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 DISCOVERING YOUR CHRISTIAN MINISTRY  

 

INTRODUCTION:  

 

Jesus came and told his disciples, "I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth.Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28/18-20)

  "We have been saved to serve!"  Although it sounds like little more than a catchy saying, it contains a great truth and wonderful privilege. Jesus is at work in our world today and we, as His disciples, are entrusted with the amazing privilege of being His co-workers.  

 

There is a mentality around which would suggest that, now we are Christians, this world is like some kind of cosmic 'waiting room' in which we sit idly waiting for either death or the return of Jesus to our world. Nothing could be farther from the truth!   Rather, we are now able to work with Jesus and serve others in His Name. What we do is called 'ministry' and the exciting challenge before us is to discover just what kind of ministry we are to fulfill.

 

The big question now is: "How has God gifted us?" i.e. with what abilities has God endowed us so that we can do God's work God's way in God's power with God's results?  

 

THE GOAL OF THIS COURSE:  

 

To help the participants begin to discover how God has prepared (and is preparing) them for serving God and others in and through the local Church.  

 

THE PROCESS:  

 

  1. A teaching session that identifies the Biblical basis for "every member ministry" and explores those dimensions in which God has been preparing the individual for service - spiritual gifts, personal passion/desire, natural abilities, individual personality and life experiences.
 
  1. An interactive session in which each participant compiles their "Personal Profile" based on the brief exercises at the end of each section.
 
  1. A subsequent interview with a Mentor or Ministry Guide to identify the possible ministry areas that have emerged from (1) and (2) above. This may also include arranging a subsequent meeting with the leader/s of those ministry areas.

 

  THE BIBLICAL BASIS OF 'EVERY MEMBER MINISTRY'  

 

1. "Ministry" is whatever Jesus is doing in the world today. Another way of putting that might be, "Ministry is using whatever gifts, abilities and capacities to serve God and to help meet the needs of others.    

Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecies spoken to you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you.Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. (1 Timothy 4/14,15)  

 

2.  We are co-workers with Jesus - we work with Him, not for Him.  

Who is Apollos, and who is Paul, that we should be the cause of such quarrels? Why, we're only servants. Through us God caused you to believe. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. My job was to plant the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God, not we, who made it grow. The ones who do the planting or watering aren't important, but God is important because he is the one who makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work as a team with the same purpose. (1 Corinthians 3/5-8)  

 

3.  God calls every Christian to be active with Him in advancing His Kingdom.  

God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do. (Ephesians 2/10)  

 

4.  God has empowered every Christian by His Holy Spirit to fuflfill his or her calling or ministry through the use of spiritual gifts or capacities.  

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service. The Spirit's presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all. (1 Corinthians 12/4-7)  

 

5.  Every Christian has a combination of gifts (or a "gift mix") that is appropriate for his/her specific ministry.  

It is the one and only Holy Spirit who distributes these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.(1 Cor.12/11)  

 

6.  While that gift mix is the one with which that particular believer will be mostly identified, the Holy Spirit reserves the prerogative to change or modify that gift mix at any time (Stephen in Acts 6)  

 

7.  Pastors are called to equip and mobilize all Christians in their care so that the whole Church is functioning in service as a coordinated body.   

He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.(Ephesians 4/11,12)    

 

8. The local community of faith is the primary context and beneficiary of the use of those gifts. That is, the local Church provides the ideal setting for support, encouragement, correction and accountability for the use of those gifts and is itself strengthened and matured as those gifts are employed through each believer          

Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. (Ephesians 4/15,16).  

 

9.The greatest fulfillment that any human being can know is  

·To know God more and more

·To know the call of God to a specific area of ministry

·To fulfill that calling in the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit  

I pray for you constantly,asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the wonderful future he has promised to those he called. I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance he has given to his people.(Ephesians 1/16-18)  

 

INTERACTION POINT:

1. Is there any one of the above 9 statements that is a 'surprise' to you?

2. Is there any one that stands out as particularly significant or important to you?  

 

In preparing this seminar, we have drawn heavily on some excellent material prepared by Pastor Rick Warren and his use of the word 'SHAPE'. The question we are seeking to answer in this seminar is this: "How has God shaped you (past and present) to best serve Him and in what areas will that service be most effective?"   We will look at 5 key areas in our endeavour to answer this question.  

 

a. Spiritual gifts - what gifts or divine capacities has God invested in you?  

b. Heart - what is your personal passion or desire regarding ministry?  

c. Abilities - what natural abilities do you demonstrate in your life?  

d. Personality - are you an introvert or extrovert? What is your personality type?  

e. Experience - how have your life experiences - positive or negative - shaped you?     

