SPIRITUAL WAYPOINTS & How to help others navigate some of the most important stages of faith #WaypointsBook

Excerpted from Bob Whitesel, Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (2010).

Awareness of the Fundamentals of the Good News

Signs of Travelers at Waypoint 13

Spiritual Curiosity.  Wayfarers at this point are usually inquisitive, curious, perplexed and frustrated by all things spiritual.  They have been drawn to investigate further their initial experience with the Good News at Waypoint 14.  But  they may bring with them the skepticism about religion that is rising in North America.

And, at Waypoint 15 some travelers have not yet grasped the differences between varying religious viewpoints.  They may be drawn to investigate the occult, mysticism and other religions.  Once spiritual curiosity has been stirred, they often launch full bore into multiple religious directions.  Though natural, their openness to varying viewpoints challenges Christians. 

  The church sometimes overreacts, humiliates and/or banishes such inquisitiveness.  Instead we must see them as normal explorers on a spiritual journey, and expect their curiosity.  Churches can best help travels by encouraging discussion, inquisitiveness, disagreement and even prying.  And thus the church must not be defensive, closed or inauthentic, for in doing so it can belie that it has the truth the traveler seeks.

Frustrated By Language.  Another sign a traveler is at Waypoint 15 is that they can be confounded by the language of Christian culture.  Christians frequently employ terminology that is not broadly understood.  Terminology such as “sanctification,” “the Kingdom of God,” and “the blood of Christ” can express grand concepts in concise terms.  But to those newly introduced to the journey, these terms may be too much, too soon.  The result is that travelers may feel that the ardor of the journey, coupled with learning a new language, is too much to bear.  In addition, not knowing the terminology may make the traveler feel ignorant, in the dark, naïve and possibly excluded.

Churches must undertake the task of adapting their terminology to the metaphors of the hearer, without sacrificing content.  Action 13.2 will describe how to create metaphors that are equivalent to images in the traveler’s world. Finding and utilizing such equivalent metaphors is a challenging task.  But it is part of every missionary’s work, and in North America’s cultural mosaic it must be the work of every church.

Travelers Are Accepted … But Not Accepted Enough. Travelers at W13 often feel they are being courted by Christians, but when they try to volunteer the church often tells them they are not yet ready.  This is the frustration that Kimball observed and sought to address.  Some churches feel that God’s intention is to only utilize Christians to serve the community.  While this should be true in distribution of the sacraments and certain religious ministries (c.f. Acts 6:1-3, 14:23, 1  Timothy 5:17), the Scriptures are replete with examples of those who traveled with a faith community and even assisted it prior to partaking in that community’s faith (c.f. Joshua 2, Ruth 1, Matthew 2, 9).

A popular Christian musician once told me he only employed Christians in every aspect of his musical recordings.  This might be an appropriate strategy if Christians were being excluded because of their beliefs and his action was designed to bring parity.  But to me it seemed that many non-Christian musicians missed an opportunity to work alongside and learn from this gifted Christian artist.  Kimball is focused on ensuring this does not happen at the church he pastors. 

Actions That Help W13 Travelers

Action 13.1: We Journey With Them, And They With Us

At Vintage Faith Church wayfarers are encouraged to participate in administrative tasks.  Most churches reserve administrative involvement for those who have experienced new birth.  Yet, such involvement can be an important learning opportunity for three reasons. 

  1. It helps people at W13 recognize they have God-given gifts.
  2. It helps people at W13 to understand that a community of faith is there to support them in their service to others. 
  3. It helps people at W13 see participation in the community is not reserved for only a privileged group.  This keeps a church from developing elitism.  

It is also best if their volunteer opportunities are directed toward serving those outside of the church, rather than serving the church.   This is because a person at W13 may have only recently departed a realm of inequalities, injustices, deprivations and oppression.  Therefore, to them the organizational needs of the church will pale in comparison.  They can easily, and rightly, be offended when we ask them to clean up the church, arrange chairs in the sanctuary or paint a nursery.  Though these organizational tasks are necessary to support outreach, to the wayfarer these connections can be too obscure.  Instead, it is important to let the wayfarer become involved in volunteer actions that help people at waypoints the volunteer has recently experienced.  The needs of others are fresh in their mind, as is the difference they’ve experienced by moving forward on their journey.  

