4 Ways to Determine Your Spiritual Gifts

Marriage-Gods-Way-author-Scott-LaPierre spiritual giftsHi Pastor Scott,
You talked about people having spiritual gifts and using them in the church. Do you have insight into determining your spiritual gifts? Thanks!

Here’s my response…

This is such a common question people have developed surveys to help determine spiritual gifts. Ephesians 4:7-8 says God has given at least one gift to each person, but Scripture doesn’t provide any strategies for determining those gifts. So to be clear, these are my suggestions but I can’t support them with verses.

1. Learn the spiritual gifts in Scripture.

There are two primary passages listing the gifts (Rom 12:6-8 and 1 Cor 12:4-11). Unless you have some familiarity with the gifts, you’ll never know what gifts you have. As you read the passages, pray God reveals how He’s gifted you.

These passages aren’t exhaustive lists so much as they’re palettes helping us understand what the gifts look like. For example, some people are gifted musically, but even though music is prominent in the church it isn’t listed as a gift. We shouldn’t assume that just because something isn’t listed it isn’t a ‘real’ gift.

2. Consider what you enjoy doing.

From my own personal experience and from what I’ve seen in other’s lives, it seems like most people enjoy using their gifts. Similarly, most people are also fairly comfortable using their gifts. They often look forward to it. Continue reading “4 Ways to Determine Your Spiritual Gifts”

Much More Than Showing Up Sunday Mornings

Much More Than Showing Up Sunday Mornings

Even if you’ve been trained to think church is only about showing up Sunday morning and leaving when service is over you need to know that’s not what God wants! God’s plan is the opposite of shallow, superficial involvement with our brothers and sisters in Christ. The church is a family where we’re expected to be involved in each other’s lives and have people involved in our lives. The church is described as a body where every part is important:

  • “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body?” (1 Cor 12:15-16). Every part is important!
  • “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ Those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” (1 Cor 12:21-22) Each part needs the other parts! Every part has to be involved and working together to have a healthy, efficient body.

An interesting consideration is that although corporate worship on the Lord’s Day is important, if that constitutes your involvement in the church you’ll be unable to obey many commands:

  • Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification (Rom 15:2).
  • Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Phil 2:4).
  • Comfort each other and edify one another (1 Thes 5:11).
  • Exhort one another daily…and let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good words (Heb 3:13 & 10:24).
  • As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another (1 Pet 4:10).

If you think your responsibility toward the body of Christ ends at showing up Sunday morning and leaving when service is over, you’re going to disobey most of these commands. The level of involvement God wants us to have in each other’s lives is much deeper than what can take place when churches don’t challenge people to love and service.

Woodland Christian Church is growing, which is a good thing, but we want to make sure we maintain a family feel. That happens as people get to know each other and develop relationships. Attend church events and activities, but also invite people over to your home.

Author: Scott LaPierre

Pastor Doug Connell

Simon the Cyrene

Yesterday was Resurrection Sunday and we looked back on Christ’s death, burial and resurrection in Isaiah 53. There’s an interesting event that occurred on Jesus’ way to the cross that I’d like to briefly discuss…

Although Jesus was God, during the Incarnation He took on all the physical limitations we experience (aka The Kenosis): hunger, thirst, temptation, fatigue, etc. While carrying the cross Jesus’ physical limits were reached, and He could no longer continue without help: Matthew 27:32 They found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross. Simon stepped under the load and helped Jesus carry it. In a recent sermon I shared about the difficult time I was having trying to pastor WCC by myself, but this past week in a conversation regarding how much better I’m feeling, I told Katie, “Pastor Doug is Simon.” (NOTE: Doug is the Associate Pastor we recently hired at WCC and he’s become a great friend of mine, and Katie would say the same of his wife Jessica).

With that said, please let me quickly get something out of the way: I’m not trying to compare myself to Jesus or imply any load I’ve been under compares with the load Jesus was carrying. This isn’t meant to be a comparison between Jesus and me, but between an individual helping shoulder another’s load and how that makes me think of Pastor Doug.

When I’ve talked about pictures and types before, I’ve always said they fail in certain ways: the substance or reality is always greater. That’s the case in this example too, and I’d say it’s captured in the word compelled. Matthew 27:32 and Mark 15:21 state Simon was compelled to help Jesus; it wasn’t voluntary. With Pastor Doug though, I’m regularly told, “I’ll take care of this” or “Don’t worry about it.” When the phone rings Pastor Doug says, “I’ve got it.”

It’s hard not to notice God’s fingerprints on the timing of Pastor Doug’s arrival. We recently learned Katie is pregnant, which we consider to be a tremendous blessing, but at the same time Katie describes her pregnancies as“the most miserable times of my life.” She started getting sick and I’ve been able to help her because of the help Pastor Doug has been to me. Just knowing he’s in the office taking care of things gives me peace about directing more time and energy to my family.

