I recently had the pleasure of reading Sustainable Church – Growing Ministry Around the Sheep, Not just the Shepherds, by Dr. Walt Russell.
Full disclosure, Dr. Russell was one of my professors at Talbot Seminary. When I learned about the release of his new book I ordered it immediately and waited anxiously for the two days it took Amazon to deliver it to me.
In his new book, Dr. Russell describes the shallowness that permeates many of the western churches. Our traditional way of doing church is flawed in two ways:
1) We rely on professional ministers to meet all our needs, and in so doing, saddle them with unrealistic expectations which they cannot possibly meet.
2) The professional “clergy” are the primary gatekeepers of the church’s ministry activities. Often, the ministries of the church follow the vision and passions of the pastor without regard to the spiritual gifting of the members of the church.
These churches, says Russell, are non-organic and unsustainable. They are unsustainable because they rely on professional clergy who cannot possibly meet the needs of everyone inside the church. Neither can they meet the needs of people outside the church. Overall, the American church with its bureaucracy, policies, and traditions has drifted far from the original intent of Jesus, our Chief Shepherd.
By contrast, Russell describes the sustainable church as one in which every member is engaged in ministry. The individual’s ministry is shaped by their spiritual gifts, or as Russell prefers, “grace-gifts.” A church is sustainable when every member is engaged in ministry that leverages the spiritual gifts of the member.
For every member to be engaged in ministry that leverages their spiritual gifts they first must know what their gifts are. Right?! Sadly, only 10-20% of God’s people know what their gifts are, let alone leverage them in their ministry.
The first step in creating a sustainable church is to help people learn about spiritual gifts in general and to know what their gifts are. This, says Russell, is best determined through:
2) Studying the gifts themselves.
3) Determining what gifts fulfill you the most.
4) What abilities are confirmed by other believers? And,
5) What ministry work is God blessing in your life?
After reading Sustainable Church I took advantage of the spiritual gifts assessment that Dr. Russell created and makes available (free) at Sustainablechurch.org. Each of the 19 spiritual gifts is scored with the highest scores indicating areas that may be your spiritual gifts.
It turns out I may be an “LPTA.” My top scoring gifts were:
1) Leadership (Romans 12:8).
2) Pastor-Teacher (Ephesians 4:11).
3) Teacher (Romans 12:7) Note: Pastor-Teacher and Teacher were tied.
4) Administration (2 Corinthians 12:28).
After that, my scores fell off dramatically.
Having the scores is a good first step. But to really understand my specific spiritual gifts I must continue the discovery process by praying for guidance and wisdom, seeking confirmation from other believers, and seeing what ministry work God blesses in my life.
It is not enough to know what our spiritual gifts are; we must do them! Imagine what would happen in the church today if every believer knew what their spiritual gifts were, and were actively pursuing ministry opportunities that leveraged those gifts.
James exhorted fellow believers saying evidence of their faith in Jesus is demonstrated by their willingness to do ministry work (James 3:14).
Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? If not, or if you are unsure, get a copy of Sustainable Church, read it, and then complete the spiritual gifts assessment.
Next, confirm your gifts through prayer, confirmation from other believers, and God blessing your ministry work.
Above all, DO the work the Lord has equipped you to do. Leverage your spiritual gifts. When you do, you will be blessed beyond measure.
Join the Conversation
As always, questions and comments are welcome. Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? Are you doing the work the Lord has equipped you to do?
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Category: Personal Development | Obedience to God