Most of us will never have the experience of God speaking to us in an audible voice, calling us by name and telling us exactly what we should be doing. Nor will many of us have visions when we go to bed at night---for most of us the clues to our calling will appear in more mundane ways. So let’s look at this acronym….
C stands for competence…What am I good at? Everything else flows from this. This is why it is so essential for Christians to encourage and affirm one another in the discovery of their gifts. What are you being affirmed in?
What are other people telling you that you’re good at? This is closely related to but different from the question, what do you do well? Affirmation from others can give us considerable insight into our own gifts since we don’t always have an accurate awareness of the nature of our own abilities.
Of course, the other side of the coin is equally true; we may be unnecessarily modest or reticent about admitting having a certain gift which others affirm we possess. When someone asks you to consider some particular ministry within the church, you should assume that they have seen a specific gift within you. You should ask what gifts the ministry or position requires and why you were thought of in this regard.
L stands for love. What do I love? …what issues deeply concern you? What do you feel passionate about? Ask yourself the question, what do I enjoy?
God calls you to share in the fullness of joy. Think about the things that you really enjoy doing, things that give you a deep sense of peace and satisfaction. Chances are that you are tapping into the gifts that God has given you for ministry, and that within those activities lay opportunities for significant ministry.
Also think about the opposite passion - what you hate to see? If you hate seeing people hungry, God might be calling you to feed them! If you hate seeing something done poorly, maybe God is nudging you to volunteer, rather than criticize!
The key is to combine your gift with your area of concern, with what you love doing…..if you are concerned about the plight of homelessness here in Toronto and you love cooking then…. You will be most effective when serving in those areas.
U has to do with understanding. Here we are concerned with our understanding in two important areas.
Understand Yourself:---the questions here have to do with your personality and temperament. For example---Hospitality—Introvert and Extrovert.
Another consideration is the type of work that you enjoy. Do you like to work with other people or do you prefer to work on your own?—specific time lines or open ended projects?
An important part of growing in ministry is growing in your understanding of yourself—this is not navel gazing or self-indulgence.
Understand what God is doing: Our growing understanding of what God is doing in our own lives and in the world will increase our awareness of the opportunities to participate in God’s work. Through your reading of the Bible and your life of prayer, you need to be well aware of what God’s plans are for the world, in order to participate in his plan. You’ll learn to recognize God at work in your life and in other people’s lives as you grow in your faith, and you’ll also learn to recognize when good ideas, nudges, or big plans are not consistent with God’s plans, and need to be avoided.
E has to do with experience. The question is what has life prepared you to do?
For example you might be a recovering alcoholic or drug addict, you have gone through a painful divorce, or suffered with depression. These experiences, as horrible as they might have been, have equipped you for ministry in a way that no amount of professional training could ever do. You know firsthand what is needed to minister to people in these situations…
Now I am not saying that God allowed you to go through this experience in order to equip you for ministry. God would never wish that on anyone. What I am saying is that there never has to be such a thing as a wasted time or experience. When we open our lives to God’s presence everything we have ever done or experienced, good or bad, comes into play.
Now the same can of course be said about positive experiences…..maybe you’ve had some great experiences in life that you can share with others, and invite them to experience, too!
S finally stands for situation. Where do I spend my time, where am I situated? We live our lives in various places in a variety of relationships with a variety of responsibilities---work, home, neighbourhood, family, friends…---what opportunities for ministry do I see? The more we ask ourselves that question the more opportunities will arise.
When we have discovered the gifts that God has given us for ministry, we need to learn how to use them.
Experiment# vimeo.com/188242630 Uploaded
Too often the Christian community, the church, is like being at a football game. Nine exhausted people who are badly in need of a rest, being watched by 10,000 people badly in need of exercise.
But this isn’t God’s vision for the church. It is one where we all have a part to play in God’s work…we all have a life of ministry to live. Whenever something is not working well within a Christian community, it is often because one part of the body is not functioning properly.
But this Christian community that we are all invited to play our part in must not become focused on itself. By its very nature and calling its focus must be on the wider world. Followers of Jesus are also learning that their homes, their neighbourhoods and their places of employment are all areas where God is at work and where there are opportunities to serve other people.
There is a story about a pastor of a big church in downtown Atlanta who was approached one Sunday by a young woman who was very upset. This woman explained how she had come across a person really down on their luck and looking for a place to stay to get back on his feet until he could get another job.
The woman had called the church office several times trying to see if the church could do something for this man, but she had had no success with the office.
Eventually she took the man into her own home and helped him get a new job.
That Sunday, she stomped up to the pastor and said, “Don’t you think that the church should have done something for this guy?”
The pastor looked at her and said, “It sounds like the church did.”
There is work to be done both within the Christian community and in the wider world and of course you can’t separate them. When the church, the body of Christ, is functioning properly, then the wider world will be served as well.