And I’m not the only one who’s been blessed by Pastor Doug (or Jessica for that matter). I’ve seen, heard and read Pastor Doug’s communication with people and he’s compassionate and empathetic, but he’s also firm and honest. He and Jessica both show a tremendous love and concern for others. We’re all very, very blessed God has brought them here.

When People Let Us Down

Discouraged

This relates to my last post that ended with the encouragement for our service to be done for God:

  • 1 Corinthians 10:31 Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
  • Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.

This is the solution when we feel like people let us down. We weren’t doing it for them. We were doing it for God.

A husband says, “I work hard. I provide for my wife. I love her, but it seems like she doesn’t appreciate it.” Remember you’re doing it for the Lord.

A wife starts to feel like, “I support my husband. I love him. I submit to him. I honor him. But he doesn’t put forth as much effort with me.” Remember you’re doing it for the Lord.

If you’re a husband, you should love and cherish your wife not because she’s perfect or deserves it, but because you love God and that’s what He wants. If you’re a wife, you submit to and honor your husband, not because he’ll always make the right decisions, but because you love God and that’s what pleases Him.

At work you’re diligent and you do your best, but you’re always passed over for promotions. Maybe you see others slough off or act dishonestly, maybe it’s even from those in positions over you. Remember, you’re doing your best work for the Lord. You want to be a good witness. You hope others will see Christ through you.

You have a friend and you’ve spent hours listening to the person’s problems, always making yourself available without ever being asked how you’re doing, how you’re feeling, if you need prayer. You give and give and you’re finally going through something, but your friend doesn’t have time for you. Remember you were doing it for the Lord.

I saved this example for last because it can be the most painful; it’s almost impossible not to take it personally, blame yourself, but I’ve seen it happen to wonderful parents…

You’ve invested so much in your children. Not just hours like in a friendship, but years of putting your child ahead of yourself, training, educating, instructing, mentoring, praying every night for your child to love and fear God. Then the child gets older and rebels. My encouragement: remember you were doing it for the Lord, and He is El Roi, The God Who Sees, and your service has pleased Him. Raise your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, not because they’ll always make the best decisions, but because you love God.

If your service is for the Lord, you’re going to save yourself from two dangerous threats:

  1. Discouragement: if your service is for man instead of God, it will hurt when you don’t receive the recognition and gratitude you think you deserve. When you feel like your love and effort isn’t reciprocated, you’ll be frustrated or bitter or both.
  2. Pride: if your service is for man instead of God, you become susceptible to pride because it will matter that people felt like you did a great job. The compliments will become very meaningful. You’ll start to believe the praise.

If your service is for the Lord though, you’ll be spared from these threats and you’ll have the satisfaction knowing you’re pleasing the Lord and doing what He wants.

Let me encourage you with these two biblical examples…

In 2 Corinthians 11:22-29 Paul listed the physical, emotional and spiritual suffering he experienced as a servant of the Gospel and it sounds like more than one man could handle. He came to the end of his life and in one of the saddest verses in the New Testament he said, “Only Luke is with me” (2 Tim 4:11). That’s it. Only Luke. Hundreds, if not thousands of people Paul had served and helped in his service for the Gospel and he goes on to say, “No one stood with me, but all forsook me.” (2 Tim 4:16). And then listen to this: “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me” (2 Tim 4:17). When Paul felt like he didn’t have anyone else, he knew he had the Lord, and the Lord helped him through his most difficult times when everyone else had let him down.

Think about Jesus’ example: He spent years helping people to the greatest extent His physical body allowed. When He found Himself on trial, many of the same people He helped yelled, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” (Luke 23:21). When Jesus was arrested, with the exception of John, all the disciples fled and denied knowing Him. When Jesus looked down from the cross, John was the only one He saw along with His mother. We’re all going to experience people letting us down, but we have in Jesus a Savior who in the words of Hebrews 2:17 “had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest.” When we feel let down by others, we can go to Him and know He hears us and has experienced the same.

Lessons from Katie and the kids gone

When Katie and the kids left for our hometown of Fall River Mills, California this past week it was a lot harder than I thought. I’ll be flying out of Portland tonight (September 1st) to go see them and I can’t wait; this is the longest I’ve been away from them…which I know isn’t very long…which brings up what I’d like to discuss. Them being gone has made me think about a few things…

First, it’s helped me see that I’m pretty blessed by the availability I have to my family. When I say goodbye to them in the morning, I don’t say goodbye like most fathers do (for 9 hours or more); I say goodbye for an hour or two until they surprise me at the office or I walk home to see them. I can have most meals with them. If Katie’s having a rough time at home she’ll have me come home and help (i.e. spank one of the boys). Katie sends me coffee, smoothies, and love notes daily. Almost all the church’s activities involve my family. Whenever I go on visitations I bring my kids…sometimes even when I shouldn’t (like Linda Sprague’s retirement party: I knew something was wrong when I walked in and didn’t see any other kids, and it got worse when someone said, “I think your son just took a bite out of that cookie and put it back on the tray.”).