Still, two caveats must be considered.  

  1. First as Kimball noted, some activities require a level of spiritual maturity, sensitivity and/or organizational history that the volunteer at Waypoint 13 may lack.  Therefore, it becomes important for leaders to tactfully guide the person into appropriate volunteer opportunities.   
  2. Secondly, many wayfarers do not want to volunteer.  Many may be reeling from disappointments, resentments, oppression, etc. and thus only desire our assistance, not our recruitment. 

At Waypoint 13 it therefore becomes essential for the Christian to move slowly with fellow travelers, never manipulating or forcing them.  The Holy Spirit is the one that draws a person on this journey (John 16:8-9) and thus the faith community must ensure that we assist, but not replace the Holy Spirit.

Action 13.2: Translate the Good News

At the same time that the traveler is growing in a knowledge of the Good News, the Christian is often bombarding the traveler with a specialized language.  Earlier in this chapter we saw how travelers can become frustrated with a Christian’s cryptic language.

To underscore such communication break down, a Christian troubadour named Larry Norman created an imaginary dialogue between a Christian and a person at Waypoint 13.  “Have you been saved?” began the Christian.  The traveler replied, “I fell out of a canoe at camp once, and the lifeguard rescued me.”  “No, I mean have you been born again?” continued the Christian.  “I don’t believe in reincarnation,” came the traveler’s answer.  “Have you been washed in the blood,” replied the Christian in growing exacerbation.  “Ugh!  I don’t think I would want to,” came the wayfarer’s astonished response.  After which the flustered Christian blurted out, “I’m trying to tell you the Good News!”  “What’s that?” came the traveler’s hopeful reply.  “You’re going to hell,” retorted the Christian, and the conversation ended.

This narrative illustrates how Christian musicians have grappled with translating their message to a non-church culture.  Though we do not want to change our message or its content, Christians helping those at W13 must translate the Good News.  Missionaries and Bible-translators spend years honing their skills in translating truth without sacrificing content. But regrettably, most Christian leaders in North America rarely try. With the growing mosaic of cultures and sub-cultures in North America, coupled with a large unchurched population that is unfamiliar with Christian terminology, churches must begin to learn from missionaries and translators the important skills of translating the Good News.  The following are four basic steps for translation.

Step 1: Decide what are the essential principles that must be translated.  For a person at Waypoint 13, headed toward Waypoint 12 (grasp of the implications of the Good News), this means explaining that the Good News holds promises as well as requirements.  Jesus reminded his hearers of these requirements, but also reminded them that they are not odious nor overwhelming, stating “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).  Initial principles that should be broached at Waypoint 13 include, but are not limited to, God’s unconditional love, (John 3:16, etc.), that wrongdoings destroy lives and separate us from God (Romans 3:23, etc.), how Jesus bore the penalty for our wrongdoings (Romans 5:8, John 14:6, etc.), in order that we might have a better life here and ultimately eternal life (John 17:3, 1 John 5:13, etc.).

  Step 2: Put the basics of the Good News into the language of the hearer.  This step is best accomplished by a team.  And, it is good to have non-church goers involved, so that through dialogue, questioning and discussion an up-to-date translation is created.  While non-church goers should not have veto power, their involvement helps ensure that the translation is relevant and accurate.  In addition, the Christian must be careful not to be offended or affronted by another culture’s terminology.  Anthropologist Eugene Nida recalls how the tribal people of Papa New Guinea had never seen a lamb, and thus the phrase “Look, the lamb of God” (John 1:29) was confusing.  Yet, in their tribal culture they raised and valued pigs in similar fashion to the way ancient Israelites prized sheep.  The missionaries therefore translated John the Baptist’s declaration “Look, the Lamb of God” as “Look the Pig of God.”  To many Christians this is distasteful, for most Christians are sensitive to the Jewish repulsion to unclean animals such as pigs.  However, Papa New Guineans have no knowledge of such aversion, and because they value their swine so greatly, Jesus was to them the cherished, sacrificial “Pig of God.” 

