Seven steps to empowering people in their giftedness

Did you ever watch Scooby-Doo? I did. I still remember the rerun of the 1972 episode with Jonathan Winters (1925-2013). Did you see that one? Jonathan Winters played himself as a guest on the cartoon show as well as Maude Frickert. Maude’s late husband had invented radioactive chicken feed that would increase the size of chickens to giant proportions. Maude hoped that they could improve their production of fried chicken to take over the market. Unfortunately, Mr. Frickert hid the secret recipe before he died and didn’t tell his wife where it was. Shady characters were snooping around the farm, and Maude needed help. The gang joins Jonathan Winters to save the day in this episode of Scooby-Doo.

Are you hungry for radioactive fried chicken? Yummy. Sounds like a show from the ’70s, doesn’t it? The reason it came to mind was because of Jonathan Winters played more than one role. Not only was he Maude’s voice, but he also pretended to be the National Guard. As gifted as he was, he couldn’t save the day on his own. Church leaders are not that different. Leaders often play multiple roles. We are teachers, event planners, managers, repairman, cooks, designers, tech gurus, janitors, and office administrators. We can’t do it all alone.

Have you heard to the 80/20 rule? 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work. Maybe you feel like 1 percent of the people do 99 percent of the work, and you are the 1 percent. We don’t have to function that way. God’s Word encourages us to think of the church in broader terms. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, 

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Corinthians 12:14-19)

Paul was dealing with a church that didn’t value every member of the Body. Paul’s concern relates to us.

We need to appreciate each other. We are a community, a spiritual Body. We are better together.

In small groups, it is good to have lots of people serving. We can use someone to record prayer requests and communicate them. It is good to have someone help with fun activities, and someone to remember birthdays and anniversaries. Someone must host. Someone should facilitate discussion; perhaps you like to have someone do worship, or provide food. We need help. We are better together.

For church services, we have worship leaders, ushers, greeters, sound techs, projectionist, bulletin work, cleaning, maintenance, and loads of people helping with children. Every person has a role. Can we get by with less? Sure. However, what we must do requires more than us. We need help. We need teachers, welcomers, encouragers, givers, servants, and prayer warriors. Even the one who is bound to a wheelchair has a place in the Body of Christ. She can pray. She can intercede. She can petition. She can praise. She can thank God. We need prayer warriors. Everyone is important. We are a faith community.

We can’t do this alone. We can’t just hire another person. The church is not a building, concert, rally, or social club. God tells us we are the Body of Christ on earth. He has arranged the members. He gives people different gifts, abilities, interests, experiences, and personalities. There are many parts, yet one body. No other group is like this one.

Imagine going through life without an arm, leg, or ear? Some of you don’t have to imagine; you know what that is like. God tells us we need each other. He has uniquely arranged the members of the local church to represent Himself to the watching world. Let us not function like we are all the same, or there is only one important role. It is our job as leaders to encourage, equip, and help people discover and exercise their diverse Spirit-empowered gifts for the betterment of the whole. We are better together.

How? How do we help people do this? An easy answer might be to find a spiritual gifts assessment, administer it, and tell people to find a place to serve. Put the burden on them. Wash our hands of responsibility. Check it off the list. Is that what God wants? How do we effectively encourage, equip, and help people find their place? Our answer should include some assessment, but addressing this issue is more than a survey.

Here are seven steps to effectively encourage, equip, and help people discover and exercise their diverse Spirit-empowered gifts. 

  1. Pray about how people can function as the Body of Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  2. Teach on the nature of the Body of Christ.
  3. Plan. Have a plan to help people find their fit in the Body.
  4. Communicate this plan to the Body. Where will you communicate that plan, at your welcome center, in membership class, or on your website?
  5. Know. Get to know each member of the Body of Christ. You have to know your sheep to help your sheep. What is happening during the week? What are they reading? How is work? What is their marriage like? How are their kids doing? Are they introverts or extroverts? Do they seem to like to teach or not? Perhaps you have people take a class or an assessment tool to help them identify their gifting.
  6. Inform. Inform the community of opportunities for people to serve in various ways. People can’t read your mind. If you need someone to help with technology, ask. Have conversations with specific people on how they can participate in the Body of Christ. Let them know your needs.
  7. Thank God for the diversity of your body of believers and His empowering Spirit. Also, don’t forget to thank those who do serve using their gifting.

I enjoy doing impersonations. Do you? They are funny and fun. Yet, we can’t be in more than one place at a time, we only have 24 hours in a day, and ultimately, we need other people. We are better together.

If you want to find out what happened to the radioactive chicken feed, you will have to watch the rest of the episode. If you want to experience the joy of 1 Corinthians 12, know this, we were made for community. God meets that need by putting us into the church and gifting us in unique ways. Isn’t that Great! Imagine if we all functioned in our God-given roles in the Body!