Second, I’ve been thinking about the reality of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:32, 33 that married people have to be concerned about their spouses, but unmarried people can really focus on the Lord. With Katie and the kids gone I was sort of like an unmarried guy again, able to get a ton of work done. It made me hope the unmarried people appreciate all they can do for the Lord during their seasons of singleness. When they get married, and especially when they have children, these other obligations will take priority.

Third, I’ve been thinking about how valuable my wife is to me as a pastor. I didn’t consider how much she helps me…until she’s not here to help me. I bounce ideas off Katie and talk to her about almost everything. Whenever I teach she always gives me feedback. She reads every one of my bulletin letters ahead of time (including this one, which involved a recommendation to remove two paragraphs that were “over the top.” I don’t know what that means, but I took them out anyway). I always go over my sermons with her (sometimes a couple times), but this week I wasn’t able to, and it really bothered me and this week we went over it late Saturday night. Proverbs 18:22 He who find a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord and that’s definitely been the case for me.

Supporting Those Serving

 

I really, REALLY appreciate the people who serve in the church. There’s VBS, choir, nursery, the Wednesday night children’s program, Friday School, retreats, camp, the 100-yr anniversary, conferences, workdays, church cleaning, and the list goes on. We want to remember the time and effort these people are investing and make a conscious effort to be a help and encouragement to them. So let’s discuss the right and wrong way to do that. Here’s what you don’t say…

  • Why are you doing it that way?
  • Let me tell you what we used to do…
  • You should do it this way instead…
  • Make sure you don’t have me…
  • Why did you choose this time?
  • Why did you choose this place?

This is what you should say instead…

  • Thank you so much for all you’re doing!
  • Put me where you want me!
  • Wow, you’re doing a lot of work. What can I do?
  • You sure are blessing a lot of people.
  • You’re doing a great job.

And here are a few other things you can do…

  • Be on time
  • Respond to e-mails
  • Sign up and/or pay on time
  • Do things without having to be reminded
  • Whatever you’re responsible for, do it well
  • Don’t complain
  • Be on time (I know I put that twice)

I had a really good mentor who told me (and this applies to marriage, parenting, etc) we should make a number of deposits for every withdrawal. There are some people in the church and when you see them coming you’re like, “Great. Time to listen to another complaint!” and there are other people you see coming and you’re like, “Wonderful. Some help.” When people have taken the time to serve sacrificially, let’s try to make sure we’re making more deposits than withdrawals. Let’s try to make sure we’re helping them with the loads they’re carrying.

Sunday’s sermon, Luke 3:10-14 Fruit Worthy of Repentance – Part II, can be found here.

Serving Where We're Gifted

Katie and I made it safely to CA and are enjoying our time with her family. Thanks for your prayers for a safe trip! Tonight we have a big potluck with a lot of friends from northern California, and tomorrow we’ll be heading to Lemoore, where we used to live before moving to Washington.

I wanted to share something with you related to this past week. Soon after I became a Christian I attended a young adults’ Bible study. The leader was transitioning out and it fell on me to teach the group each week, but I didn’t want to look controlling so I came up with the idea of encouraging a number of other young men to rotate with me. A few of the guys were reluctant, not really feeling called to teach, but upon my encouragement they agreed. Some of the studies didn’t go well, but one in particular really stands out in my mind. A very close Christian friend of mine, who didn’t really want to teach in the first place, led it. I could tell it was uncomfortable for him teaching and it was equally uncomfortable for all of us listening. I felt terrible for my friend because I could tell how awkward it was for him, and the entire time I remember thinking one thing: this is all my fault. I told myself I would be very careful in the future encouraging people to “step out.” On one hand, encouragement can be good, because sometimes all people need is a little encouragement. On the other hand, encouraging people to do things they’re not called to do can be a disaster…as I learned the hard way, unfortunately hurting a good friend of mine in the process.

This past week I contacted a number of men about being involved in communion. My fear (because of the situation I just discussed) was having someone agree to be in the rotation without really being comfortable with it. I’m glad a few men declined.

