1-1-13-Tools and Methods-2
Wisdom’s children live changes lives.
“God’s wisdom, however, is shown to be true by all who accept it.”
Would you be more effective if you lived differently? Why of Why not?
As part of our earthly childhood, and it may carry over even into our adult life; we find a hero modeling taking part in our Growing activities. These heroes may be cartoon characters or sport stars, or movie stars or others. This becomes an important influence on our lives.
Within the path of growth toward our heavenly goal, we will find that God will and has provided us with many heroes or guides. These heroes may come from contact in our earthly life, or from our religion, or from books. Christians find heroes provided in the Bible. The leading guides that Christians will find is Christ and the Holy Spirit. We have taken a more in-depth view of these relationships, in past lessons.
One of the members of God’s family that will be an important model for our life, is Mary – Christ’s Mother.
“Mary is in, the body. I much prefer St. Augustine’s saying ‘a member, a member of the church, an eminent member, but a member of the Church. Mary has a very considerable place in the mystery of Christ and the Church” (Father Yves Congar, O. P.-Roman Catholic Theologian).
As in any good school or training plan on earth that has been around for a period of time; it is often helpful to go back and look at some of the people who have went through with the program and have met with success. Well we have a training program that has been in action over 2 thousand years. We have many “stars” or “Heroes” to study, their techniques, and to provide “models” for us. We will be doing that through many of their written words that they have left us. But you should not limit your study of these individuals to just what this course or the Bible have provided you. An important part of your actions to complete this training plan should be to study the past successes and those who are succeeding today.
You will find in the Church you participate with many stars (e.g. Pope, evangelist, pastor, etc.) as well as guidance to information (e.g. libraries, periodicals, films, etc.).
“The Church must attract people on the basis of choice, not on the basis of social convention or political pressure. Those who belong to the Church will belong to it as a matter of conviction, not of habit. ‘Just where is it written that we must have the whole 100 percent? God must have all… Why should we not alter to our use, quite humbly and dispassionately, a saying of St. Augustine’s. Many whom God has, the Church, does not have; and many whom the Church has, God does not have” (Karl Rahner -Catholic Theologian).
“…the Church as always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel (n.4).
“The Church must exist within the world not alongside it. It must be a servant not a dictator. ‘Inspired by no earthly ambition, the Church seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ himself under the lead of the befriending Spirit. And Christ entered this world to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served” (n.3).
“The Church is ‘…to form the family of God’s children during the present history of the human race..” (pastoral constitution on the Church in the Modern World-Second Vatican Council-n.40).
F. Work with People
One of the good ways to improve many desirable characteristics, is to interrelate with people. And as you inter-relate with them, train yourself to utilize such qualities as: patience, tolerance, submissiveness. This will help you to be “a servant of God” to these people. And it will help you to prepare yourself for the proper attitudes with your Father in Heaven. We can show love in many ways: by avoiding prejudice and discrimination, by accepting people, by listening, helping, serving, and refusing to judge.
(2 John 1:4-6)
“How happy I was to find that some of your children live in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. And so I ask you, dear lady: let us all love one another. This is no new command I am writing you: it is the command which we have had from the beginning. This love I speak of means that we must live in obedience to God’s commands. The command, as you have all heard from the beginning, is that you must all live in love.”
Another good exercise is to utilize your mate, if married, or a good friend as a person who you develop many of the same characteristics as above. But you need to add such areas as sharing your faith and innermost thoughts. This prepares you for the same actions with your best friend “Christ.”
Certainly there are risks involved whenever you relate to others in any way, including sharing your faith. But as a child of God you are called to take those risks and you are assured in advance of forgiveness for any failures, other than not trying.
Love grows gradually and secretly, but it is realized in sudden leaps of recognition within the unbroken circle, love grows while keeping these leaps of recognition as a reference point. Love always grows with these two strands intertwined: the passion and the recognition, the attraction and the commitment, the spirit and love. The passion grows like a wild plant, often without our intention, sometimes without our knowledge, but sustained with our commitment. But passion requires some kind of recognition, some effort of acceptance and fidelity.
“By him we cry, ‘Abba Father,’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:15-16). There is nothing irrational about calling out to God as “Daddy;” we are all like small children before God.
