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Discovering Ministerial Identity
Working toward self-understanding to better embrace our role in ministry
Self-awareness is one of the most neglected aspects of leadership. In other words, the leader must have a good read on their own strengths and weaknesses in order to know how to best lead and/or shepherd other people. Week three is focused on the student’s resources, such as call, passions, burdens, strengths, personality, and gifts.
Discovering How God Has Shaped You For Ministry
David writes, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:13-16
God had been uniquely forming and shaping you even before you were born. Many have used the acronym of SHAPE to talk about personal ministry identity. It is a helpful place for us to begin our work on identity.
What is your SHAPE? There are five factors (based on the S.P.A.P.E. theory) that influence who you are, the things that have shaped you.
S – Spiritual Gifts
1 Corinthians 12:7 states, "But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit (i.e., spiritual gifts) for the common good."
The first question to ask yourself is "What am I gifted to do?" There are some things you are definitely good at, in fact very good at, but what are you specifically gifted by God to do? Do you realize that the Holy Spirit gives gifts to all God’s people? Not one follower of Jesus lacks "gifts for ministry." Some will have three or four perhaps. But everyone has at least one gift.
What is a spiritual gift? It’s a special ability given by the Holy Spirit to every believer at their conversion to be used to minister to others and therefore build up the Body of Christ. Notice: a spiritual gift is a special ability. It is different from a talent or a regular ability. The Holy Spirit gives a gift (or gifts) to every believer. Every Christian has at least one spiritual gift. You get it the moment you became a Christian. If you’re a believer, you have one. It may be hidden and you have to unwrap it. It’s like when you were a born physically you had a sense of physical senses: hear, touch, taste, smell, feel. As a baby, you didn’t know you had those things. Only as you matured, you figured out, "I have the ability to smell, I have the ability to hear…" You got them at birth, but you didn’t understand them until you matured. The same is true of spiritual gifts, when you’re born again.
There are at least ten truths about spiritual gifts:
Only believers have spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 2:14
Every Christian has at least one gift. 1 Peter 4:10
No one receives all the gifts. 1 Cor. 12:27-30
No single gift is given to everyone. 1 Cor. 12:29-30
You can’t earn or work for a spiritual gift. A gift is a gift. Eph. 4:7
The Holy Spirit decides what gifts you get. 1 Cor. 12:11
The gifts I’m given are permanent. Once you’ve been given it, you’ve got it for life. Romans 11:29
You are to develop the gifts God gives you. Like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. 1 Timothy 4:14
It is a sin to waste the gifts God gave me. 1 Cor. 4:2
Using your gifts glorifies God and grows you (helps you grow).
The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts – There are two basic purposes:
They are not for your benefit, but for others. This is very important. 1 Corinthians 12:7, Ephesians 4:12 and 1 Peter 4:10 address this matter. Spiritual gifts are not to bless you (though they may); the gift that God gives you is given to bless others, to bless the church. God meant them to be used through the church, to build up the body.
They are to produce maturity and stability in the church family. Ephesians 4:11-13 states, "It was he (who gave gifts to men), to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming."
Don’t confuse gifts with natural talent.
Don’t confuse gifts with the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) shows your maturity; the gift shows your ministry. A person can have a spiritual gift and be spiritually immature. For example, you may be gifted as a teacher, but you don’t have the maturity to teach. You have to grow and develop. You need both the fruit and the gifts in your life.
Be aware of gift projection tendencies – expecting others to serve in the way you do and have similar results. There are different gifts and abilities and you should not project your gift onto someone else.
Don’t feel that your gift makes you superior to others.
Realize that using your gifts without love is worthless. Paul spends a whole chapter (1 Corinthians 12), which is sandwiched between two chapters on spiritual gifts, talking about this.
Recognize that you have both a primary and secondary ministry in the church. Your primary commitment should be in the area where you’re gifted. Your secondary ministry includes serving in any other area of the Body where you’re needed. Just because you’re not gifted in a particular area is no excuse for not helping out.