Let us do our part to help the church function as a healthy interdependent spiritual Body. We are better together.

The art of neighboring

What would it mean if we actually loved our neighbors? I mean really loved them the way Jesus mandates: to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

To be sure, the definition of neighbor is actually far bigger and more inclusive than just our literal neighbors. However, it doesn’t make the person you see when taking out the trash any less your neighbor. Unfortunately, we don’t always live that way. We pull into our garage and close the door behind us, never taking the time or opportunity to truly get to know and build meaningful relationships with our neighbors.

The biblical story of the Good Samaritan reminds us of what it takes to love our neighbor as ourselves. To simply say animosity existed between Jews and Samaritans in Jesus’ time would be an understatement. Religious and historical differences had driven a relational wedge between the two groups. God’s people knew the commandment of loving God with all their being and to love their neighbors as themselves. Yet, they chose to interpret the commandment of loving their neighbor as limited to those who were of a similar background.

The parable of the Good Samaritan comes out of a teaching moment Jesus took advantage of to challenge the attitude of the day. In the story, the Samaritan demonstrates what it means to love our neighbor. A man was beaten and left on the side of the road to die. While he lay there helpless, others, including some of the religious elite of the day, continually passed him by.

It was the sympathetic Samaritan who saw the victim’s situation and responded to his needs. While others went out of their way to avoid him, this Samaritan was a loving neighbor personified. He showed mercy, compassion and generosity to a person with whom he had no similarities and from whom he would receive no benefits by helping.

I have heard it said that sometimes Christians aim to love everyone and, as a result, end up loving no one. We may not have an opportunity to have meaningful relationships and love all our neighbors. But we can be intentional about neighboring.

For much of my life, I have found a unique way of redefining or expanding the term and meaning of “neighbor.” And I encourage you to try these few things I’ve learned. They made a big difference for me when it comes to knowing and loving my neighbors well. And they may do the same for you.

1. Identify your neighbors

Begin by drawing a map of your neighborhood and plot out who you know and what you know about them. This will begin to create and lead to more intentionality when it comes to knowing and loving your neighbors.

2. Call your neighbors by name

Take time to learn, retain and use your neighbors’ names when talking to them. Nothing is quite as sweet to a person’s ears as his or her own name. Consider writing your neighbors’ names on a piece of paper after the first meeting and then place the list on your refrigerator. Seeing their names on a regular basis will make it easier to know them and will also serve as a great reminder to pray for them. It is hard to love someone when you don’t even know his or her name.  

3. Spend time in the front yard

It is easy with our fenced-in yards to hide away in the backyard. Most, if not all, meaningful interactions with neighbors, however, happen in the front yard. Find any chance you can to be in the front yard, whether it is to play catch with the kids or to wash the car. Simply making a conscious decision to hang out in the front yard can open great opportunities to get to know your neighbors. If you live in a condo or an apartment, spend time in the complex’s shared spaces.

4. Free up your schedule

Learning to say no in order to free up your schedule creates the space to spend more time in your community. We live in an incredibly fast-paced world in which it is easy to run past and overlook the needs of others. Clearing your schedule allows you to slow down enough to live aware of those who are around you. Love requires an element of being proactive. What can you do to be more proactive in showing love to your neighbors?

As Christians, we have no choice but to love those around us, even when they have harmed us. We can love people and not love God, but we cannot love God and not love people. The two go together.

The best way we can show love to our neighbors is to share the good news of the gospel with them. God has placed you where you are and given you circles to influence. Don’t let the next opportunity slip by without rising to the challenge of investing in someone’s spiritual journey.

Will you be the one God uses to bring someone to life in Jesus? It’s a question only you can answer.

Converge responds: El Paso, Dayton tragedies

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity (Col. 4:5). 

Lisa and I were looking forward to quiet first weekend of August. We had experienced a busy summer of travel, including ministry trips to Minnesota, Canada, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and a great time with our missionaries from Europe and Africa in Germany, followed by a week of vacation in Virginia. It was good to finally be home. Our only responsibilities this weekend were serving at church and helping prepare for our first “Back to School” event – a “drive-in” movie (kids make cars out of cardboard and watch a movie in the car – yeah, you can steal that one!).

On Saturday morning, I had a small window of time to do work on the roof before the rain came…again (I live in the “Sunshine State” – which to me is more of an aspiration than reality in the summer here).

It was Lisa’s birthday weekend, so we went out to dinner to celebrate and went home to relax. 

That’s when I heard the news…

Twenty people were killed and dozens more injured on Saturday morning in a massacre at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart that was packed with back-to-school shoppers, making it one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.”*

It was discovered later that the shooter had written a personal manifesto. He told investigators he wanted to shoot as many Mexicans as possible.