The decision is similar to the one you had to make when you first learned to drive or were first trusted to use a sharp knife. A car misused can be lethal, and a knife carelessly wielded is dangerous. Nevertheless most people accept the accompanying risks and responsibilities in order to use these tools for the good they do. So it is with the tools of growth. You can learn how to use them responsibly and when you do, you will be more effective in living with others, which is what God called you to do.
You can trust yourself in matters of Christian living because Good trust you and is himself trustworthy. God tenderly invites you to trust that he is your loving parent. This means that God chooses to risk letting you be on your own with the power he gives you with his guidance, under his care, and assured of his love.
Pausing to listen to another’s needs and responding to them does not mean that you are hiding your light under a bushel. You need to be sensitive in your living and relating. Beware of the heavy-handed, bull-in-a-china-shop approach in which you are so insensitive to others that you turn them off to Christianity. Be sensitive to the need for appropriate timing; listen. If you do not, you might well experience rejection, because you are trying to fulfill your own needs, not the needs of others. Living out your faith can be done in a number of ways; it does not always have to be couched in prayer, Bible reading, or specific talk about God. A “cup of cold water” at the right time and place can be the mark that sets you apart as a Christian, as Jesus observes in Mark 9:41. Furthermore, your vocation can be Christian in and of itself. Elton Trublood said, “Secular work well done is ‘holy enterprise’!”
The presence and wisdom (plan) of God expresses itself through you as you relate to and care for others. It is certainly your hands that do the work but without God’s wisdom (plan) and guidance in and with you, you would be very much alone and ineffective. With it, you possess the most powerful resources available. God represented in you as you care for others and in those for whom you care. He manifests his comforting presence in this way.
The twenty-eight chapter of Deuteronomy is a powerful statement of the basic order of the universe. It does not claim that the individual who observes the laws of God will always receive prosperity, but it does state that there are certain laws according to which the world is run and that these are basic required rules. Any people group which runs contrary to these rules comes to grief, and conversely the individuals that observes them is assured of a future relationship with God. Justice charity/love and integrity – reap their own reward because that is the way the world is meant to be run. Behind the chances and changes of life there is a pattern which the Creator has laid down for the smooth running of the world he has made. We have a choice either to shape our relationship with others in accordance with these guidelines or we should not expect a rewarding future after we pass over to our permanent home.
Any time you act out of God’s love, whatever form your action takes, you are being Christian. The exploding of God’s love into every inch of your life, God makes all of life sacred.
Remember whose power you bring into every situation – the power of God the Father, his loving Son, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Remember – what resource you bring to each situation – the Bible, prayer, church, forgiveness, servanthood, hope, and others.
You will feel a sense of partnership and security, knowing that God is fully present in your living and relating. You will have purpose and direction because you will know who provides motivation, where you come from, and where you are going.
“Christians are like the several flowers in a garden that have each of them the dew of Heaven, which being shaken with the wind they let fall at each others roots, where by they are jointly nourished, and become nourishers of each other.” (John Bunyan).
The kingdom of heaven is more valuable than anything else we can have, and a person must be willing to give up everything to obtain it.
“The Kingdom of heave is like this. A man happens to find a treasure hidden in a field. He covers it up again, and is so happy that he goes and sells everything he has, and then goes back and buys that field.”
How valuable is the kingdom to you and why?
The most important step you must take at this moment, is to start orientating your mind to a new basic purpose.
“Also, the Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man is looking for fine pearls, and when he finds one that is unusually fine, he goes and sells everything he has, and buys that pearl.”
What relation does, your faith have to Jesus’ ability to be at work?
You are no longer working toward the purpose of satisfying your personal needs or wants. This has to become third in line of your priorities. Both the old and new teaching give practical guidelines for faith and for living in the world.
So he replied, “This means, then, that every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of heaven is like a homeowner who takes new and old things out of his storage room.”
Society’s desire for money and what it can buy far outweighs their commitment to God and spiritual matters.
“No one can be a slave of two masters, he will hate one and love the other, he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
“This is what I tell you: do not be worried about the food and drink you need in order to stay alive, or about clothes for your body. After all, isn’t the body worth more than clothes? Look at the birds: they do not plant seeds, gather a harvest and but it in barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren’t you worth much more than birds? Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it?
