Graphing Your Spiritual Journey

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What would your spiritual journey through life look like as a line graph?  Up, down, steadily rising, some bumpy spots?  When did your spiritual life begin?  Where are you today?  Try this simple exercise of drawing out your spiritual journey as a line graph on a piece of paper.  (Imagine a stock market graph, from the day your were born until today…)StockmarketLine

If your take your time and reflect on your journey it can be a powerful tool for self-discovery, and a great preparation for sharing your story with someone else.  Be sure to label important markers on your journey such as:  salvation, sin issues or difficult seasons of trials, high points, changes of direction in career or ministry, getting married or divorced, having kids, etc.

Here’s a full set of instructions if you’d like to incorporate this exercise into your discipleship ministries.  Graph Your Spiritual Journey Exercise

Ladies at The River, you know we will be doing this exercise this fall! : )

A Discipleship Path at Last!

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For the last 6 months I have been chairing a committee at our church that was tasked with designing a discipleship path for people of all ages and levels of maturity.  I was really excited about this project because I agree with Greg Ogden who wrote,

“If making disciples is the primary mission of the church, would we not expect some public pathway to maturity in Christ in most churches?   Yet it is rare to find a church with a well-thought out, easy-to-grasp process or path onto which people can get if they want to become self-initiating, reproducing, fully-devoted followers of Christ.”  Transforming Discipleship

Two weeks ago we unveiled the plan to 50+ teachers and small group leaders, asking for their input in support in this new project.  We hope to launch it this August.  Here is the overview:

Dicipleship Path

*Classes are generally 6 weeks.  This is an adaptation of materials from Saddleback Resources.

STARTING POINT
Introduction to our church and vision, weekly church activities, church facilities; opportunity to meet pastoral staff and departmental representatives; Introduction to the Discipleship Path and help to find best fit. 1 hour, monthly

NEW BEGINNINGS  Introduction to Jesus Christ, basics of Christian faith, and walking with Christ; For new Christians or those who have recently recommitted to following Christ; Various curriculum available. Class or with mentor, 12 weeks

101 MEMBERSHIP “Know” –  Commitment to Christ and the church family  Overview of United Methodist history, doctrine (including salvation, baptism, and communion), organization, Membership vows of prayer, presence, gifts, service, and witness.

201 MATURITY “Grow” – Commitment to habits necessary for spiritual growth Principles of spiritual growth & discipleship, habits necessary for growth, learning to read and study the Bible, developing a quiet time, prayer, tithing, fellowship and small groups, maintaining good habits, and a vision for maturity.

301 MINISTRY “Serve” – Commitment to serving God and others  Understanding how God has shaped you, spiritual gifts, discovering your gifts, heart passion, natural abilities, personality types, past experiences, developing a heart for service, serving in this church, ministry opportunities, expectations of those serving, connection with ministry leaders.

401 MISSION “Go” – Commitment to sharing the gospel with others  Discovering your mission to the world, your purpose in the kingdom of God, discipleship, developing your testimony, learning to share the gospel, building bridges to reach others, introduction to local and global missions.

There it is!  Now, we know that “Programs do not make disciples, people make disciples…” but I think this will be a fantastic tool for encouraging spiritual growth and engagement, and it should open the door for many one-to-one and small group relationships.

So now I’ll be writing curriculum and teaching notes all summer…. Ha ha.  What do you think?

Quiet Times #4 – Organizing Your Prayer Book

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Monday I sat down and helped two friends organize their prayer journals. Here’s how it went:

Identifying Groups of People
On a piece of scrap paper, write down all the groups of people that you want to pray regularly for. The list might include: immediate family (self, husband, kids), work or husband’s work, extended family, church, small group, Bible study group, friends, nonChristians/outreach/neighbors, sports teams, kid’s teachers and friends, missionaries, etc. Your list might be different. Think of them as circles of influence. Who are you willing to commit to praying regularly for?

Now, how many days a week are you committed to having prayer time? In our group, we committed to five days a week.

Next, try to group your circles of influence together, for the number of days you plan to pray regularly. In my case it looks like this:

Mondays – Husband’s work & Extended family
Tuesdays – Bible study group, Book club group, Women I disciple
Wednesdays – Church general/ leadership and ministry, Small group, & Missionaries
Thursdays – My friends, My kids’ friends & school, Tennis team, Other nonChristians
Fridays – My immediate family, including myself.

Next we divided the journal into sections of roughly equal length, put tabs on the side for each day, and wrote “Friday – Our Family” or whatever.

There’s also the Emergency 911 page. In the front of my prayer journal I keep an Urgent Prayers page. I don’t write on the page – I use sticky notes. If it’s urgent, I hope it’s not permanent, and in a few days, when the Prayer911note is full, I can either quit praying about it (ie. Algebra test), or move it to a more permanent section of the journal.

So on a Friday morning, I sit down with my coffee and I cover the Urgent 911 prayers. Then I flip to the Friday section and pray through the list for my family. I date the request on the left, keep the request to one liner, and write a date on the right side of the page when the issue is resolved. Later, when the journal gets fuller, I will probably start at the back of the section and work my way forward, praying for everything that has not yet been answered.

I also encourage writing verses in your prayer book, claiming them (and highlighting them!). I also tape prayers, photocopied bits, and good quotes inside.

What a priceless treasure it is to hold a prayer journal that is several years old…  I can see instantly how God has been so incredibly faithful, time after time. Praise Him!

Spiritual gifts and discipleship

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It’s almost summer and, if I walked into your house today, I would be shocked if I saw a big, beautiful Christmas gift from 6 months ago still sitting in your living room. Someone gave you a present and you didn’t open it?! Aren’t you curious to see what’s inside? Surely the giver intended for you to open it right away, don’t you think?

