“Some journeys take us far from home. Some adventures lead us to our destiny.” - C.S. Lewis
Many of us begin our journey with a heart full of dreams of what we could do, passions we uncover within ourselves, and a longing to make a difference in the world. However, there is often a problem. There are usually so many things we want to do that we can’t decide on what we should do. In those moments, many of us begin asking, “What am I supposed to be doing with my life? What’s my purpose?”
I believe two of the most important days of our lives are the day we’re born, and the day we discover why. Even though every single one of us has a purpose, very few of us ever discover it.
Everything I’m about to share in this post is coming from a posture of simply learning from my own journey and the many failures, successes, and lessons along the way. I am by no means an expert on any of this. I simply happen to be the recipient of God’s amazing grace as I try to navigate these things myself. My hope is for the words in this post to be an encouragement on your path to discovering God’s call on your life. My prayer is that you’ll get to a place where you can clearly and truly understand who God made you to be.
What Am I Most Passionate About?
I’ve been in vocational ministry in some way, shape, and form for about 13 years now. In that time, I’ve done about everything you can possibly imagine. The majority of that time has been spent in music and the creative arts, but I’ve also been involved in a lot of other areas such as: first impressions, guest services, assimilation, college and young adults ministry, kids ministry, student ministry, pastoral care and counseling, communications, preaching and teaching...I've pretty much done it all! Through all of those experiences (and the many adventures along the way) I’ve been able to see a better picture of what things I’m passionate about and how my unique design fits into the story God is writing for my life.
If I could summarize my life call into one Bible verse it would be Ephesians 4:12, ”to equip the saints for the work of ministry…” What I’m most passionate about can fall under five different lanes: building leaders and strengthening teams, serving others and adding value to their lives, developing systems, solving problems through strategic planning, and connecting people to their best next step. Ultimately, I’ve learned it doesn’t matter as much what I’m doing as long as how I’m doing it includes a combination of those five things. Basically, I thrive when I’m in a position to serve and equip others.
How did you discover or how do you know what your purpose was/is?
Ephesians 2:10 is a beautiful verse that helped me begin my process of discovering my purpose. It says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The Greek word used for workmanship is the word ‘poiema’, which can be better understood as ‘masterpiece’. What this verse reminds us of is the reality that we are all uniquely made, hand-crafted, one of a kind, awe-inspiring masterpieces of God. And before we were even born, God had a dream for our life and prepared a story for us to walk into.
When I finally believed the truth of Ephesians 2:10, it allowed me to do three things: Be uniquely made, do good works and deeds, and go where I’m most fruitful. It gave me the freedom to discover my purpose, walk in my unique design, and ultimately glorify God and serve others through the masterpiece I was created to be.
My journey in self discovery also involves feedback from three primary funnels: Life experiences, living in community, and self assessment tools. Let me unpack each of these!
1. Life Experiences.
My journey has taken me all over the country on adventures I would have never dreamed of. From Washington, to Idaho, to Oregon, and now to Tennessee, every opportunity along the way has given me a clearer picture of the story God is writing in my life.
If you had told me 10 years ago where I would be in my life now, I would probably have laughed a little bit and then proceeded to tell you there's no way. But that’s the thing about life, it doesn’t always turn out the way we initially expect. In fact, it often turns out to be better! Especially when we unearth different passions and giftings that make us feel like we can say, “I was made for this.” This discovery was only possible because of the steps I took in faith and the experiences God provided me along the way.
2. Living In Community
The best feedback you can receive will come from the people who care about you the most. Much of my journey has involved steps that were encouraged by the community around me through what I call “I See In You” conversations. My community generally includes my family, friends, mentors, coaches, pastors, or anyone who has influence in my life. These are the people who often are able to see things in me that I may not see myself and call me up into steps toward my purpose. Whenever I seek feedback and then listen to the community around me, it gives me confidence and affirmation that I am moving forward in the right direction.
3. Self Assessment Tools
Self assessment tools are a big deal in our society. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve heard of assessments such as the Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, DISC, APEST, or even SHAPE. The beauty of these assessments is that they are wonderful tools to use in the process of self discovery.
I’m a learner by nature, and because I’m a learner, many years ago I began to dive into many of these assessments. In fact, I use all of those assessments I listed above when coaching my teams. All of these things are wonderful, however, I would say these tools should never be used alone or outside the context of community. We need someone who can help coach us in these tools because it can be easy to misinterpret their meaning. It’s also possible to get to a place where we turn the results of these tools into our identity. While these tools are helpful, it’s important to remember that they do not show us our identity and they are not the gospel.
How do you live out your purpose daily?