“And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers. It is God who clothes the wild grass – grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, burned up in the oven. Won’t he be all the more sure to clothe you? What little faith you have!
“So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ (These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you seek all these things. Instead, be concerned about everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.”
This past week, has your “bank” been on earth or in heaven?
In order to join God in Heaven, the most important thing in your life, mind, emotions and whole being must become your Love of your Father in Heaven and your desire to join him there. The way we are deep down (where others can’t see) matters much to God.
“For from his heart come the evil ideas which lead him to kill, commit adultery, and do other immoral things; to rob, lie, and slander others.”
What area in your life needs changing in order to get your heart and mouth more in line with God’s plan?
We must root out these evil ideas and replace them with holy ideas. This means that you must work as hard as you can to develop this Love and desire. It means that you must change your basic desires, needs, thoughts, and actions to reflect this highest priority. It means that you must adjust your life from Now and Me; to the Future and Him along with his Family.
(1 Clement 4:3)
“Wherefore let us lay aside all vain and empty cares; and let us come up to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling.”
If we change our orientation to joining God in Heaven; we will want to do every thing that will help us get there, and stop doing things that will hinder us. Failing to follow the training rules God has provided us, will hinder us. Therefore we must follow His training rules just as a athlete or a person on a diet would follow rules to gain their objectives. Why are their training rules for an athlete or dietary rules for a person on a diet. These rules are their to encourage acts on the persons part that will help them and discourage acts that will hurt them.
May I seek to live this day
leaning on Your mighty strength
meeting others in the path
waiting for Your will’s unfolding
facing what tomorrow brings
(Luke 14:25-35) Provides us a parable which illustrates that the service of God is costly and demands sacrifice. Will the guests who were invited had good reasons for staying away, but none of them was prepared to put the obedience of God before his own private concerns. It is this lesson which our Lord reinforces on the cost of being a Child of God and the necessity for self-renunciation.
We have no doubt that God is able both to lead and to feed, as we ask. But we remain anxious, because we are not certain if God can provide guidance to us.
“And when we don’t trust his guidance; “He will exercise His child – in the ways of adult godliness, as He exercised Job, and some of the psalmists, and the addresses of the epistle to the Hebrews, by exposing them to strong attacks from the world, the flesh, and the devil, so that their powers of resistance might grow greater, and their character as men of God become stronger. As we said above, all the children of God undergo this treatment – it is part of the chastening of the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:15, echoing Job 5:17; Proverbs 3:11), to which he subjects every son whom He loves” (Knowing God – J. L. Packer).
God’s plan is not and never was, created to keep “man’s world” happy. Not even to His Children did he promiss a trouble-free life.
What is He after then?
What is His goal?
What does He aim at?
When He made man, His purpose was that man should choose to and prepare for providing love to Him in His home in Heaven as His Children.
He wants us to use his world as our school/training program. And we should use it according to His will, and so enjoying it and Him. He would like all His children to select His love, his family, and to provide honor to Him. He will them bring them to a state in which they please Him entirely and praise Him adequately, a state in which He is all to them, and He and they rejoice continually in the knowledge of each others love.
We should not, therefore, be too surprised when unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things happen to us now. What do they mean? Simply that God in His plan means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and He is training us accordingly.
Have you ever had an experience when you completely trusted God to help you with a specific problem or event? What happened?
(Knowing God-J. L. Packer)
“Perhaps He means to strengthen us in patience, compassion, humility, or meekness; by giving us some extra practice in exercising these areas under specially difficult conditions. Perhaps He has new lessons in self-denial and self-distrust to teach us. Perhaps He wishes to break us of complacency or unreality, or undetected forms of pride and conceit. Perhaps His purpose is simply to draw us closer to Himself in conscious communion with Him.
“But how are we to meet these baffling and trying situations if we cannot for the moment see God’s purpose in them? First by taking them as from God, and asking ourselves what reactions to them, and in them, the will of God requires of us; second, by seeking God’s love and ultimate purpose in them.”
God has communicated it to us within His Bible. James tells us to turn our hardships into times of learning. Tough times can teach us perseverance. The point is not to pretend to be happy when we face pain, but to have a positive outlook.
“My brothers, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
I hope you noted some of the reasons for trials: endurance, perfection, and completion.