To grasp the length and breadth and height and depth of this work is the goal of a lifetime. We are a community of learners…learning the full extent of God’s love for us, learning the full extent of our sinfulness, learning the full extent of our gifts, and learning the full extent of the ministry that God is calling us to. Ministry is living a life using our God given gifts to do God’s work both within the Christian community and in the wider world.
Christians in whom this learning is taking place are excited, inspired and highly motivated. A church made up of such people is filled with excitement and power—it is magnetic and compelling. It is far removed from a church of passive recipients of religious services. A church where every person is living a life of ministry is dynamic growing community.
Most of us feel totally inadequate in the face of such a call to a life of ministry. However in God’s plan there is something significant for every one of us to do. This church will not flourish and continue to grow unless each and every one of us is playing our God designed part. I don’t know all of you all that well, but I am absolutely convinced that each and every one of you has gifts to offer not only the Christian community but also God’s work in the wider world. In the NT passages that talk about ministry we discover that God has given every one of us a personal gift or gifts to be used in ministry. God invites us to help and gives us the tools we will need in order to help.
There are a few passages in the NT that speak specifically of gifts for ministry and name some of them.
We’ll read each of these passages, identify the different gifts listed, and talk about what they mean:
Note how he has to start by making sure they know their place in the body
Explain Exhortation – a firm challenge
Explain Prophecy – speaking for God, saying what God would say, consistent with what God has always said in scripture
Again, note how he has to start by making sure they know their place in the body
Explain apostle – in the bible, those who knew Jesus and taught his word. In practice, those who develop structures for Christian community and teaching.
Explain evangelism – telling the story of good news
Explain pastor – someone who cares for, or shepherds, believers
1 Peter 4:10-11 (Look up in Bibles)
There is nothing in any of these other passages, or other gifts lists in the Bible, to indicate that these lists of gifts are to be considered complete – this one shows us that all of a Christian’s life is meant to be dedicated to God’s service – every word and action.
God has showered a marvelous array of gifts upon the church in order that we will be able to join in God’s work. But how do we discover which gift is ours? This is of course more of an art than a science but here are some indicators….
We are all invited to share in God’s work and finding our place in God’s work and doing it is the key to the fulfilment in life that all of us long for. One of the most important questions we can ask is where is God inviting me to help?# vimeo.com/188242623 Uploaded
So let’s start by looking at the work that God calls us to within the church, the Christian community.
In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul says that the Christian community is like a body which is made up of many parts each with a particular and very important function to perform. It’s one of his most famous illustrations!
We need a little bit of background before we read this passage. Paul, before he became a follower of Jesus used to be a Pharisee (a Jewish religious leader) named Saul and he persecuted the first Christians. One day he was riding on his horse going to the town of Damascus and he had with him written permission to throw into prison any Christians that he found in that town. On the way, he saw a bright light and was thrown off his horse. Then he saw a vision of the risen Jesus and Jesus said to him….. “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me….” It did not take long for Saul to become a Christian and change his name to Paul.
Now the reason that I give you that little bit of background is that Saul (Paul) had never met Jesus during his life on earth…yet Jesus says, why are you persecuting me…..Saul was persecuting Christians, and Jesus says…why are you persecuting me.
Jesus is making a deep and profound connection between himself and between those who follow him… When Christians are persecuted, Jesus is persecuted. When Christians act, Jesus acts. With his life transforming experience in the back of his mind this is what Paul wrote about the Christian community.
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 12:12-25 now that we have some background.
There is work for every Christian to do within the church in order that every member of the community of faith might be nurtured and encouraged to grow towards spiritual maturity. The health and effectiveness of the body depends on every part doing its job at the proper time in the proper way. If one or more of the parts ceases to function properly to that degree the body becomes sick or disabled.
Do you remember a few weeks ago when we looked at the purpose of the church and we laughed at all those things that could go wrong with the church….well most of those things are because the people who belong to the church are not using their God given talents….and are not living a life of ministry.
As growing Christians we want to find our proper area of ministry within the church so that the community of faith to which we belong might be healthy and effective.
Question: How have you thought of ministry in the past?# vimeo.com/188242615 Uploaded
We have been trying to build up a healthy spiritual life based on a balanced diet…bible, prayer, community and stewardship and today we look at the last kind of exercise – service to others.
One of the most exciting aspects of learning to live as a follower of Jesus is the realization that we are invited to join with God in doing real work. We are part of a grand vision called the Kingdom of God.
In the 17th century, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London was being rebuilt after a fire.
It was being designed by a great Architect, Sir Christopher Wren.
A team of visitors was touring the construction in progress, and kept stopping to ask workers what they were doing. Various workers were asked, and answered simply, “I’m digging a hole, obviously.” or “I’m hauling stones, thank you for asking”.
But a third one, doing the same kind of labour, answered quite differently. He said, “I’m helping Sir Christopher Wren build a great cathedral.”
That many had a sense of vision. Even though he played a small part, he knew it was important.
We long to know that our lives have meaning and significance. We want to do meaningful work.
