If we're going to effectively answer the question "How will we train people to serve?" we need to ask the question of gifts.
In today’s church, there’s much being made of discovering one’s gifts–and rightly so. Pastors and church leaders hope that when people discover their gifts, they will find a ministry fit that will provide them with the meaningful involvement that both changes their lives and keeps them involved. We all know that when people are involved in ministry that fits their abilities, they enjoy it and are so much more effective.
But before we grab a gift test off the internet and launch a congregation wide assessment of our gifts, let’s consider what we’re really looking for. Unfortunately, many gift searches simply explore someone’s abilities or personal interests. “I like doing that” or “I’m pretty good at that” have replaced the real idea behind God’s effort to equip His Church.
When God promised gifts like pastor, wisdom, mercy, faith, and a host of others, He was speaking of supernatural endowments provided by the Holy Spirit–not talents that we brought into the church door with us. While we don’t ignore natural abilities and interest, we know we have received a gift from God when we can’t imagine any other source. So a shepherd boy becomes a great king (David) or a scared farmer emerges as a great warrior (Gideon). I doubt Gideon would have scored high in “warrior” on his gift test!
A new or growing passion might be a greater clue to what God is doing in our lives. A new capacity could be God’s gift. Years ago, a newly-converted and Spirit-baptized young woman stood before our congregation to sing a solo. No one knew what to expect, even her. When she began to sing, jaws dropped–even hers. God had given her an amazing gift way beyond her previous efforts to sing-a-long with the radio. A few weeks later, we discovered she could preach even better!!
Years ago, our church was searching for a Sunday school teacher for pre-teen girls. One leader suggested a certain shy and socially-awkward girl. We thought he was crazy. But it was his decision and she turned out to be an amazing teacher–the assignment literally transformed her into an amazing Christian leader. The gift had been given and somehow one guy was able to see it.
Gift tests are useful, but they can never replace the eye-test and heart-test. Remember that the Early Church didn’t use assessment tools to discern the work of the Holy Spirit. The gifts God had given were revealed by the Spirit and men and women simply stepped out in faith and began to use them. Okay, maybe “simply” is a bit optimistic, but they let their hearts lead their hands and soon found a power and ability they didn’t previously possess.
So, how do you help people discover their gifts? If you simply put them to work doing the same kind of things they do all week long, you’ll likely get good performance, but you may not find what God is up to in their lives. Encourage people to follow their heart, to listen to the voice of the Spirit, and to give their best to the needs right in front of them. Somewhere on that path, God will reveal what He has uniquely created and empowered them to do. And that will be amazing!
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