structured.

Karen is going to the supermarket to do the week’s shopping. On the way out of the door her husband Tom asks whether she has made a list of things to get. “No” she says as usual, “but when I get there and see what is on display I will have some creative ideas about what to cook for the week." It is important for her husband Tom to have everything in order. He likes to carefully plan the shopping, going through the fridge and freezer, then the food cupboard and kitchen supplies systematically to see what is nearly empty and needs replacing. He treats shopping like a military operation. Tom lines up and prioritizes all of his activities: exercise classes, shopping, work, family time, church, and com­munity involvement. Unstructured Karen likes options. Structured Tom likes priorities.

How do you like to be organized? Are you more comfortable when you are able to "play it by ear," "shoot from the hip," "make it up as you go along"? Or do you prefer closure, "just getting it done," "working the plan"? Most of us can do both. We can behave in a structured or unstructured way, just as we can cross our arms both ways. But one way feels a whole lot more natural.

The key question here is, “If there were no consequences to the way you organized your relationships and life, would you be a structured or an unstructured person?

Personal Style Intensity

You have probably been thinking that you are not purely a task- or people-person. You may also have been feeling that you are not quite so unorganized as an unstructured person, but neither are you as comfortable with structure as some very regi­mented types seem to be. Personal style is a continuum with the pure 100% people­ oriented folks on one end and the 100 % task-oriented folks on the other. It is the same for the organized continuum. It is important to recognize your level of intensity because most of us have a zone around us in which we can relate and be fine. But when we consistently operate outside our zone and move further away from our personal-style preferences, boredom or burnout results.

To gain some measure of your style and intensity, you may like to work through the statements you will find in your news sheet. Complete each statement by looking at the word you think best describes what you would naturally prefer to do in most situations. Then circle the number that indicates where you might be on the continuum. For example, if you prefer to be spontaneous while on holiday, then you would circle one or two. Only circle a three if you just don't know what you have a preference for. Total your score for the energized and organized sections. Lets have some fun. Why don’t you help me fill in my questionnaire. Try and guess how I have answered these questions.

How Are You Energized?

1. I'm more comfortable...

Doing things for people 1 2 3 4 5 being with people

2. When doing a task, I tend to...

Focus on the goal 1 2 3 4 5 focus on relationships

3. I get more excited about...

Advancing a cause 1 2 3 4 5 creating community

4. I feel I have accomplished something when I've...

Got a job done 1 2 3 4 5 built a relationship

5. It is more important to start a meeting...

On time 1 2 3 4 5 when everyone is there

6. I'm more concerned with...

Meeting a deadline 1 2 3 4 5 maintaining the team

7. I place a higher value on...

Action 12 3 4 5 communication

Energised total E = 22

How Are You Organized?

1. While on holiday, I prefer to...
be spontaneous 1 2 3 4 5 follow a set plan

2. I prefer to set guidelines that are...
general 1 2 3 4 5 specific

3. I prefer to…
leave my options open 1 2 3 4 5 settle things now

4. I prefer projects that have...
variety 1 2 3 4 5 routine

5. I like to...
play it by ear 1 2 3 4 5 stick to a plan

6. I find routine...
boring 1 2 3 4 5 restful

7. I accomplish tasks best...

by working it out as I go 1 2 3 4 5 by following a plan

Organized Total =     31

If your E total was 7-20 you are energized through tasks. 22-35 you are energized through people. If your 0 total was 7-20 you are organized by being unstructured. 22-35 you are organized by structure. The intensity of your personal style is indicated by a score of 7-10 Concentrated; 11-14 Moderate; 15-18 Mild; 19-23 Undefined; 24-27 Mild; 28-31 Moderate; 32-35 Concentrated.

The following chart is taken from the NETWORK course and helps you define which quadrant you are most comfortable operating within. My scores of E22 and O31 place me within the person structured quadrant but close to the border with task structured. So I am definitely a structured person but can be energised both by tasks or people (but too many drain me!).

Difficulties with Personal Style Identification

Certain people and circumstances may have made it difficult for you to truly understand your personal style. These include your role models (parents, etc.), family and church values (stated or unstated), and dysfunctional or abusive circumstances.

Life is difficult, and many well-meaning (and some not-so­ well-meaning) people have shaped our values about what is appro­priate and what is not. We have learned that our acceptance is often conditional upon our willingness to play by their rules. Some required behaviours have not allowed us to relate in ways consis­tent with our personal style.