  

[1] YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS?

 

  We understand spiritual gifts to be God-given abilities or capacities that are put in our lives by the Holy Spirit and which He 'activates' or 'energizes' through us so that we can be effective in serving God and others.   There are a number of lists in Scripture that mention specific gifts. What complicates our exploration is that they don't seem to be accompanied by clear definitions!! Some are obvious while we can only guess at others. So what follows is our best shot at trying to define and explain how these gifts function. The exciting thing here is that, at some points, we will be talking about you - even if you don't recognise yourself.

1 Corinthians 12/1-11   Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.  

 

A. THE NATURE OF THE GIFTS  

1.The Message (Word) of Wisdom "The God-given ability to rightly apply spiritual principles to contemporary situations"  

2.The Message (Word) of Knowledge "The God-given ability to know information not accessible by natural means"  

3.The Gift of Faith. "The God-given ability to believe God for the seemingly impossible"  

4.The Gifts of Healings "The God-given ability to be a facilitator of divine healing and wholeness"  

5.The Gift of Miraculous Powers "The God-given ability to be a pathway of supernatural power that demonstrates the rule of God"  

6.The Gift of Prophecy "The God-given ability to receive and communicate an immediate message from God to another believer or believers"  

7.The Gift of Distinguishing between Spirits "The God-given ability to penetrate to the origin and motives of spiritual activities"  

8. The Gift of Speaking In Different Kinds of Tongues "The God-given ability to commune with God in a language not previously learned by the speaker"  

9. The Gift of Interpretation of Tongues "The God-given ability to grasp the meaning of a tongue and to communicate it to the Church"   (then, from Ephesians 4)  

10. The Gift of Apostleship "The God-given ability to minister trans-culturally in pioneer mission & church planting"  

11. The Gift of the Prophet "The God-given ability to exercise the prophetic gift as an on-going ministry"      

12. The Gift of Evangelism "The God-given ability to effectively communicate the gospel to others in a way that produces a response"  

13. The Gift of Shepherding "The God-given ability to shepherd & nurture the people of God towards Christlike maturity"  

14. The Gift of Teaching "The God-given ability to clearly explain and effectively apply the truth of God's Word"   (then, from Sundry other Scriptures)  

15. The Gift of Helps "The God-given ability to give support and aid in the Church as a ministry"  

16. The Gift of Leadership "The God-given ability to guide, lead and oversee the Church in its life and ministry"  

17. The Gift of Exhortation "The God-given ability to encourage, affirm and motivate others in their ministry"  

18. The Gift of Giving "The God-given ability to give to God's work and share material resources without pretence or reward"  

19. The Gift of Showing Mercy "The God-given ability to show genuine and practical compassion towards those who are marginalized and ignored by the majority".  

 

INTERACTION POINTS:

1. As you consider the suggested definitions, do you think you may have already experienced one or more of these gifts or abilities in your life?

2. If the choice was yours, which gifts would you choose? Why?

3. Which gifts make no appeal to you at all?    

 

B.THE PURPOSE OF THE GIFTS  

 

The primary purpose of spiritual gifts is so that the Church is able to continue the ministry of Jesus. Our goal is to do God's work, God's way with God's power producing God's results.

 

The FRUIT of the Spirit (Galatians 5/22,23) is the character of Jesus being formed within us - who we are. The GIFTS of the Spirit is the ministry of Jesus being accomplished through us - what we do.   As these gifts are exercised by each person within the local church, that church is built up, matured and becomes strong in character and ministry.  

 

Ephesians 4/11-16   He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ. Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth.   Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.  

 

C. THE PRACTICE OF THE GIFTS  

 

I want to suggest 8 guidelines for you to identify the gift mix God has put within you. Please note: These gifts do not come fully matured into our lives. Our initial attempts to serve through these gifts may be clumsy and awkward. Be patient.  

 

1.  ACCEPTANCE   I believe and accept that God has given me the gift of His Holy Spirit and I have been called to serve Him through the empowered gifts or abilities that the Holy Spirit activates in my life.  

2.  PRAYER.   I will pray specifically that God will reveal to me what gift mix He has invested in me and where I am to serve Him in His Church. I will invite some others to pray for me about this matter.  

3.  AWARENESS.   Knowing that ignorance is a liability (1 Cor 12/1), I will seek to become more aware and informed by reading and studying the relevant parts of Scripture and other helpful books.  