Let Go and Let God
Helen Steiner Rice
When you’re troubled and worried, and sick at heart
And your plans are upset and your world falls apart,
Remember God’s ready and waiting to share
The burden you find much too heavy to bear –
So with faith, “LET GO” and “LET GOD” lead the way
Into a brighter and less troubled day.
We all fail despite our best attempts. In Paul’s words, “All… fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Jesus Christ is the only person who never failed when he faced life’s difficulties, some more, others less. We must rely on God for our effectiveness rather than simply on our own energy, effort, or talent.
(2 Cor. 12:9)
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
When we understand who Jesus is we are compelled to believe what he said. His words were the very words of God. You whole spiritual life depends on this point.
“He who comes from above is greater than all. he who is from the earth belong to the earth and speaks about earthly matters, but he who comes from heaven is above all. He tells what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his message. But who ever accepts his message confirms by this that God is truthful.”
How will you express the role and place of Jesus in your life?
Do not try to control the uncontrollable. Coontrol what you can; your attitude. Remember this is all to train you to change that attitude in order to turn all of this over to him and release yourself so you can go to heaven, and if you do; he promised not to save you from the challenge, but provide perfect peace. God knows what is best for us. He is a better judge of what we want than even we are! We must trust him completely in every choice we make. He will make your paths straight by both guiding and protecting you.
(Proverbs 3:5-8)”Trust in the Lord with all your heart: Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do and he will show you the right way. Never let yourself think that you are wiser than you are; simply obey the Lord and refuse to do wrong. If you do, it will be like good medicine, healing your wounds and easing your pains.”
Where have you experienced the “Leading of the Lord?”
“He must become more important while I become less important.”
What proof can you put forward for your hope of eternal life?
We can always remember that we have someone very powerful to provide us the guidance we need.
“The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is at once the most central and the most neglected doctrine of the Christian faith. It is the most central in the sense that everything in the Gospels is energized and motivated by and through its agency. The new Testament, as one commentator puts it, is preeminently the book of the Holy Spirit (R. Birch Hoyle, ERE, Vol. xi, p791b). It may be put even more dramatically; whereas we maybe permitted to sin against Jesus Christ, the sin against the Holy Ghost is unforgiveable….”
“…It is significant that in the Synoptics Jesus claims the anointing of the Holy Spirit as commissioning His work… Similarly in the Pauline literature the place of the Holy Spirit is central… It is the Spirit which comes to man and delivers him from sin, death, and the law and opens the way to freedom and all the fruits of the Spirit – faith, righteousness, joy, peace. The work of Christ makes possible the renewal of the spirit within us. The Spirit becomes the mode where by the Christ becomes the indwelling and dynamic principle of Productive power within us” (A Handbook of Christian Theology – Stanley Romaine Hopper pg 170-172).
Hoppe is God’s gift to us. It is also a distinctively Christian resource for you to use in living. Hope is one of the many qualities of a relationship put right with God through Christ Jesus. It is therefore, the birth right of every Christian.
(Hebrews 6:11, 12)
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make you sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”
Hope keeps the Christian from becoming lazy or feeling bored. Like an athlete, train hard and run well, remembering the reward that lies ahead.
Hope can be a powerful force in people’s lives. Especially in this age, an age characterized as hopeless” and “full of despair,” the hope you have to share with the world is a tragically neglected aspect of Christianity. Lets use this course to remind ourselves of our distinctive hope, and seek ways we can effectively engender hope in our life and them lives of those we care for and touch.
Share an experience you had in which Hope played or could have played and important part.?
J. Heightened Consciousness of God’s Presence.
God’s presence helps us handle change
:Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things. The tabernacle was to be set up before they arrived.”
Those who travel, move, of face new challenges know what it is to be uprooted. Life is full of changes, and few things remain stable. The Israelites were constantly moving through the desert. They were able to handle change only because God’s presence in the tabernacle was always with them. The portable tabernacles signified God and his people moving together. For us, stability does not mean lack of change, but moving with God in every circumstance.
God desires fellowship with human beings. That’s a remarkable thought! Some how he seems so complete and self-sufficient that it’s incredible He would desire anything at all. But God desires an intimate relationship with each of us.
Pride and God’s presence are incompatible.
“He says to himself, “God has forgotten: he covers his face and never sees.”.