As followers of Jesus, we are helping the Architect of the Universe rebuild a ruined world.
We may have a small part, but we fit into the big plan.
In the Bible we discover that God is at work in every part of human life, that God is at work drawing the whole world to him AND amazingly we learn that we were created to work with God….
The creator of the universe is inviting us into partnership, a partnership in the transformation of the world. This partnership is called ministry, doing the work of God in the world, the work that God calls us to do and for which God has given each of us gifts. True fulfillment in life is to be found in discovering our personal place in God’s work and learning how to do it.
Learning to recognize God at work and finding our place in God’s work constitutes one of the most important aspects of Christian growth. The work that God calls us to is carried out on two fronts---within the Christian community and within the wider world. God has hopes and dreams for both the Christian community (that we would be salt and light—a working model you will remember) and God has hopes and dreams for the whole world….that everyone would know about God’s love and mercy.
Question: Do you think that your occupation(s) (work, study, homemaking, looking for work, volunteering, etc.) are significant to God? Why or why not?# vimeo.com/188242607 Uploaded
Probably ask – what percentage is right? Perhaps you’ve heard of a tithe before.
There are several places in the Bible that talk about tithing—which literally means giving 10% to God’s work. It’s ssomething from the Old Testament, when God’s people, the Israelites, were to give 10% of everything to God – crops, animals, everything.
Now I am not convinced that the biblical standard for followers of Jesus is 10% - and I’m not going to tell you this is the law for you. For some that will be just impossible to maintain, for others it will hardly be a challenge.
Some choose to give 10% today, but it’s important to recognize that it would be easy to forget about grace, and start giving a certain percentage because of law. For Christians, we want to be doing everything, including our generosity, out of love for others and God, not out of fear we won’t hit a magic number, or pride that we have.
Why? First, Jesus, or the entire New Testament, never say Christians should give 10%. Just the Old Testament.
But we have to remember how Jesus treats many Old Testament laws – he steps them up and makes them more challenging to our hearts.
He says his disciples’ “Righteousness is to exceed that of scribes & Pharisees. – Matt 5:20
For example: The Pharisees and scribes avoided murder (one of the 10 commandments)…so Jesus wants his followers to not only never murder, but to also avoid anger. He shifts them from doing the bare minimum, to an actual change of attitude.
In the same way, if the Pharisees give 10% because they have to, what do we give if Jesus always calls us to have a change of attitude?
It’s to give, not until it hurts, but until it feels good again…until our attitude has changed from one of giving what we have to, to one of giving generously, because we love to give.
Proportional giving has nothing to do with meeting the current needs or budget of the church, but it starts with the giver’s capacity to give, whether they are of great or little needs.
How do you choose your level of giving? Only you can decide, but identify where you are today, and challenge yourself to the next level…today, not tomorrow. Jesus always said those who were faithful with a little, are the ones he trusts to be faithful with a lot, so start where you are, no matter your income, no matter how little it may seem, because if you give generously out of love, it’s important to God.
Just to be clear – I’m not just saying this to boost our church’s offerings! I am encouraging you to give generously to God’s work – whoever, wherever, however it is done. So long as it is work consistent with God’s plans for this world – so long as it is kingdom work. This church is a great way to do that – we are part of great work happening right here in this building, in the neighbourhoods around us, and in our city and our world. But God’s work is much bigger than any one person or church!
In the final analysis, stewardship is about the overflowing of a grateful heart in response to all that Jesus has done for us…..and so determine how much to give by determining what God has given and done for you. Then decide how you can say thanks.
There’s a classic Seinfeld episode where Kramer goes on a test drive with a car salesman. Because it’s Jerry buying the car, and Kramer intends to borrow it, he needs to test out how long he can run it without buying gas for Jerry’s car. The salesman and Kramer end up going on this long joyride, and they’re overcome with excitement and fear at once, as they run the car as close to empty as possible. Then just as they’re about to pull into the dealership, realizing they made it, they give it a little bit more. It’s this kind of dangerous, yet exhilarating challenge that God gives us…how little can you keep, and how much can you give? That’s his challenge to us!
He wants us to give until it feels good….frequently we are exhorted by some cause or other to “give until it hurts.” I strongly disagree with this sentiment. It is one thing to be stretched and challenged. But if giving really hurts us then we still haven’t gotten the picture. What we want to do is break through the discomfort zone until we are free. We want to give until it starts to feel good. We want to give until it becomes intoxicating. Remember that we were made to be givers, but we have been socialized by a world that has lost its direction into believing that we are supposed to be keepers.
START NOW: This is an area in which it is notoriously easy to procrastinate. It is so easy to convince ourselves that in just a few months or at this time next year we will be in a better position. We have an incredible capacity to convince ourselves of things that have little relation to reality.
As in every other area of life, the invitation of Jesus is an invitation to excitement and adventure…like this video illustrates so well!# vimeo.com/186218761 Uploaded
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