4.  SUBMISSION.  I will yield to the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit by not imposing my conditions and boundaries about what gifts are or are not acceptable to me. I will be open to any and all gifts of the Holy Spirit that He chooses to invest in me.  

5.  PASSION.   My personal desires and passion concerning ministry may well indicate what my gift mix and ministry focus could be.  

6.  FORMATION.   What experiences have been shaping my life thus far? What natural abilities, personality and experiences might be an indicator of where my spiritual gifts may be?  

7.  AFFIRMATION.   What do others see in me? What am I often asked to do? What am I never asked to do? What do people appreciate about me?  

8.  PRACTICE.   Am I willing to 'experiment'? To 'take a risk and have a go'?  Finally, my gift mix will be confirmed in the doing, not in the theory  

 

INTERACTION POINT:

1. Of the 8 suggested steps above, a. Which ones (if any) have you already tried to apply in your life? b. Which one do you next need to apply?  

 

[2]  YOUR HEART'S PASSION?  

 

The Bible speaks of our hearts as the very centre of our being - the source of our motivation, desires and, ultimately, our words and actions.  

Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do. (Proverbs 4/23)  

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart's desires. (Psalm 37/4)  

 

Each of us is quite unique. Despite the many similarities that we may find as we compare ourselves with others, the differences are equally as obvious. You may be passionately interested in certain activities, hobbies and you just cannot understand why others do not share your enthusiasm. Likewise, they may feel the same about you; why don't you share their enthusiasm for something that leaves you cold?   We instinctively feel strongly about some things and not about others. When this passion is God-given, it can serve as an internal guidance system for our lives.   The Apostle Paul was a passionate man. He said this on one occasion:  

But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven. (Phil.3/12-14)  

Such passion determines what our interests are and what will bring us most satisfaction and fulfillment. This 'divine drive' also motivates us to pursue certain subjects, interests and activities.   It can be like that in God's Kingdom and the work of the local Church. One person has a passion to be involved in evangelism while another, who feels no enthusiasm for evangelistic outreach, is passionate about visiting the aged and invalid folk. Both are passionate. Each is different.  

 

The desires of our heart can often be a major indicator of God's purpose for our lives. Of course, our personal desires are very subjective and prone to lead us in self-centred directions and choices. But when we are genuinely seeking to know and do God's will (taking delight in the Lord), those desires can be clues as to what that ministry might be, how it might be fulfilled and where we are to serve.  

 

INTERACTION POINTS:

1. "What really interests me so far as ministry or service is concerned?"

2. "What gets me to sit on the edge of my seat and to become quite animated?"

3. "What kind of discussion topic grabs my attention above all else?"

4. "What area of service concerns me because it seems to be overlooked?"

5. "If I knew I could not fail and the choice was mine to make, what ministry area and activity would I choose?"

6. "What aspect of ministry do I tend to criticize more than others?"  

 

The last question comes as a surprise to many folk. Nonetheless, sometimes our areas of concern and criticism are energized by nothing less than a quiet passion and awareness about that particular area. Criticism may not be the most healthy way of expressing what we are feeling but it can be a 'backhanded' way that provides a clue about heart passion.   God's will and purpose for your life does not have to be the exact opposite of what you would like it to be and the very last thing you would choose.    

 

[3] YOUR NATURAL ABILITIES  

 

These natural abilities are not to be equated with supernatural gifts. Everyone may have natural abilities or skills but only believers can have the gifts of the Spirit because only believers have the Spirit.   Natural abilities may include musical talents, organizational skills, leadership capacity, communication skills in writing or public speaking, mechanical ability in various crafts, computer skills, artistic abilities etc.  

 

Sometimes a spiritual gift may be expressed through a natural talent. For example, the spiritual gift of exhortation or encouragement may be expressed through the natural talent of music. What might otherwise simply be a piece of music played well (talent) can suddenly be 'empowered' by the Holy Spirit and impact the listener in a life-giving, life-changing way (gift).   None of the above is meant to suggest that natural talents have no place in the Church. These skills or talents that people have developed over the years should certainly be seen as part of God's creativity in how He has made them and they need to be dedicated to the Lord so that He can use them when, where and how He chooses.  

Then Moses said to the Israelites, "See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts--to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze,to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship.And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others.He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers--all of them master craftsmen and designers.So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the LORD has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the LORD has commanded." (Exodus 35/30 - 36/1)  

 

It is important that we dedicate everything about our lives to God. He can utilize all that we have and all that we are to advance His Kingdom in and through us.  

 

INTERACTION POINTS:

1. In what areas do you think you have natural talents or abilities that you exercise with a sense of enjoyment and fulfillment?