Perhaps, while you were growing up, your role models demonstrated different personal style preferences than yours. For example, during your childhood and adolescence, if both your par­ents were structured and you were unstructured, you might have heard comments like "You'd better get organized." "You are such a procrastinator!""Why do you always wait to the last minute?"

If both your parents were unstructured and you are struc­tured, you might have heard words like "You are such a neat freak!" "I didn't think that assignment was due until next week." "Just relax!" In order to feel loved and accepted, you may have tried to con­form to the style that followed their wishes.

Beyond individual relationships are family systems and church relationships. Within each of these are values that affect the way people interact and how they are perceived. If your per­sonal style conformed to the group, all was probably well. But if your family or church relates in a fundamentally different way from the way in which you do, there may be some tension or white water when it comes to meeting up with relatives or serving on a team with others who are different to you.

You may have felt devalued because you were not quite like these others. If you continuously choose to behave ways acceptable to others, your sense of worth may have grown, but you may have given up relating with your most natural style and lost something of your intrinsic self. Abuse can further distort the accurate perception of your God­ given personal style.

The abuse maybe emotional, verbal, physi­cal, or neglectful. The confusion caused by either a one-time event or a sustained pattern of abuse over years is real and can be deeply traumatic. Living with fear will hinder the development of your preferences and your ability to fully receive the love and grace
Jesus Christ is forever extending to you. He has made you free - free to be the ‘you’ he created you to be.

Remember, the God who designed you has not changed. You do not have to continue to live in conflict with the opinions and behaviour of others. Be comfortable with the per­son God made you to be.  Sin has made all of us dysfunctional. The more dysfunction we have experienced, the more difficult these matters of identity and purpose can be. When you dare to listen to
Jesus say, "Come," and you obey him, you become a proactive force for the kingdom. But as long as you remain confused and inactive, your personal potential is diminished. Be encouraged. You are in a process. Take what seems to be unclear and seek clarity. Take what you know to be true and turn it into confidence. Experience more of the freedom you have in order to pursue and enjoy your God-given personal style. God's Word will help you find your way.

Seeing God Through Our Personal Styles

When I first became a Christian I was a little con­fused about why we have four Gospels. Why did God need to repeat himself? It wasn't until later that I began to understand his purpose. Each gospel is writ­ten in a particular way that it will appeal to a different people. For example, Luke begins with these words,

“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (
Luke 1:1-4)


Would you say Luke is more of a feeler or a thinker? Do think he would appeal more to a structured or an unstructured reader? Now consider John, who includes the following in his writings:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us ... full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)


“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son ... For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)


“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep ... I know my sheep and my sheep know me ... and I lay down my life for the sheep ... but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:11-18)


Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

John reveals more depth of feeling than logic or reason. He wants to comfort us with the presence, love, and grace of God. Can you feel his emotional effort to reassure the reader at Jesus' love and care?

Most of us do our theology through the eyes of our personal style. We read and relate to biblical truth according to our preferences. If you are energized through people, you will have a tendency to place a higher value and emphasis on themes like love, forgiveness, fellowship, community, and grace.

If you are task-oriented, you may focus on such themes as making disciples or praying. Obeying, committing, and serving are the concepts that ener­gize you. Structured people pick up on themes like judgment, law, order, prepara­tion, and justice. Unstructured people gravitate to the under­standing of walking by faith, God giving us the words we need at the appointed time, not worrying about tomorrow. There are four gospel so at least one of them will connect with your personal style. No matter how God has wired you, he has provided a means for you to personally relate to him and his Word so that you can best relate to others and the world. No matter how you see God, you do not see all of him. We need each other to complete our experience and understanding of the fullness of
Christ. We need each other for the body of Christ to be balanced and healthy. Be the man or woman of God he has made you to be, under­standing that what you offer through your personal style is needed but is not complete.

A Word of Caution

Identifying your personal style will help you to understand why you do some of the things you do in your relationships. That is the good news. The fact is, our human nature will still actively seek ways to blame others and excuse or rationalize our own sinful behaviour. Keep this impor­tant point in mind: Your personal style may explain your behaviour but it does not excuse it. Just because you are unstructured does not mean you can fail to meet deadlines. Being structured does not excuse you of the need to be flexible. Interacting with people will not eliminate the need for completed projects, just as completing tasks does not give you permission to be insensitive toward those who see things differently.