One of the primary ways you learn about your spiritual gifts is by getting involved in ministry. Many people try to figure out their gift and then get in ministry. One of the ways is the exact opposite. As you get into ministry, you’ll find out what you’re gifted at.
It’s easier to discover your gift through ministry than to discover your ministry through you gift.
H – Heart
Romans 12:11 encourages us to "never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord."
The question you want to ask here is, "What do I love to do?" There are some things that you love to do, and there are some things that you do not enjoy. God put this natural inclination in your heart. He wants your ministry to be a blessing, not a burden. When you look at your gifts and your heart, what do you like to do? People rarely succeed unless they’re having fun (or at least enjoying) the responsibility they have in ministry.
A heart is defined in three different ways in the dictionary:
- It’s the organ that pumps your blood.
- It’s your emotional constitution or your disposition.
- It’s the vital or driving impulse. It’s like when people say, "The heart of that ministry is…" or "The heart of that organization is…"
The Bible uses the heart to represent the center of your motivations, desires and inclinations. This is all through the book of Psalms and many other places, with phrases such as, "serve God with all your heart…" "Love the Lord your God with all your heart…" and "Give him your heart."
Here, we’re talking about having Christ as the center of our motivations, our desire and our inclinations.
Heart determines three things:
It determines why you say the things you do. Matthew 12:24 says, "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." We speak with our heart.
The Bible also says it determines why you feel the way you do. "The word of God…judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) Your motives, your attitudes, are in your heart. The heart is the seat of your motivations.
It also determines why you act the way you do. Proverbs 4:23 warns us, "guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."
What this teaches us is that your heart is the real you. Just as each of us has a unique physical heartbeat, each of us has a unique emotional heartbeat that races when we encounter activities, subjects or circumstances that interest us. We instinctively feel deeply about some things and not about others. This God-given motivation determines what your interests are, what will bring you the most satisfaction and fulfillment.
The Bible also makes it very clear that, even though your heart was designed by God, it’s up to you to choose to use it for good or for evil, for service or for selfish purposes. In other words, you may have "selfish ambition in your hearts" (James 3:14), or you may "(do) the will of God from your heart" (Ephesians 6:6).
These God-given motivations are neutral, neither good nor bad. But, you can use it in a good way or a bad way. For example, take the desire to accumulate. It can be used positively of negatively, as a tool for ministry or as sin.
It may be helpful to examine your achievements for a common motivational thread. You might find a key phrase repeated. Every one of these examples below can be used effectively in ministry. You should be able to support your choice with examples from your achievements.
Here are fifteen examples for your consideration. You might think of others. "I love to…"
DESIGN AND DEVELOP – "I love to make something out of nothing. I enjoy getting something started from scratch."
PIONEER – "I love to test out and try new concepts. I am not afraid to risk failure. Some of you don’t like new stuff."
ORGANIZE – "I love to bring order out of chaos. I enjoy organizing something that is already started." You can always tell an organizer. Look at their closet. All of their clothes are on the hanger the same way and sometimes even color-coordinated. All the shoes are in the right order.
OPERATE AND MAINTAIN – "I love to efficiently maintain some things that are already organized."
SERVE OR HELP – "I love to assist others in their responsibility. I enjoy helping others succeed." You don’t want the big credit; you just like helping others succeed.
ACQUIRE AND POSSESS – "I love to shop, collect, or obtain things. I enjoy getting the highest quality for the best price."
EXCEL – "I love to be the best and make my team the best. I enjoy setting and attaining the highest standard."
INFLUENCE – "I love to convert people to my way of thinking. I enjoy shaping the attitudes and behaviors of others."
PERFORM – "I love to be on stage and receive the attention of others. I enjoy being in the limelight." This can be used for the Lord in terms of drama, music, speaking.
IMPROVE – "I love to make things better. I enjoy taking something that someone else has designed or started and improve it."
REPAIR – "I love to fix what is broken or change what is out of date."