There is an incompatibility between blind arrogance and the presence of God in our hearts. The proud person depends on himself rather than on God. This causes God’s guiding influences to leave his life. When God’s presence is welcome, there is no room for pride because he makes us aware of our true selves.
Brother Lawrence a 17th-century monk, worked in the kitchen of a monastery in southern France. In the midst of the simplest, most routine tasks he learned to “practice the presence of Good..”
Desire to be in God’s presence
“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I May dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”
David may have used the word temple to mean “the presence of the Lord.” His greatest desire was to live in God’s presence each day of his life. Sadly, this is not the greatest desire of many who claim to be believers. But those who desire to live in God’s presence each day will be able to enjoy that relationship forever.
God is present in your life, whether you take note of him or not, but a heightened consciousness of God’s presence can cultivate in you, His child, and attitude of trust in God.
God’s presence in problems
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;”
God delivers those who persevere in their faith.
You may have heard it said that a person does not really know who his friends are until the bottom drops out. I think there is great truth to that. All of us have experienced the pain of discovering that people we though would be faithful – no matter what – were simply “fair-weather friends.” You know, friends whose loyalty hinges upon the climate or circumstances. As long as the relationship is enjoyable, they are with you all the way. But when it begins to demand some sacrifice on their part, they are hard to find. The ultimate measure of friends is not where they stand in times of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in times of challenge and controversy. That being the case, apart from adversity of some kind, we would never know who our faithful friends really are.
In the same way, we will never know in a personal way the faithfulness of Christ apart from adversity. As a result, our faith in Him would never increase. It would remain static. One of the primary reasons God allows us to face adversity is so that He can demonstrate His faithfulness and in turn increase our faith. If you are a believer, you have made a decision to trust Christ with your eternal destiny. But you will not experience His faithfulness in that particular area until you die. God wants more from you and for you than simple intellectual acknowledgement of His faithfulness. It is will that you experience it now.
If our lives are free from pain, turmoil, and sorrow, our knowledge of God will remain purely academic. Our relationship with Him could be compared with that of a great-great-grandfather about whom we have heard stories, yet never met personally. We would have great admiration, but no intimacy, no fellowship. There would always be a sense of distance and mystery.
That is not the kind of relationship God wants with His children. Through the death of Christ, God has opened the way for us to have direct access to Him. he went to great lengths to clear the way so that nothing stands between Him and His children. There is potential now for intimacy between us and our Creator….
God is in the process of engineering circumstances through which He can reveal Himself to each of us. And both history as well as our personal testimonies bear witness to the fact that it is in times of adversity that we come to a greater realization of God’s incredible faithfulness to us.
(From How to Handle Adversity by Charles Stanley)
Can you remember a time when you were in desperate circumstances? What was the cry of your heart? When you have the opportunity, do as David did – praise God. Tell someone else what you learned. Memorize verses 17-22.
We often wish we could escape troubles-the pain of grief, loss, sorrow, and failure; or even the small daily frustrations that constantly wear us down. God promises to be “close to the brokenhearted,” to be our source of power, courage, and wisdom, helping us through our problems. When trouble strikes, don’t get frustrated with God. Instead, admit that you need God’s help and thank him for being by your side.
Someone asked Karl Barth to sum up the message of his books on Christian theology. He unhesitatingly replied; Jesus loves me – this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Barths reply goes to the heart of the matter : Love of Children by a Father and the Love due to the Father by the children. But if we love one another and love God, as God loves us, we will know God and become one with; “the Love that moves the sun and the other stars.” the infinite self-renewing ultimate source and resource.
God never leaves us
“I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.”
To whom can the poor turn when they are persecuted? They lack the money to get professional help; they bay be unable to defend themselves. But there is always someone on their side-the Lord will stand by them and ultimately bring about justice. This should be a comfort for us all. No matter what our situation may be, the Lord is with us. But this truth should also call us to responsibility. As God’s People, we are required to defend the rights of the powerless.
“The way to the love of God is foolishness to the world, but wisdom to god’s children. When the world sees such love-fire in God’s children, it says they are foolish; but to the children of God, this is the greatest treasure, for no life can express, nor can mouth describe, the fire of the inflaming love of God that is whiter than the sun, sweeter than any honey, more powerful than any food or drink, and lovelier than all the joys of this world. he who reaches this is richer than any king on earth, nobler than any emperor can be, and stronger than all might” (Jacob Boehme, The Way to Christ).
