I’ve just finished reading a voluminous document our association has prepared on church planting. I’m on the “Church Start Committee” thus I get to read the document prior to committee approval. The document is very well written and very detailed.One section of the document is entitled, “Church Growth Consultations Process.” This process identifies eight characteristics of growing churches. One characteristic that caught my eye was “Gift-oriented Ministry.” As most of you are undoubtedly aware, there is a certain segment of people who say that we need to discover our spiritual gifts so we can serve God in the ways He has gifted us.This “gift-based ministry” approach is troubling to me. Why? The main reason is that once I discover my spiritual “gifts,” I will have a built-in Christian excuse not to participate in ministries that do not match my “giftedness.” A few examples might be as follows:
Not gifted in evangelism? Then you don’t have to do evangelism.
Not gifted in mercy? Then you don’t have to be merciful.
Not gifted in faith? Then you don’t have to be faithful.
Not gifted in compassion? Then you don’t have to be compassionate.
Not gifted in administration? Then you don’t have to do administration.
The list could go on and on.
If “gift-based ministry” is not right, then what would be a better approach? I highly recommend Henry Blackaby’s little 92 page book entitled, What’s So Spiritual About Your Gifts? Here’s an excerpt from a chapter entitled “Gifting Follows Assignment”:
“As the Spirit reveals the will of the Father, we can then allow Him to accomplish it through our lives by the Spirit’s enabling. Equipping always follows the assignment. The enabling power of the Holy Spirit follows the assignment, never precedes it. For if we aren’t willing to obey the Lord and do His will, there’s no need for Him to give us gifts. Spiritual gifts don’t belong to the believer; they’re an expression of the Holy Spirit doing the Father’s will.”
Did you catch the emphasis of Dr. Blackaby? The emphasis is on God, not man. God empowers, equips, and enables as He calls His people to serve. We don’t deteremine when we will obey God according to our alleged gifting. We obey God and He equips us for the task, whatever it may be.
I know this flies in the face of the thinking of many SBC pastors and churches, but, to me, this is just another example of the difference of being God-centered as opposed to being man-centered. “Gift-based Ministry” is man-centered in that it is based on my gifts and how I will serve. The God-centered approach is following Christ anywhere He leads and relying on Him to equip us for the task. For those who disagree, I would recommend you take the time to read Dr. Blackaby’s book.
If “gift-based” ministry is not the answer then what is the answer for assembling ministry teams? I believe “burden-based” ministry is more biblical. What do I mean by a “burden”? I define a God-given burden in this context as “a sense of personal disquiet, urgency, and obligation, given by God and only by God, to act on behalf of and for the benefit of others to resolve a problem, meet a need, or seize an opportunity.”
I believe that the Bible is correct when it says that Lord adds to the body. If the Lord adds people to our local body of Christ, then we need to pay attention to who He is adding and what their “burdens” are, not so much their spiritual “gifts.”
As far as I can tell, God never called anyone to serve Him based on their “spiritual gifts.” God didn’t go to Moses and say, “Moses, you have the gift of courage and public speaking, therefore, I am calling you to deliver Israel from Egypt.” God didn’t go to Abraham and say, “Abe, since you have the spiritual gift of administration I’m going to call you to be the father of a great people.” God didn’t go to Gideon and say “Gideon, because you have the gift of wisdom, I’m going to call you to overthrow the Amalekites.”
No, God didn’t do that. What God did was choose to call someone, place a great desire in their heart to serve Him in a certain way, and then He equipped them for the task at hand. The equipping was always after the call.
“Burden-based ministry” is how I assemble ministry teams in our church. You see, I assume that if someone has a desire to serve God in a specific area, that is God placing that desire in their heart (“Experiencing God,” by Henry Blackaby).
I ask folks this question: If you could only do ONE thing for Christ and nothing else, what would be your heart’s greatest desire? You would be amazed at the answers. Some will have a desire to minister to elderly people. They become our nursing home ministry. Some will have a desire to reach children for Christ. They become our Children’s ministry. Some will have a desire to feed the homeless, visit the sick, work with youth, etc., etc.
This is “burden-based ministry.” You assemble ministry teams based upon their heart’s desire (burden). Then you have teams of people who actually WANT to do what they are being asked to do. For those who may not feel they are “gifted” for the ministry they feel the most burden for, tell them to ask God to equip them. When you do that, pray for them as well and watch them grow in the Lord! It is an exciting thing to watch.
For those ministries that no one seems to have a burden for, you pray that God will bring people to your church in whom He has placed a desire for those ministries. When you pray like that, you see God working all around you.
I would heartily recommend you try this “burden-based” ministry approach instead of “gift-based.” Once you see God work through the burdens of people’s hearts, you will never go back to “gift-based” ministry.