As teachers, disciple-makers, trainers, and mentors part of our responsibility is to help others discover and learn to use their spiritual gifts. Know yourself! And help others do the same – to find their “Ministry Fit” and find a place of service where they will be fruitful and fulfilled.

Primary passages on spiritual gifts: Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12-14; 1 Peter 4:9-11; Ephesians 4:7-16

Important Points Regarding Spiritual Gifts:

1. We are Gifted for God’s Work
All Christians have at least one spiritual gift, maybe you have several! The gifts are given for the common good, for service, and the building up of God’s kingdom. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.(1 Cor 12:7) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, as a good steward of God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Pet 4:10) They are not for personal glory.

2. Gifts Are To Be Used For Service
The gifts are meant to be used to complete the work God has called us to do. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He has prepared in advance for us to do. ( Eph 2:10) We are held accountable for how we have used (stewarded) them.

3. Gifts Are Given, Not Earned
The gifts are of equal value (the body metaphor, 1 Cor 12)and all are necessary for the church to function correctly. The gifts are not representative of how much God loves us. The gifts are also not a mark of spiritual maturity (we have all seen highly gifted people acting badly!). Spiritual maturity is reflected in the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives, not spiritual gifts.

4. Not Your Gift? It’s Still a Command!
Do not confuse spiritual gifts and Biblical commands. Many gifts are also commands in scripture: help, hospitality, mercy, giving, faith, evangelism, encouragement, etc. We are all responsible for our obedience to these commands. Those with the gift will find it easier, and a passion of their heart… but that doesn’t excuse the rest of us!

5. Spiritual Gifts Are Developed Over Time
Having a particular gift does not make you an instant expert, it’s more like a raw talent. Skills related to your gifting are (should be) developed over time. For example, teachers can develop practical skills, classroom management skills, study and research skills, etc. Those with leadership gifting can learn about communication, conflict resolution, organizational and planning skills, delegation, team building, etc. Those with a mercy gift might seek training in counselling to expand the use of their gift. Also, in different seasons of our lives, God develops different gifts.

6. Gift Combinations Function Differently

It’s helpful to realize that gift combinations function differently. Someone with teaching and knowledge gifts may have an academic style. Another with teaching and mercy or pastor/shepherd gifts may have a more approachable, relational style. And certainly teaching adults is different than teaching children! You can learn from others who have similar gifting, but also from those who are different.

7. Spiritual Gifts Are A Piece of the Bigger Puzzle
Your combination of gifts, life skills, temperment, personal history, and ministry passion is unique. Knowing your spiritual gift(s) is an important piece of the puzzle, but there are many other pieces! You need to determine your particular ministry burden or passion – what has the Lord put on your heart?

Gifts Testing

Tests for spiritual gifts come in many different forms and can produce wildly different results. As we’ve been experimenting with different tests recently, here are a few things we’ve learned to consider:

– Does it include the “sign gifts” of miracles, healing, and tongues? Do you want it to?

– Does it include “life skills” of music, craftsmanship, communication/writing, etc? Do you want it to?

– Does it include “special callings” of apostleship, celibacy, poverty, intercession? Do you want it to?

– How does it define prophecy as a gift? How do you feel about that?

– Does it ask more than 4 questions per gift? (ie. Is it statistically accurate or can one missed question throw the answers off?)

– Are the gifts distinct or have some been lumped together? (ie. Leadership mixed with Pastor/Shepherd and Teaching mixed with Knowledge)?

– Another option is to not use a test at all, but to read through a list of gifts, their definitions, and typical uses and see what fits best. This is what you would do after taking a test anyway!

Gift Categories

There are approximately 20 main gifts outlined in scripture (depending on how you answered some of the preference questions above!). I like these categories that reveal how the gifts are normally used:

Gifts of the Heart: Helps, Hospitality, Mercy, Faith, Giving

Gifts of Proclamation: Evangelism, Teaching, Discernment, Knowledge, Prophecy, Wisdom

Gifts of Action: Leadership, Administration, Shepherding, Encouragement/Counseling, Apostleship

Gifts of Inspiration (Signs): Healing, Miracles, Speaking in Tongues, Interpretation of Tongues

So how do I know what my gift is?

Well, you can start with a test if you want, but remember these important indicators:

1. Personal inclination – What do I enjoy doing? Blessing to others, effectiveness, andenjoyment are all indicators of your spiritual gift. You can be very good at something, but find it draining and that means it’s probably not one of your gifts.

2. Public recognition – What am I fruitful at and others acknowledge? It is important to get confirmation and feedback from others. Reviewing the results of a gifts test with someone who knows you well can help clarify certain issues. Those who work with you may see your gifts more clearly than you do!

3. Pursuing opportunities – You must test out and develop your gifts by serving. Intentionally seek opportunities to practice your gift, and see if you find confirmation. Some resources give ideas for service for each gift area. Your mentor or teacher might also be a good source of ideas.

Resources

There are many good Bible studies and books written on spiritual gifts. Everyone should read/study something on this topic as part of their spiritual development and it should be a part of every ministry or church’s adult education curriculum.

I have been using LifeKeys: Discover Who You Are by Kise, Stark, and Hirsch as a classroom text and training tool. Much of this blog post has been adapted from it. I like it because it covers the gifts well – definitions, what it looks like, ideas for use, and a Biblical character example. Usually I encourage women to take a test, read the gifts chapter and see if it fits them, and then we talk about it. The book also includes Myers Briggs temperament, life skills, passions, and priorities.

You can download a Hocking gifts test from the Resources page of this website. It’s my favorite so far but I will confess that it does not include evangelism, apostleship, or the sign gifts… but it’s very accurate on the others.

HELP – If you administer gifts tests and have a favorite send me a copy or a link to the webpage! I am still looking for the “perfect” one!