God is the Father-and we are His children, made in His image. Creativity is our heritage! Yet often we face both our opportunities and our problems with a dogged kind of tunnel vision. Creativity enables us to see things in new ways, to produce original solutions, to break out of the “but we’ve always done it this way” rut. It lets us mend relationships. It gives us the courage to try new things. It brings us closer to the image of our own Creator. Step off the predictable path.
Is enthusiasm a quality you had packed away, to take out only for a special occasion? Do children of earth, indeed, have the corner on this vital tool.
“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
Just as when a man and woman fall in love so also new believers rejoice at their newfound faith. But when we loose sight of the importance of our faith, we begin to lose the thrill of our being God’s children. In the first steps of your Christian life, you may have had enthusiasm? Both are necessary if we are to keep love for God intense and untarnished. Do you love God with the same fervor as when you were a new Christian?
The word enthusiasm comes from two Greek words meaning “in God.” The source of eagerness and excitement with life is not immaturity; it is the realization that God is a work in this world!
“Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something to do which must be done, whether you like it or not. Being forced to work, and forced to do your best will breed in you temperance, self control, diligence, strength of will, contentment, and a hundred other virtues which the idle never know.”
Try to be more enthusiastic. Trade your calculated response for a few surprises. Perform each activity “in God.” Trade the ‘blah work” for “I’m working ‘in God’.” Tell a few jokes, smile a big smile, take a walk by some flowers. Live Life.
Possibility Thinker’s Creed
When faced with a mountain,
I will not Quit!
I will keep on striving
until I climb over,
find a pass through,
or simply stay and turn
the mountain into a gold mine-
with God’s help!
The Bible speaks about the followers of Christ receiving special abilities, known as spiritual gifts, to enable them to serve Him more effectively. During the past five years, millions of the nation’s born again adults have changed their views on the gifts. According to two new surveys released by the Barna Research Group, of Ventura, California, a growing number of adult Christians proclaim that God has not given them any spiritual gifts. Meanwhile, a companion survey conducted among the pastors of Protestant churches shows that there has been a substantial shift in the perception of which gifts God has granted them.
Changes Among Adults
Among all adults, seven out of ten (72%) said they had heard of spiritual gifts, a proportion that has remained unchanged since 1995. Among born again adults, the awareness level is somewhat higher: 85% have heard of spiritual gifts, similar to the figure recorded five years ago.
The big change relates to people’s perceptions of what gifts God has given to them. Among born again adults, the percentage that say they have heard of spiritual gifts but do not believe God has given them one jumped from 4% in 1995 to 21% in 2000. The number who say they are not sure if they have a gift, or what it might be, has declined slightly, from 28% five years ago to 20% today.
The specific gifts that people claim God has granted to them has changed relatively little. The most commonly identified gifts among believers were teaching (listed by 9%), gifts and service (9%), faith (6%), discernment (5%), and exhortation and encouragement (5%). Three percent listed leadership as their gift.
One of the startling outcomes, however, was the number and range of gifts listed by born again adults that are not among the spiritual gifts listed in the Bible. Such “gifts” included a sense of humor, listening, patience, a good personality, friendliness, poetry, going to church, being likeable, drawing, survival, observation, and being a good person. In total, several dozen non-gifts were listed. Overall, the survey showed that among born again adults only 30% listed gifts found in the Bible; 8% listed a combination of biblical gifts and non-gifts; 16% listed only attributes that are not found in the Bible; and nearly half (46%) were either unaware of gifts, claimed they did not have one, or did not know the identity of their gift. Overall, about half of all believers (46%) mentioned at least one gift mentioned in the Bible, while about one out of four born again adults (24%) described a gift that is not among those listed in the Bible.
Among the interesting facets of the research was that just 1% of believers claim to have the gift of evangelism (down from 4% five years ago). The research indicated that 6% of the believers interviewed – or 16% of those who listed a gift described in the Bible – had one of the leadership-oriented gifts (i.e., leadership, pastoring, shepherding, apostleship, or administration).