In the church, I think certain gifts can be viewed as being more spiritual than others, usually the visible gifts like teaching. This is very unfortunate, because it gives the impression people are more spiritual if they have certain gifts. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus actually repeatedly applauded the work that’s done for Him in secret, so in a sense, it’s probably the service that takes place behind the scene that’s more spiritual than the visible ministry.

"You are the church"

I think it’s common in churches (although it hasn’t really happened here) for people to approach the pastor and say, “You should do this…” or “The church should do that…” I see one problem with this, and it’s not that people want to see certain ministries; if it agrees with Scripture that’s actually a good thing. The problem is when the people expect the pastor or the church to do it instead of thinking of doing it themselves. I want to respond by saying, “You want the church to do it? You are the church, what do you think about doing it?”

Here are four recent examples of people taking initiative in our church to do things themselves.

  • Julie Reardon wanted to have an outreach on Halloween passing out bags with tracts and church cards.
  • Lori Anderson wanted to do the landscaping in front of the church.
  • Dave and Shirley Reed wanted to begin a ministry for the elderly in the church.
  • Allan and Kandie wanted to have a game night in the fellowship hall.

These people came to me and wanted to see these things take place, but they saw themselves as part of the church and they took it on themselves to do it. They wanted the leadership’s approval and then they were off and running. This is exactly how I love to see ministry in the church taking place and I think this is what the Bible prescribes. In Eph 4:10-13 Paul said, “Jesus gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” The idea is the members of the church should be equipped so they can go out and do the work of the ministry.

By the way, this is why our services have a stronger focus on equipping, teaching, etc as opposed to being exclusively evangelistic. We present the Gospel, but we’re trying to provide the saints with the tools they need to serve God.

The Body of Christ working together

There are a number of things about being a pastor that I find very, very satisfying. I’ve realized one of those things is watching people in the congregation work together.

Much of the ministry we accomplish as a body requires a number of people working together, and whenever that happens there are always different ideas, personalities, thoughts on how things should be done, etc. It requires patience of everyone involved as well as an equal level of commitment. (As a note: if I had to name the one problem that seems to arise the most when people are working together it’s when one person is perceived as not being as committed or not putting forth as much effort as the others. I think people are willing to overlook a number of things if they believe someone is working hard, but if people feel like someone’s being lazy there usually isn’t much grace shown)

Anyway, this all came to mind recently watching our Friday School come together. It’s involved a handful of women in the church putting working together and putting forth a lot of effort. This isn’t much different than many of the other ministries in our church. Whether it’s the Christmas Program, VBS, Ladies’ Conference, church workdays, etc for any of these to be a success there’s a tremendous amount of teamwork involved.

I think this is what Paul was talking about in the well-known passage in 1 Cor 12:12-26 (and a little less directly in Rom 12:3-8) where the body of Christ is compared with a physical body. Two points are obvious:

  1. Everything has to work together. Individual parts of the body can’t accomplish anything by themselves. Sometimes people are quick to point out, “Well what about Paul? Look at how much he accomplished by himself!” I’d completely disagree with that, because Paul worked with a number of people and performed very little of his ministry alone.
  2. I think it becomes clear how important it is for everyone to contribute. Every part of the body is essential. When the body is counting on a part that doesn’t contribute, everyone suffers as a result.

Be praying about how God wants to use you to benefit the Body of Christ!

July 22, 2012

From the Pastor,

I was really excited to hear about Paul playing his bagpipes for the Special Music today. We have so many talented musicians in the church who should all be praying about using their gifts. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” That means if God’s gifted you in some way (and according to Eph 4 each one of us has at least one gift from God), remember to use that gift “for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12). Normally when people are given a gift it’s for their own enjoyment and pleasure, but when God gives us gifts it’s for the enjoyment and pleasure of others.

On another note I’d like to talk about something that happens pretty often in church in hopes of preventing it from happening at WCC…

Sometimes people hear a pastor say something they don’t understand, or worse, sometimes they hear things that offend them. That’s not really the problem though: the problem is when people don’t say anything about it!

So let’s make sure that doesn’t happen here: if I ever say something that doesn’t make sense, please talk to me about it or shoot me an e-mail for clarification. Even more importantly if I ever say something that offends you, then please definitely be sure to let me know!

There have been times people came to me and said, “You said…” and when they said it back to me it wasn’t what I meant to say, but I could see why they thought I meant that and a brief discussion provided perfect clarification. Usually it benefits me too because it helps me evaluate how what I say is received and allows me to be clearer in the future.

There have been other times when people said I said certain things and I wanted to say, “Are you sure you weren’t at some other church, because I don’t remember saying anything like that?” Still I’m glad they came and talked to me, because it usually allowed for healthy discussion.

The point is, let’s just make sure we always open communication. I’m always only an e-mail or phone call away.