LEAD AND BE IN CHARGE – "I love to lead the way, oversee and supervise. I enjoy determining how things will be done."
PERSEVERE – "I love to see things to completion. I enjoy persisting at something until it is finished." Your basic motivation in life is you just don’t know when to quit.
FOLLOW THE RULES – "I love to operate by policies and procedures." Some people enjoy operating when it’s clearly spelled out what’s expected and what’s not expected. They operate with good parameters.
PREVAIL – "I love to fight for what is right and oppose what is wrong. I enjoy overcoming injustice." Some people have a knack to be crusaders. They always have a cause.
As you look through this list, maybe you see one or two that apply to you more than others, make a note about these, and remember them as you continue to work on your identity.
Consider these items:
"Who do I love to work with most, and the age or type of people?" Some people love to work with children; others enjoy working with middle-schoolers, while still others like to work with senior adults. You may prefer to work with things or information.
"Church issues, ministries, or possible needs that excite or concern me most:"
"If I knew I couldn’t fail, this is what I would attempt to do for God with my life."
A – Abilities
Exodus 31:3 tells us, "(God has) filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts…"
God gives people abilities, such as natural talents, vocational skills, etc. They’re different from spiritual gifts, because your abilities are a part of your DNA (that which you were born with). What natural talents and skills do you have? What vocational skills have you learned?
There is a story called "The Animal School" (author unknown):
The animals had a school. The curriculum consisted of running, climbing, flying and swimming. All the animals took all the subjects. The duck was good at swimming and fair in flying, but he was terrible in running. So he was made to drop the swimming class and stay after school to practice running. He kept this up until he was only average at swimming but average was acceptable. The others, including the teacher, were no longer threatened by the duck’s swimming abilities so everyone felt more comfortable, except the duck.
The eagle was considered to be a problem student. For instance, in climbing class, he could beat all the others to the top of the tree but he insisted on using his own method of getting there. He had to be severely disciplined and finally, because of his non-cooperation in swimming, he was expelled for insubordination.
The rabbit started at the top of the class in running, but obviously he was inadequate in other areas. Because of so much make up work in swimming, he had a nervous breakdown and had to drop out of school.
The turtle was a failure in most every course offered. His shell was considered to be the leading cause of his failure so it was removed. This did help his running a bit but sadly he became the first casualty when the horse stepped on him.
Here’s the summation: the faculty was disappointed but, all in all, it was a good school in humility. There were no real successes. None seemed to measure up to the others, but they did concentrate on their weak points and some progress was made.
You get the point? Everybody doesn’t fit the same mold. We want to zero in on what you’re good at. Stress may be an indication that you’re in the wrong ministry or service position, because you may not be enjoying what you are doing.
When we talk about the "A" in SHAPE, we’re talking about skill, ability, and knowledge. The key is matching your abilities with the right ministry. There’s a "laundry list" of over 3,000 different abilities. An average person has between 500-600 different abilities. Yet, many people don’t realize they have abilities. Sometimes, we take our abilities for granted.
P – Personality
1 Corinthians 2:11 states, "For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?"
This is the fourth factor in SHAPE. The truth is, we’re all very different. We all have different personalities, different blends of temperament, different "quirks." Where does your personality best suit you to serve?
In the box below, write your name.
Now in the box below, write your name with your opposite hand.
How does it look? Can you read it? When you try to do something that’s not natural to you, three things happened:
You feel uncomfortable.
It took extra time and effort.
You still did a lousy job.
The same things are true when we try to minister or serve in areas that are not suited to our personality. You’re going to feel uncomfortable, it’s going to take extra time and effort, and you’re probably not going to do a good job with it.
God has wired your temperament in a unique way. Remember, God loves variety – just look around you. And there is no right or wrong temperament. We need opposites to balance the church. Many times, people don’t experience ministry satisfaction because what they’re doing is inconsistent with their temperament or personality.