Pastors Have Different Gifts
Compared to a similar survey conducted among Senior Pastors of Protestant churches in 1993, there has been a significant change in how pastors view their spiritual gifts. The biggest shifts have been increases from 52% to 63% in those who claim the gift of teaching; a doubling in the proportion who claim the gift of pastoring or shepherding (from 12% to 28%); a three-fold increase in the gift of prophecy (up from 4% to 13%); discernment, which rose from less than one-half of one percent to 6%; and a doubling of those who claim the gift of leadership (from 6% to 11%). The only gift that experienced a statistically significant decline was mercy (dropping from 8% in 1993 to 2% currently).
One change that occurred in the past seven years among pastors was that a much larger proportion of pastors identified more than one spiritual gifts that they possess. However, like the laity whom they lead, many pastors listed gifts that are not included in the Bible. Some of those “gifts” were having a lot of friends, peace, flexibility, nurture, patience, relationships, empathy, dedication, a sense of humor, ministry, honesty and hard work. Overall, three-quarters of all Protestant pastors (74%) only listed gifts described in the Bible; 19% listed a combination of biblical gifts and non-gifts; and 4% claimed gifts that are not biblical. The remaining 4% said they either have no gifts or were not sure what those gifts are.
The pastors most likely to identify gifts that are not biblical included those who lead mainline churches (double the percentage among other pastors), pastors who serve in rural churches, and those who pastor churches of fewer than 100 regular attenders.
Room for Growth
According to George Barna, who directed the research, the results point out that there is ample room for growth in people’s knowledge – and application – of spiritual gifts. “Imagine what might happen if nearly half of all believers had a clear and firm conviction that God has given them a supernatural ability to serve Him in a specific manner. If more believers understood the nature and potential of that special empowerment, the global impact of the Christian body would be multiplied substantially. One of the functions of the local church is to help believers understand who they are in Christ, and how to live the Christian life more fully. Focusing on spiritual gifts – what they are, who has them, how to discover one’s giftedness, and how to use gifts most appropriately – could ignite a movement of service and influence unlike anything we have experienced during our lifetime.”
The researcher also pointed out that the 425% increase in the percentage of believers who have heard of gifts but claim they do not have one is cause for alarm. “The perception that God has prepared others for special service to His kingdom but has left them out of the process is not just inaccurate, but harmful to the Church. Some believers feel an acute sense of disappointment that they have been spiritually discriminated against, while others use the perception as an excuse to let the gifted believers serve. Educating those ignorant of God’s promise to provide them with special endowments for service could transform the self-perceptions and the personal ministry of millions of believers.”
Barna noted that this emphasis on gifts could enhance the ability of churches to make the most of the opportunities for service that President Bush’s is offering to churches. “The fact that the President is asking faith-based organizations, including churches, to step up to the plate and deliver compassionate outreach challenges churches to identify their resources more clearly and put them to use more effectively. Recognizing people’s giftedness and matching them with the expanding opportunities being made available would further expose non-believers to the true heart of Christ’s followers and the significance of the Church.”
The increase in the number of pastors who view themselves as a leader is a result of two changes in the ministry environment in the past decade. “Since the early Nineties, pastors have heard and read much about the importance of leadership, and have been told at conference after conference that as pastors they are leaders,” explained Barna. “While most Senior Pastors do not necessarily perceive themselves to have the leadership gift, per se, and other research we have completed recently suggests that pastors prefer other ministry functions to that of leadership, the emphasis on this topic has motivated many pastors to view themselves as leaders.” Barna indicated that another reason for the increase is that during the past decade several thousand clergy under the age of 40 have been elevated to the Senior Pastor post, and a higher proportion of those younger pastors claim the gift of leadership than was the case among those who have left the pastorate.
When Duncan Cambell, the great revivalist of the Hebridies in Scotland, was visiting Saskatoon, Canada, in 1969, he shared the vision God had given him. He described flames spreading across western Canada. He did not know when this would occur, but the imagery of a great fire sweeping across the Canadian prairies was graphically vivid. Within five years a revival swept across western Canada, and when it came. people recognized that the image God had given Campbell was beginning to be fulfilled.
Dear God, help me that I might learn to rest in your peace. Life can be so difficult, and I know I cannot handle everything on my own. Be with me, guiding me, and helping me to follow your commandments always. Amen.