2. What have others affirmed in your life and about which they have expressed appreciation?    

 

[4]  YOUR INDIVIDUAL PERSONALITY  

 

Paul wrote this to a young pastor called Timothy:   This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Tim.1/6,7)   Could Timothy have been something of an introvert so far as personality is concerned? Is that what Paul was hinting when he wrote of "….. a spirit of fear and timidity…."?   In the same letter Paul repeatedly encouraged Timothy not to be ashamed. If that was the case, it did not exclude Timothy from being involved in ministry.    

 

Some people are unashamed extroverts. Some others are retiring introverts. Most people are a mix of both. Extroverts tend to jump right in and quickly become participants. Introverts would rather stand back and be observers. Extroverts are often impulsive. Introverts tend to be more reflective.   Now we need to be careful here that we don't "type cast" ourselves and others so that we make no allowances for those times and seasons when the extrovert 'breaks the mould' and becomes reflective or the introvert breaks free and behaves in an extroverted way.   However, we will always need the dynamics of both extrovert and introvert.

 

There is no such thing as a 'right' or 'wrong' temperament.   Extroverts tend to be like the accelerator on a car whereas introverts are more like the brake. Which one is more important? The answer, of course, is that both are equally needed and therefore equally important. A car that has only an accelerator will soon crash. A car that has only a brake won't go anywhere. It is the application of both accelerator and brake under the control of the driver that enables the car to be driven safely to the ultimate destination.  

 

Although there will always be exceptions, it's probably fair to say that some personality types are more suited to some ministry areas than to others. For example, we wouldn't expect to find a very introverted person engaged in an effective public speaking ministry.   There are no hard and fast rules in this matter of temperament or personality and we need to be careful that we don't create caricatures that lock people in to an inflexible mould.  

 

INTERACTION POINTS:

1. Do you (and others) believe yourself to be more of an introvert or extrovert in terms of your personality or temperament?

2. Do you prefer variety and change in life's activities or are you more comfortable with routine and predictability?  

 

[5] YOUR LIFE EXPERIENCES  

 

God always uses life's experiences to teach us and shape us. Whether we consider those experiences to be 'good' or 'bad', all of them are part of God's classroom curriculum.   We can maybe divide our life experiences into a few different categories; for example, we can talk about our spiritual experiences, our fulfilling experiences, our painful experiences and our ministry experiences.    The fact is that we probably learn more valuable lessons through tough times than good times.

 

There is a 'theology of suffering' in the Bible that we prefer to ignore because none of us find the idea of suffering very appealing.  

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. (Romans 5/3,4)

Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. (James 1/2-4)      

So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (1 Peter 1/6,7)  

 

Rick Warren has made this very wise observation: "God never wastes a hurt".   Those who have experienced the pain of bereavement or divorce are best able to identify with those passing through such an experience at the moment. Those who have been sexually or physically abused are (subject to their own process of healing or resolution) most likely to helpfully relate to those caught in the same situation.  

 

Of course, it's not just painful experiences that shape our lives. Our spiritual journey is very important as we come to see life through a different set of lenses after we have had our eyes opened to the reality of God's Kingdom.   Similarly, those 'fulfilling' experiences also contribute to the richness of life and understanding. These are those experiences that we have found very rewarding. For some people the whole experience of parenting is and/or has been very fulfilling.  

 

Ministry experiences consist of those times and events in which we have served the Lord and His Church in ways that have contributed to the welfare of people and through which we have learned lessons and principles that we can now pass on to others.  

 

INTERACTION POINTS:

1. How did you become a disciple of Jesus? When did you come to faith in Christ?

2. What painful experiences have you had that have helped shape you as a person?

3. What fulfilling/rewarding experiences have you had that have contributed towards you being the person you are today?

4. What ministry experiences have you had that have helped mould you in your understanding and practice of being a Christian?    

 

Spiritual gifts, heart passion, natural abilities, individual personality, life experiences.   None of these aspects on its own is sufficient to identify your ministry. However, in combination they most likely will point you in the general direction of your ministry area. As you undertake the simple exercises at the end of each of the 5 sections and then talk with your mentor for this course, we will be praying that the Holy Spirit will be guiding, confirming and affirming you.                          

 

PERSONAL PROFILE  

 

1. POSSIBLE SPIRITUAL GIFTS                  

 

2. HEART PASSION                  

 

3. NATURAL ABILITIES                  

 

4. INDIVIDUAL PERSONALITY                

 

5. LIFE EXPERIENCES

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