A significant part of your design is revealed through your personal style. It is another way God has put his divine fingerprint upon you. As a part of your servant profile, your style compliments your passion and indicates the unique way your spiritual gift will be expressed. Were almost ready to put it all together. The first step was to identify your passion. Your passion identifies the desire of your heart to make a real difference somewhere for the sake of Christ. The where question. Then we explored spiritual gifts. We each have at least one divinely given abilities that help answer the what question. They indicate the way you can best make a contribution in the body of Christ. Now today we have considered the third part of our servant profile.

Common sense tells us though, that shaking a box of jigsaw pieces and pouring them out on the table will not produce an accurate picture. It’s the same with Network. We need one another’s help to clarify the shape of our personal profile and more especially specific ministry opportunities in which we can serve.

That is why I encourage you to complete the Network seminar with
David Wood on 20th & 27th March and have a consultation with David or me or one of our leaders to help you clarify your place of service here at Christ Church. I also warmly commend Bruce Bugbee’s book, “What you do best in the Body of Christ”

It is God’s intention that we be both fruitful and fulfilled.
Jesus said: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:4-5, 8, 11)


A Key Question
A key question to be asking yourself is this: “Are you doing things which others could do, and leaving undone what only you can do?” It’s a question I thought a lot about while I lay in hospital a few weeks ago. It helped me because it brings our purpose into focus and our commitments get prioritised. Your response to that question should give you the power to say yes and the freedom to say no. It did me. I decided to say ‘no’ to some useful ministry opportunities in order to say yes to some that are a better fit with my passion, gifting and personal style.

Your Guarantee   

When you buy anything these days you get as guarantee with it. Maybe for six months, usually a year and if you are lucky two or three years. Life time guarantees are rare. God has made you a promise. He has not only designed you and created you with a purpose, he has made a commitment to be with you along the way.

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of
Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)


“And surely I (Jesus) am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)


God is not a quitter. If he started something, you can know with certainty he will complete it. God began a work in you and he will finish it, "because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).  That's his promise. That's your guarantee! God's intention for your life and ministry was established before the beginning of time. Your life is a part of the divine design set forth by God himself. Consider how the pieces come together in Ephesians 2:10:

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10)

Each set of words is filled with meaning.


We are God's workmanship ... In the present tense, this means that God is constantly at work, actively involved in developing our daily lives and ministries. God did not wind us up and let us go. He is with us every step of the way. He finishes what he begins, and he has started a good work in you.

... created in
Christ Jesus ... Our coming to a personal rela­tionship with Jesus Christ was planned. Your calling to ministry has been assured through your becoming a new creation in Christ.

... to do good works ... We have a task, a mission, and a pur­pose to complete. We have been saved to serve. There are good works that God intends us to do. We cannot find the fulfillment we seek apart from the active participation of our lives in pursuit of these divine works specifically set aside for us. There are min­istry contributions that only you have been designed to make.

... which God prepared in advance
... God's thoughtful atten­tion to who we are and what he has planned for us is clearly demonstrated. His plans for you are specific and carefully reflect your role in his unique creation.

…for us to do ... God has prepared the work. He calls us to obedience. Are you prepared in your heart to do it?

Let's step back for a moment to get God's perspective. Before all of creation, God prepared some ministry opportunities for you to fulfil:  God created you; he sent Jesus Christ to make a relationship possible; he calls you; he saves you; he gives you his Holy Spirit; he places a passion in your heart; he gives you a spiritual Gift; he gives you the power to use that gift; he gives you a personal style; he identifies the works he wants you to do; and he promises his continued presence. Is there anything else God could do? What's left to do? Simply step out in faith and obey! We are on our way to finding what we do best in the body of
Christ! Lets not give up until we know for sure. Lets pray.

Lord, Thank you for the colourful differences among us all, For the way we wonderfully complement each other. Thank you for the people lovers. Thank you for the task completers. Thank you for the careful, precise organizers. And thank you for those whose lives sparkle with serendipity. Hold up a mirror Lord, and show me my true self­, the person you intend me to be. Help me to recognize myself, and to live honestly, fearlessly, and joyfully, serving you and your people through the church. In
Jesus' name, Amen.

This talk is based upon and makes extensive use of chapter 6 of “What you do best in the Body of Christ” by Bruce Bugbee (Zondervan)