The first part of this answer is going to seem pretty basic and kind of like a “Jesus-juke”, but this is really the general call God has given each one of us.
My highest and holiest calling is to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and to love my neighbor as myself. The purpose of which is to be a disciple who makes disciples, and be an ambassador for the mission of Christ. As long as I’m putting myself in a position to be obedient to this call, I am living out my purpose. And while my assignment might change, I can rest assured my purpose never will.
Now, the way I live out my purpose daily is a combination of my passions, giftings, and experiences. It can be summed up in two words. Developing leaders. When I wake up and my feet hit the floor every day, I know my mission is to glorify God and serve others by giving my very best to the teams I lead. Having this clarity helps me live in my grace zone and focus on living out God’s general call in my life in a specific context.
What are some challenges you run into following your purpose and passion?
Many years ago, I went through a crisis of identity. I transitioned out of a role I spent many years honing my craft in and had done for my entire adulthood, and into a role I had never done and knew very little about. On top of that, I had just hopped onto a new church staff in a new place that was away from anything familiar. I also went from being in a very visible place of leadership to being completely behind the scenes.
To say I felt lost would be a complete understatement! It was a humbling season to say the least, but I discovered so much about myself and my purpose in that time. I had become so wrapped up in what I was doing that I had lost my core identity. I learned a valuable lesson that I wish I had learned earlier in my journey. It might sound super basic, but here it is; What you do is not who you are.
Because of this discovery I’m much more content now. As long as I love God, love others, and make disciples, my vocation doesn’t hold as much weight and I won’t be in crisis if it changes. Learning that my purpose is not my vocation, and my vocation is simply a vehicle to live out my purpose was incredibly freeing for my soul.
I also have a tendency to drift from my passions by trying to live up to the expectations of others. Because of my personality, one of the greater challenges I face is to avoid merging with what other people desire for me. I’ve found I do this for two main reasons. The first is to make people happy. The second is to seek the approval and acceptance of people around me.
Breaking through this barrier requires setting healthy boundaries. I’ve learned the power of saying ‘no’ to many things so I can joyfully say ‘yes’ to the passions and desires God has given me. I’ve also learned to preach the truth of the gospel to my own soul in the moments I feel the need to seek approval from others. I don’t need the approval of others because in Christ I am already approved, and the beauty of God’s adoption of me is the only affirmation I truly need to feel accepted.
What would you say to someone who doesn't know what their purpose is or is struggling to live it out?
Because the number seven is awesome and it holds a lot of significance in God’s word, here are seven things for you!
Start somewhere and step out in faith! If you never step out in faith you’ll never know what’s in store for you. God places opportunity all around us if we simply slow down enough knock and seek. Simply look for where God is at work, join him in that work, and trust he is guiding your path.
Live in community. Become a member of a local church and jump into a small group. I say that because I believe we grow best in circles, not rows. We need friendship and we need people we can be courageously vulnerable with. Find people who can encourage you and speak gospel truth into your life. We were never made to live life in isolation. If iron sharpens iron, who is sharpening you?
Be yourself. Be faithful to the calling God has placed on your life, and never compare your calling to someone else’s. Remember, you are God’s one of a kind masterpiece! Don’t try to be someone you are not. Just be you, and be the best YOU you can be.
Use assessment tools...carefully! They are helpful tools for us to use in self discovery, but again they are not the gospel. Assessment tools should always be used in the context of community with people who can coach you.
Find a mentor. You need someone who can challenge you and give you sound advice in your journey. Look for someone who embodies the character and traits of who you desire to become.
Learn from people who are different from you from diverse backgrounds. Some of my greatest learning has come from authors and leaders in the corporate business world. As you learn, my advice would be to chew the meat and spit the bones. Not everything will work in your context, and not everything is beneficial for you.
Go through a coaching process like Pathmaker. Get clarity and language on your design and see how that can begin to unlock your purpose. Having an experienced coach or counselor is so helpful in interpreting our story, identifying blind spots, and discovering our purpose.
Bill currently serves as a Pastor at The Bridge Church located in Spring Hill, TN. He gets the incredible privilege of leading ministry teams that create environments for all people to know God, find freedom, discover calling, and make a difference. He is married to his incredible wife Abbie who is a professional violinist, and they have a fur baby named Josie. In his free time Bill enjoys playing music, traveling, reading, finding the best coffee, playing golf, watching sports, spending time with his family and friends, and coaching leaders from other churches all around the country.
Follow Bill on Instagram: @bill.buckingham
If you'd like to learn more about how I can help you live a life full of Passion & Purpose or if you'd like to share your story of discovering your purpose you can find me at www.pathwaycoaching.net When you visit, make sure to schedule a complimentary discovery session!