Step 3:  Keep modifying and improving your terms. Translation is an ongoing process because the meaning of words can change, as well as our understanding of them.  Thus, translated terms must be updated and modified in an ongoing fashion, from Waypoint 13 forward. The Christian must gather regularly with others to discuss and improve the translation of the basics of the Good News.  Too often, churches ignore the need for updating their terminology, becoming mired in language from earlier and outdated renditions.  A result is that wayfarers often view the church’s terminology as outdated, obsolete and often incoherent.

Step 4: Sift out the bad and keep the good.  Each culture has elements that run counter to the Good News of Christ.  Yet, at the same time each culture has elements that are consistent with Christ’s Good News.  For example, postmodernism emphasizes that people should not just talk about changing the world, but actually be engaged in changing it.  Karl Marx famously intoned “philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”  The result has been that postmodern influenced young people exhibit a growing concern for changing the plight of the poor.  This is also a major element in Jesus’ Good News, for example when He proclaimed in the Nazareth synagogue, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me, to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). Thus, this postmodern passion for helping the needy should be lauded.

  But, there are also elements of a culture that can run counter to the Good News.  For example, premarital or extramarital affairs can be viewed by postmodern culture as a natural and recurrent part of life.  But, this runs counter to the Biblical injunction against pre- and extra-martial sex.  The Message paraphrase crafts a good translation of this Biblical injunction, “Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex” (Hebrews 13:4).  Thus, when translating the Good News, a translator must be careful to not deemphasize  nor obscure God’s commands and expectations. 

When elements of a culture run counter to the Good News, and others are in agreement with it, what should be done? Eddie Gibbs has provided a helpful metaphor in the image of cultural “sifting.” Sifting separates out unwanted elements from wanted elements, most notably in cooking where a mesh strainer such as a colander will sift out impurities. The task of explaining the Good News to wayfarers at Waypoint 13, also carries the requirement that we sift between elements of a culture that go against Christ’s news and those that do not.  To not fully explain God’s expectations is to misinform and ill prepare the traveler.  Some Christians avoid the task of doing this, perhaps because championing God’s requirements is awkward in comparison to lauding His rewards.  But both must be undertaken.  A leader who is not ready to sift elements of a culture and tactfully explain what can be retained and what must be abandoned, is not ready to travel forward with the wayfarer.

Personal Relevance of the Good News

Signs of Travelers at Waypoint 12

The Personal Trekker.  At this point the journey becomes terribly personal for the traveler. The trekker begins to realize that the Good News has ramifications for them personally.  For Lauren it was the recognition that God was a personal God, and had sent His own offspring into Lauren’s world to rescue her from herself. The implications of this for Lauren’s personal journey fostered a huge impact.

The Traveler Caught Between Two Opposites. At this waypoint the traveler will often experience diametrically opposed forces between Christianity and their former worldview. While the Christian may wonder why this bothers them so, to the traveler they are crossing over an all-encompassing threshold. The traveler is comparing and contrasting their former worldview with an emerging Christian perspective. They will need time to make comparisons, assessments and conclusions.

Actions That Help W12 Travelers

Action 12.1: Understand a Post-Christian Worldview

 The very word post-Christian requires some definition.  The term post-Christian indicates in part that today we live in an age where Christianity is not the dominant belief system, nor the religious culture.  The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) indicates that the majority of North Americas consider themselves religious, but do not necessarily embrace a Christian belief.   Researchers of American Church History note that at one time much of North America embraced a Christian worldview, though there were various permutations and factions.  Yet, the dominance of the Christian worldview has dissipated, and it can now be said that North America is in a post-Christian era.  Darrell  Guder states, “rather than occupying a central and influential place, North American Christian churches are increasingly marginalized, so much so that in our urban areas they represent a minority movement.  It is by now a truism to speak of North America as mission field.”

