A Leader’s Gifting

The Scriptures tell us that God gifts and equips each member of the body of Christ uniquely in order to contribute to maturity of the body and the mission of the Church. But how those gifts play out when coupled with our unique experiences, talents, interests and personality can radically shape not only where we lead but also how we lead.

Someone with the gift of teaching might speak, or they may find themselves impacting lives through the written word. A leader with the gift of administration might gravitate to leading teams or they may shine brighter by working through spreadsheets. Just as no two people are the same, no two leaders lead the same. As such, there may be no more important task for a leader than to understand his or her gifting in light of God’s invitation to lead.

3 Things to Consider as You Contemplate Your Gifting

Understanding how God has wired you to serve and lead in His church and in the workplace takes time, prayer, counsel and practice. But discovering your giftedness is only half of the journey. Learning how and where to exercise our gifts is equally a process – and one that demands patience and humility. To that end, here are a few principles to consider as you reflect on leveraging your giftedness in the Kingdom.

1. When It Comes to Your Giftedness, Be Honest with Yourself and Others.

When we try to step into an area in which we are not gifted we not only deprive the person in need of the care they deserve but we equally deprive a fellow member of the body who does have that gift of the joy of using it for the Kingdom. Too many Christians have been disillusioned and disappointed by well-intentioned leaders in the church who should have been honest and referred them to someone else who could have helped them more thoroughly with the problem they were facing. Be humble enough to point people to someone better than you!

2. Don’t Let the Need Define the Call.

There are infinitely more needs in the church than we can meet. Not only that, just because a need is brought to us does not mean that the need must be met by us. The example of Jethro and Moses (as well as the example of Jesus in Mark 1:37-38) reminds us that we must steward our gifts well and not allow the constant demands of ministry to distract us from accomplishing our individual call.

For me personally, I’m a shepherd – not a counselor. I love people immensely, but I lack the giftedness to help someone to work through their hurts and hangups. Knowing that changes how I operate: I can come alongside of someone to challenge and encourage them, but I cannot bear their burdens in that particular way. To do so would not only cause more harm than help, it would also steal someone else’s unique contribution to the body. I must not only know my place, I must stay in my own lane.

3. Steer Clear of Gift Envy and Gift Projection.

Pastor and author Larry Osborne warns of the twin pitfalls that trap many Christians when it comes to the spiritual gifts: in his words we must avoid the twin dangers of gift envy and gift projection.

Gift Envy is when we fall prey to the notion that another gift is greater than our own. Gift envy leads people to spend much of their time trying to be like someone they admire and respect instead of living into who God made them to be. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

Gift Projection is when we project a particular spiritual gift onto others, expecting them to be as passionate about a particular thing as we are (such as evangelism or serving the poor). When we judge others by the standard of our giftedness we can quickly become frustrated with the body of Christ, reflecting an attitude of pride instead of service.

So how has God wired you?  If this is a new concept to you or if you’ve never explored the spiritual gifts consider taking the free assessment at Spiritual Gifts Test. As a follow up, seek out someone that you know and trust who has had the opportunity to observe your leadership (think: work, church, small group, etc.) and ask them the following questions:

  • “What are my leadership strengths?”
  • “What seems to come naturally to me that I may not realize is a strength or gift?”

So what is your unique gifting and where are you putting it to use?

“What God made you to be determines what He made you to do.

~ Rick Warren

A Leader’s Devotion

Spiritual leadership is defined far more by character than it is competency. You cannot point people to God and lead people on mission for God without first being humbly submitted to God. It may work for a while, but such leadership always sours. When a leader gets out of step with God it always impacts his or her ministry. Simply put, there can be no ministry before God without a full-hearted devotion to God.

When it comes to leading in the church, our public leadership must be rooted in a private devotion to God. The challenge, however, is taking the time to tend to your own soul first before meeting the needs of those you lead.

To that end, consider these 3 things that I think about in relation to my own devotion as you consider yours:

1. YOU CAN’T POUR OUT OF AN EMPTY CUP. 

Spiritual leadership is, by definition, spiritual. Without a regular communing with God you will not possess the relationship with God that you need to adequately point others to Him. In simplest terms, you can’t teach what you do not know. Like an oxygen mask on an airplane, we must address our own connection to God first if we are to have anything to offer anyone else.  Ask yourself:

  • How regular are your times with God?  Are you rushing them?
  • How intimate is your prayer life?  Are you simply checking off boxes or is your conversation with God personal? Are you wrestling with Him and getting honest with Him?

2. RETREAT TO DEVELOP CHARACTER, NOT JUST COMPETENCY.

Competency cannot make up for a lack of character. If people can’t trust who you are they won’t care what you do. Moses had the pedigree to lead because of his upbringing in Egypt, but he lacked the character to lead until God refined his heart in the wilderness. Unfortunately, as leaders in ministry the temptation is to invest more time and resources developing our skills than our souls. I’ve learned that I must go beyond simply spending time in God’s Word to also retreating and reflecting on where God has me and what He’s trying to teach me. Like Moses, this requires me getting away and being still enough before God to hear what He’s trying to teach me through my own wilderness moments.  Ask yourself:

  • What is your heart wrapped around right now? A particular issue? If so, why that issue? A person? If so, why that person?
  • What difficulty are you facing right now that God may be wanting to use to sand off the rough edges in your life?  What attitudes have emerged that need to be addressed or confessed?

3. WHAT YOU PUT IN DETERMINES WHAT YOU GET OUT.

Top athletes are vigilant about what goes into their bodies because they understand the impact their diet has on their performance. In the same way, our spiritual leadership can either be maximized or compromised by what we allow into our lives. What we read, what we watch or what we invite into our lives will impact our soul either for good or for ill. As such, we best heed the advice of Proverbs 4:23 which says, “Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”  Ask yourself:

  • Is there anything I am watching on TV that is dulling my spiritual senses?  (If you’d be embarrassed to watch it with fellow small group or staff members then maybe it shouldn’t be your guilty pleasure.)
  • Is there anything I am ‘ingesting’ that God is giving me a gut-check over?  Why have I ignored that conviction?

As leaders in the church there can be no compromising when it comes to our hearts before God. The stakes are too high and the mission too important. What are you doing to keep your heart fully devoted to Him and fully focused on His mission?

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.
~ 2 Chronicles 16:9a ~