I never know what to think when I hear things like that.


“Who thinks like that?”

“Why would you want to shoot someone based on their country of origin?”

“Are people really that sick?” 

I thought about all my friends from Mexico and Texas. I thought about my church and our sister congregation, Harvest in Español, and made a mental note to talk with the pastor, Ramon Garcia, to get his perspective. Being truly vulnerable, I was a little upset with myself that I was not more broken up by the news. Yet it has happened so often recently, it has begun to feel like a new normal – unacceptable, but normal.

Later Saturday evening I got the chance to watch a little of the NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony. I turned on the set when Champ Bailey was talking. I had great respect for him as a player and I loved watching him play. My heart sank as I heard him give an impassioned plea:

The first thing people see when they look at me is not a Pro Football Hall of Famer or a husband or a father. They view me first as a black man. So, on behalf of all the black men that I mentioned tonight, and many more out there who’ve had the same experiences that I’ve had in my lifetime, we say this to all of our white friends: When we tell you about our fears, please listen. When we tell you we’re afraid for our kids, please listen. When we tell you there are many challenges we face because of the color of our skin, please listen. And please don’t get caught up in how the message is delivered.

I found myself tearing up as I heard him speak. I realize that while it is impossible for me to feel the fullness of the pain of his personal journey, my hope is that I am becoming more aware and compassionate toward the challenges to people of color and minority cultures in our country. I was also grateful for the journey that God has our movement of churches on in this area. No doubt, we have a long way go…I have a long way to go…but we are willing to go on the journey.

Sunday morning, I woke up to the news: “In a second mass shooting in less than 14 hours, at least nine people are dead and more than two dozen were wounded early on Sunday after someone opened fire in downtown Dayton, Ohio.”*

Again? Two times in one weekend? What is going on?

I began to reflect in my mind… Columbine, Redlake, Virginia Tech, Foot Hood, Tucson, Aurora, Sandy Hook, D.C. Navy Yard, Charleston, San Bernardino, Pulse, Dallas, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Parkland, Tree of Life, Thousand Oaks… and now this. And, yeah, I know there are dozens more that aren’t top of mind and don’t even include the ones that came to mind from around the world.

I grieve over so many common ground issues in these scenarios. Deranged thinking. Devaluation because of color, class and culture. Senseless actions. Helpless victims. Tragic loss. Ripple effects for generations. Families and communities full of grief, pain and fear.

No doubt we will have outrage, posturing and blame-casting in the political arena. Hopefully we will have robust discussion that results in needed change and meaningful preventative action in the local arena. I ask you to pray that God will lead our leaders to live on the “solution side” of these issues and make godly, right judgments resulting in meaningful progress.  

But you do realize that the only lasting hope for our world is the gospel of Jesus Christ, right?

When the gospel is planted in the life of a new believer, it is joined by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, the wisdom of the word of God and surrounded by the encouragement of God’s people. As more and more individuals are changed by the gospel, it transforms communities. As communities are transformed, it transforms regions. As regions are transformed, so are countries…and so on.

Transforming the country seems too big a task for any one of us to take on. But throughout the centuries God has been transforming the world…one life at a time. And he asks us to join him in this work.

In our country, the Back to School season is one of the most likely times for people to consider visiting a local church. Many are getting back into their life routine after a restful but less than routine summer schedule. Wouldn’t it be great if church became a part of their new routine?  

We as believers recognize that the work of the church is absolutely essential in our world. Hope, help and healing come from Jesus – Jesus changes everything! He is the one who transforms people. And the church (the people, not the programs) is God’s means to get the message of Jesus to those who so desperately need it. Every individual in our communities deserves to hear about and needs to experience the transforming power of the gospel.  

I have four things that God has put on my heart to do with what happened this weekend. I’d love for you to join me in taking next steps in these areas:

  • Take a moment and pray for our country, our communities and our churches. Commit to keep them in prayer on a regular basis.
  • Think of a few people outside the faith and commit to invest in friendship to model the hope of Christ in their lives in hope that they would one day meet Jesus.
  • Invite someone who doesn’t have a church home to join you next weekend at your house of worship.
  • Take the next step to get deeply involved BOTH in the life of your community and your church. Serve with your time, talent and treasure in your local congregation. If possible, reach across a racial, ethnic or cultural divide in your community to listen, learn, lament and love.


I sense that these are the first steps we need to take to keep our hearts soft and our lives and churches on mission. I pray that this might be a very fruitful season of ministry in your personal circle of concern as well as your community. May we be prayerful in our hearts, joyful in our posture, winsome in our witness, engaging in our connections, hopeful with our words, bold in our invitations, God-honoring in our lives and effective in our mission to help people meet, know and follow Jesus as we start and strengthen churches together worldwide.

Better Together,

*News reports from ABC News