LEADERS SHAPED FOR MINISTRY
When You Say Someone is SHAPED for Ministry, What Do You Mean?
S.H.A.P.E. is an acronym I developed years ago to explain the five elements that determine what a person’s ministry should be. I believe every believer is uniquely shaped for a particular ministry.
SPIRITUAL GIFTS: The Bible clearly teaches that God gives every believer certain spiritual gifts to be used in ministry (1 Cor. 12, Rom. 8, Eph. 4). However, I believe spiritual gifts are only one part of the picture. In my opinion, spiritual gifts are often overemphasized to the neglect of other equally important factors. Natural abilities that you were born with also came from God. So do your experiences and inborn personality traits. These factors were also planned by your Creator. Spiritual gifts reveal part of God’s will for your ministry, but not all of it.
HEART: The Bible uses the term “heart” to represent the center of your motivation, desires, interests, and inclinations. Your heart determines why you say the things you do (Matt. 12:34), why you feel the way you do (Ps. 34:7), and why you act the way you do (Pr. 4:23).
Another word for heart is “passion.” There are certain subjects that you feel passionate about and others that you couldn’t care less about. Some things turn you on while other things turn you off. That is an expression of your heart. God had a purpose in giving you your inborn interests. Your emotional heartbeat reveals a very important key to understanding His intentions for your life. Don’t ignore your natural interests. People rarely excel at tasks they don’t enjoy doing. High achievers enjoy what they do.
ABILITIES: These are the natural talents that you were born with. Some people have a natural ability with words. They came out of the womb talking! Other people have natural athletic abilities. They excel in physical coordination. Exodus 31:3 gives an example of how God gives people “skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts…” in order to accomplish his purposes. In this case, it was artistic ability to be used in building the Tabernacle. It’s interesting to me that musical talent is not listed as a “spiritual gift,” but it certainly is a natural ability that God uses in worship.
PERSONALITY: It’s obvious that God has not used a cookie cutter to create people. He loves variety-just look around! God made introverts and extroverts. He made people who love routine and those who love variety. He made some people “thinkers” and others “feelers.” Some people work best when given an individual assignment while others work better with a team. We need all kinds of personalities to balance the church and give it flavor. Your personality will affect how and where you use your spiritual gifts and abilities. For instance, two people may have the same gift of evangelism, but if one is introverted and the other is extroverted, that gift will be expressed in different ways.
EXPERIENCES: God never wastes an experience. Romans 8:28 reminds us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” At Saddleback, we help people consider five areas of experience that will influence the kind of ministry they are best shaped for: (1) Educational experiences: What were your favorite subjects in school? (2) Vocational experiences: What jobs have you enjoyed and achieved results while doing? (3) Spiritual experiences: What have been the meaningful or decisive times with God in your life? (4) Ministry experiences: How have you served God in the past? (5) Painful experiences: What are the problems, hurts, and trials that you’ve learned from?
Your shape was sovereignly determined by God for his purpose, so you shouldn’t resent it or reject it. “What right have you, a human being, to cross-examine God? The pot has no right to say to the potter: ‘Why did you make me this shape?’ Surely a potter can do what he likes with the clay!” Rom. 9:20 21 (JB) Instead of trying to reshape ourselves to be like someone else, we should celebrate the shape God has given to each of us.
Have you determined your own SHAPE? That’s essential for you to know as you minister to your congregation.
Rising with your People
I used to think that leaders distinguished themselves by rising above their people. It’s the “cream of the crop” theory. That was a mistake. I’ve learned that leaders distinguish themselves by rising with their people, and there’s a world of difference between those two.
Leaders take people with them on the journey. You don’t go by yourself. If you’re going by yourself, you are not a leader. You might be a very self-made, successful person, but you’re not a leader. You’ve got to decide whether you’re going to be a tour guide or a travel agent.
Travel agents give you brochures and tell you all about the trip, but they’ve never even been there. They get the tickets for you, give you a planner and send you off somewhere. You don’t want to be a travel agent; you don’t want to be sending people where you’ve never been — you want to be a tour guide. You want to bring your people along with you and say, “Let me show you something. I’m going to take you places where I’ve been and lived, and tell you all about them as we go. I’m going to let you in on the journey.”
Because I felt that leaders should be separated from others in my younger days, because I mistakenly felt that leaders should rise above their people the following things happened:
1. I was lonely.
We’ve all heard the expression “It’s lonely at the top,” haven’t we? Well, I was at the top, lonely. By the way, a leader never said that — you know that, don’t you? Because if you’re at the top all alone, nobody’s following you! I’d get off the mountain if I were you. I’d go find the people.
2. I seldom asked for help.
The reason I seldom asked for help is because I thought it was a sign of weakness. I thought that leaders had to be Mr. Answer Man or Ms. Answer Woman. Why would you ask somebody for help? After all, that would make you kind of like them, and after a while, you could be a commoner if you weren’t careful. Sooner or later, everyone needs help, and admitting it does not make you less of a leader.
3. I was very position-conscious.
I was very position-conscious. I was making sure that I had my title and my position and “my rights.” Let me tell you something: leaders come from all walks of life, and they often lead people without the benefit of a position or a title. They do it by building influence with others. People who are focused on their position are too wrapped up rights and responsibilities to influence anyone.
4. I was very competitive.
I became very competitive during that whole process, and the reason for that’s very simple: I was always trying to beat someone else. People are not apt to follow you if your goal is to defeat them and make a loser out of them. Leaders encourage people and make them feel like winners.
This was one of many mistakes I made in my early years and I will discuss others I made during those times in upcoming issues of Leadership Wired.