To what degree are you on these scales? Put an "X" on each scale:
extreme mild mild extreme
extreme mild mild extreme
extreme mild mild extreme
extreme mild mild extreme
extreme mild mild extreme
"Extroverted – Introverted": Where do you get your energy? What drains you? If being with people recharges you, you’re an extrovert. If being with people drains you, you’re an introvert. If being alone recharges you, then you need to put yourself on the scale toward introvert. If you can’t stand to be alone, then you need to be on the scale toward extrovert.
"Thinker – Feeler": How do you make decisions? If you’re a thinker, you tend to make decisions based on objective facts; if you’re a feeler, you tend to make decisions based on intuition. A feeler does not mean you never think, nor vice versa; we’re all a combination of both. But you have a preference: "I’m going to get all the facts in order first, then I’m going to make the decision", or "I just feel this is the right thing to do". Typically, a feeler and a thinker are married to each other.
"Routine – Variety": What kind of tasks do you prefer? If you like routine, you like tasks that are predictable, tasks that are pretty much the same thing. You don’t like new things. You believe it’s more effective, more efficient to do things in a fairly routine manner. Some of you don’t like that at all. It bores you. You like variety, something new all the time. You like the unpredictable, for every day to be different. In a church setting, some ministries are very routine and some ministries are very unpredictable; that’s why both types of personalities are very important. A routine ministry would be something like teaching a Sunday School class; an unpredictable ministry might be the Caring Ministry.
"Self-Controlled – Self-Expressive": Do you tend to express yourself openly? Are you outgoing in expressing the way you feel, the way you think? Or do you tend to be more controlled? Do you like to be in control of the situation, of your moods, of what you say?
"Cooperative – Competitive": How do you relate to people? Are you a born competitor? "It’s not fun unless there’s competition!" Or, do you hate competition? Would you rather cooperate, for everyone to do the same thing, at the same time, in the same way?
E – Experiences
"Every prudent man acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly." (Proverbs 13:16)
"I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw." (Proverbs 24:32)
Your experiences help determine the direction you should be involved in ministry.
God never wastes an experience. In Romans 8:28, Paul reminds us, "And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." This verse doesn’t say all things are good. But it does say that "in all things God works", even in the bad things. God works in all things, good or bad, for the "good of those who love him". Again, in Philippians 1:12, Paul tells us, "Now, I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel." In other words, even though his circumstances were "bad" (and most people, even the believers, thought they were), God worked it out for good, i.e., the gospel was spread.
Since our greatest life messages come out of our weaknesses, not our strengths, we should pay close attention to what we’ve learned in the "school of hard knocks". Remember, God never wastes a hurt! He wants you to be open to ministering to people who are going through what you’ve already been through! God wants to comfort and teach you in those difficult situations so that you can turn around and have a ministry with the very people who are going through situations you’ve been through. 1 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." Who can relate better to someone who has lost a spouse in a death, than someone who has lost a spouse? Who can relate better to someone who’s had an alcohol problem that somebody who’s been an alcoholic?
Here are four different kinds of experiences to look at as you continue to work on your personal ministry identity:
What spiritual experiences have you had?
This means the time your received Christ as your Savior, special times with the Lord (e.g., at a retreat or at home, during a crisis, as a young person). The amount of time you’ve been a Christian is going to influence what ministry you should be involved in.
What painful experiences have you had?
God often allows you to go through a painful experience and then heals you and comforts you in that experience so that He will give you the ministry of helping other people in that very same thing. God never wastes a painful experience. Even the painful experiences we bring on ourselves through dumb decisions and mistakes God wants to use in ministry.
What educational experiences have you had?
What have you learned? If you’ve learned certain skills (e.g., computers, accounting) maybe God wants to use that.
What ministry experiences have you had?
What opportunities have you already had? Some of you will have had a lot, some of you will have had a few, and some of you will have had none. You’ve served already and you’ve proved yourself and you can see what God is doing in your life.
Remember, success (or better stated, effective ministry) is doing what God made you to do.
|Due By (Pacific Time)||11/05/2015 11:00 pm|
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