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Discovering Your Member’s Gifts:

God’s Grace in Everyday Life

 

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for the common good.

– 1st Corinthians 12:7
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,
as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

– 1st Peter 4:10

Over the years various “spiritual gift assessment guides” have been produced. By in large these have consisted of simple and sometimes simplistic tests designed to tell us which of a number of gifts listed in various passages of the Bible (and interpreted by the test designer) we feel we may have. Occasionally these have included encouragement to have others affirm (or, implicitly, deny) that we have these gifts. And finally some, such as Willow Creek’s Network have devised holistic strategies for helping people find and implement their gifts. Along side this product I would encourage the use of either Discovering Your Ministry Identity by Paul Ford, or The 3 Colors of Ministry by Christian Schwarz.

However, none of these materials can totally cover the full expanse of God’s design for your congregation. When we expand the gifts God has given us from lists of abilities taken from the Bible to “God’s grace in its various forms We suddenly see the full expanse of that design. This includes:

  • Our backgrounds and experiences God as given me a cross-cultural environment. I grew up between my family’ southern Appalachian roots and my northeastern Ohio neighborhood. In adulthood I jumped immediately into the cultural stew pot of Hawaii. From there I have bounced through a series of cross-cultural and multi-cultural neighborhoods and ministries. This gives me a comfort (and joy) in such setting which others do not share.

    In contrast, I knew of a young man who boasted that he had never left the county where he was born. His depth of investment in West Michigan would provide a strong base for speaking to the Dutch-American subculture he lived in. We all have such background and experiences as one aspect of our unique assignment from God.

  • Our locations and our relationships As I write this I am living in a dominantly Latino neighborhood in west Texas. God’s grace in placing me here empowers me to talk to my neighbors. If I were not here, I could not as easily reflect Jesus to the people around me. Of course, that takes developing relationships. We all have people in our lives that, perhaps, no other Christian can befriend. They are gifts from God for serving him.
  • Our times and opportunities Times change. Just ask anyone who bought platform shoes and a leisure suit. Rham Immanuel of the Obama Administration infamously declared, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” Paul said something similar, if more religious.:

    Be very careful, then, how you live –
    not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity,
    because the days are evil.

    We cannot live this moment or era of time over and no one can live it for us. This moment is God’s gift to us and possibly the most costly since we can never buy it back. When 9/11 happened, in the midst of that tragedy many churches had a gift from God, an opportunity to establish relationships with people seeking answers.

  • Our passions and awareness A friend of mine loves to race Radio Controlled [R/C] cars. He is passionate and good at it and so he goes to a lot of R/C races, places I (likely you) will never be seen. This places him with people no one else can reach for Jesus. One church in Ontario, CA had at one time a powerful outreach called the Fly Fishing Club. Yes, it was about Fly Fishing and also about apprentices of Jesus having relationships with fishermen.

    Sometimes our passions deal directly with a hurt Jesus can address. I have known many people in recovery from alcohol, drugs or abuse who used their passion and compassion for other people suffering through these things.

  • Our personalities and temperaments Each of us has been built in particular ways. Most pastors I know are care-givers or ministry-promotors or people-connectors. Not me. I am a warrior. I love to enter dangerous places, face difficult tasks and “long odds”, putting all I am to the test. This allows me to serve in gang territory in the inner-city, conflict-ridden churches, and churches facing crises. Other pastors do better in other situations.

    Likewise, it takes certain types of personalities to get into the hearts and lives of teenagers. It is a fallacy that you must be young or even fashionable. However, graciousness, patience, stability and transparent honesty go a long, long way and people with such temperaments have gifts from God lacking in many.

    And, yes,

  • Our talents and supernatural gifts Using the materials suggested above and the reflections of those who know you best (and are honest about it) you can find the main gifts you have. Be aware that your most prominent talent may not be the gift that God considers most important.

    While preparing a seminar for 100 people on spiritual gifts an award-winning high school teach approached me to assist. I asked her which parts she might want to teach and she said, “None.” Though she was very talented as a teacher, her greatest spiritual gift was Service, and so she quietly, without fanfare, provided snacks for the weekend. Her gift of Service was so powerful (Service being defined as behind the scenes assistance) that no one, not even I caught her putting the food out to be consumed. It was almost as if it appeared magically.

Combining these factors together we can see the sort of individuals and congregation God has made us and can reflect on the sorts of service we would be most effective in doing in order to make apprentices of those outside of the Body of Christ.