By Greg Allen
There is a wonderful difference between being needed and being chosen. Acts 17 tells of the historic sermon Paul gave to the Athenians, when he used the altar to their unknown god as a way to teach about his living God. In the middle of that teaching he said, “God is not served by hands as if he needed anything.”
The word anything applies to me too. God does not need me. He is infinite, almighty, and perfectly holy to the depth of his being, and doesn’t even need me to tell him so.
God created the heavens and the earth without me. He did not need me when he aligned the stars, invented gravity, established the depth of the Mediterranean or the height of the Alps. When people rebelled against his plan, God provided mercy and grace through the cross of Christ—and he did so without consulting me on any detail. All of creation and salvation is here, thanks to God, not me.
He Chose Me
I know God is in charge of the universe, but for the longest time I innocently thought he still needed me to get his work done. After all, the Bible teaches us to serve and to let people see our good deeds. We are taught to evangelize, visit, help, love, encourage, and “do unto others.”
But my perspective changed when I understood the difference between being needed by God and chosen by God. Paul wrote that before the creation of the world, God chose me to be adopted as his child. John teaches we didn’t first love God, but God first loved us. God, the Creator of all, has no needs. But he has choices, and he chose me.
God indeed calls on me to do many things, and especially to use my spiritual gifting. But God does not need me to do these things—he can use anybody. Before I became youth minister and worship leader at my church, there were others. When I’m gone, there will be others still.
This is a humbling thought, but not degrading or depressing. To the contrary, the fact God chose me elevates my calling to a privilege.
This changes things. It changes the way I think of evangelism. Paul clearly states in 1 Corinthians 3 that we plant and water but God grows the seed of faith in people. God grants me the privilege to share the joy he has given me, but he gets the glory for each new Christian.
It changes my mental approach to leading worship. I see it as a privilege and trust that God has chosen me for this time in our church. After I plan the service under his Spirit’s guidance, I expect God to lead our church in worship under his Spirit’s guidance. God doesn’t need me to be the worship leader, but he calls me to be submissive to him and humbly follow.
I have visited with people, especially those in vocational ministry, who are trapped by the thought they are needed. They feel enormous pressure to “get it right” because so many people are depending on them. That pressure turns to depression or guilt if they feel a ministry event doesn’t go well. Or worse, their ego inflates when a ministry event is a whopping success.
Bottom line: we minister from the flesh if we think God needs us.
He Frees Me
I have also witnessed the ministry of those who know the privilege of being chosen. Their motivation is different. They know God could use anybody but chose them. Therefore, they serve out of the overflow of humility and gratitude. They are not under any pressure—and you can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices. They are free to serve with joy and peace. When they preach a tremendous sermon, their ego stays in check because they know it is Christ who lives in them. When they botch a worship song or mispronounce a person’s last name in the baptistery, they don’t sink into depression, because they know his strength is made perfect in their weakness.
Bottom line: we minister from the Spirit when God chooses us.
Our awareness of being chosen by God should help all of us in ministry to drop the temptation for competitive comparisons. Bragging should cease. Our church families should hear us focus on the Spirit, not the flesh. Attendance will not be a trophy but a humble reminder God has chosen us for such a time as this.
I know a minister who thought the church he served had peaked in worship attendance and so he moved to another church. The church he left has tripled in size since his departure. He went to a church he thought needed him, but he left there frustrated. Today that church is smaller than ever.
My desire is to encourage us to serve Christ with a sense of joy and peace that comes only from being set free from the fleshly drive to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. God has no needs. He has choices, and he has chosen us for ministry.
Along with his choice comes the power to build his church, evangelize the unbelieving neighbor, teach his truth to small groups of growing Christians, raise our children in the ways of Christ, flee temptation, visit the widow and orphan, encourage the alcoholic, and do unto the least. I want to enjoy the freedom of Christ and minister from his Spirit. I want to know that I get to serve, not that I have to. As it says in Romans 12, I want to view his mercy and be so overwhelmed that I can’t wait to offer my whole living self to him in service . . . because he has chosen me.
He Raised Me
I close with a personal word. I am a worship leader in a local church. There was a day I could sing better than I can today. Voice problems led to surgeries that led to a weaker voice.
My range is quite limited. Do you know who is aware of the limited range? Me. Well, God and me of course. My church family does not know and they don’t care about that.
God has taught me that it’s not my voice. He doesn’t need it. Our church family is a great worshiping family. We’ve grown numerically and spiritually, and my voice is my reminder that I get to plant and water. But God gets the glory for raising a worshiper, including me.
God has raised me from the muck and mire of self-centered neediness and planted my feet on the joy of knowing I’m a chosen and adopted child. And I must say, it’s more fun than ever. I cannot help but think it is the way he intends it to be.
Greg Allen graduated from Milligan College with a BA in biblical studies and received his MDiv from Southern Seminary. After serving as youth minister from 1983 to 1990, he became worship leader at Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky. He leads worship for weekend services and special Southeast events and oversees a 15-member worship ministry staff. In addition, he teaches “Foundations for Biblical Studies” for colleges and other churches. Also, he has been a host for The Worship Network, which airs on PAX-TV, since 1999.
The Southeast worship ministry has made four worship recordings, including three Live at Southeast CDs. Greg recorded a solo worship CD, Between the Songs, which includes six original songs accompanied by brief biblical worship teachings.
Greg and his wife, Laurie, met in high school in 1978 and have been joyfully married since 1984. They have three daughters—Chelsea, Macie, and Chloe. The Allens love the beach, as well as laughing at Chloe’s funny phrases. Greg loves to play guitar and drink coffee over a good Bible study.