There have been numerous attempts to describe this post-Christian milieu.  However, for succinctness let me tender six basic (but not exhaustive) characteristics of a post-Christian milieu.

  1. God, if He exists at all, is just an impersonal moral force.
  2. The Bible is nothing other than a book written by humans.
  3. Humankind basically has the capacity within itself to improve morally and make the right choices.
  4. Happiness consists of unlimited acquisition of material, knowledge, experience, etc.
  5. There is no objective basis for right and wrong.
  6. If a person lives a “good life,” then eternal destiny is probable.

Each of these distinctives must be understood and addressed by the Christian who travels along with others Waypoint 12.  Therefore, Action 12.2 will address the importance of dialogue and companionship.  And, Action 12.3 will discuss how each of the above distinctives can be addressed.

Action 12.2: Discuss the Post-Christian & Biblical Worldview.

  The metaphor of a journey reminds us that a trekker will encounter fellow travelers, guides and hosts along their way.  Yet, the church has lost her way in creating dialogue with travelers who embrace a post-Christian worldview.  Richard Peace regrets the church has lost this art of companionship, and thus he suggests the church must renew her efforts to assist, engage and travel with wayfarers with divergent points of view.  Here are three guidelines for reviving the lost art of journey companionship.

Don’t have a goal in mind.  For many Christians the goal of companionship is to lead the traveler to a new birth.  But, as we have seen in the forgoing chapters it is the Holy Spirit’s role to draw wayfarers to this waypoint (John 16: 8, 9).  Thus the church’s role is conversation, not conversion; assistance not damnation.  The church must resist the temptation to be goal orientated, for we know not the length nor the route of the fellow traveler’s journey.  When Peter asked Jesus about the apostle John’s destiny, Jesus reminded Peter that his role was to be faithful and to feed Jesus’ sheep (John 21:156-25).  Destiny is in God’s hands, but accompaniment is in ours.

Respect post-Christian and even anti-Christian worldviews.  For honest and candid discussion to emerge, respect must be the foundation.  If a Christian joins a traveler on the journey and the Christian only lauds their own journey and the primacy of their route, then the traveler will feel the Christian has no respect, nor understanding, for the wayfarer’s personal passage.  

Understand that modern culture is fascinated with spirituality.  Though there is a growing agnosticism and atheism in North America, still almost 3 out of 4 people say they are interested in spiritual things.  Yet, many may have divergent belief systems to Christianity.   Thus to foster authentic dialogue, the Christian must show respect and reverence for different religious beliefs.

Action 12.3: Explain the Relevance of the Biblical Worldview.

The above list of post-Christian beliefs deserves an extended discussion beyond this book.  However, to begin to addressing each, I have below tendered suggestions, ideas and books. These can be the starting place for the leader that wishes to increase his or her knowledge of the relevance of the Good News.

Resources to Answer a Postmodern Worldview

  1. God, if He exists at all, is just an impersonal moral force.
    1. The Good News: Genesis 2, Exodus 15:11, 20:2-6, John 3:16, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 5:1, etc.
    2. Books: “Why I Believe God Exists” by William Lane Craig in Why I Am a Christian.  Also, How Does Anyone Know God Exists? (Tough Questions) by Gary Poole.
  2. The Bible is nothing other than a book written by humans.
    1. The Good News: 1 John 5:13, 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Mark 13:31, Luke 24:44-45, etc.
    2. Books:  “Why I Believe the New Testament is Historically Reliable” by Gary R. Habermas, “Why I Believe the Bible is Scientifically Reliable” by Walter Bradley, both in Why I Am a Christian.  “Examining the Record” in The Case for Christ, co-written by Lee Strobel and others.  The Ring of Truth: A Translator’s Testimony by J. B. Phillips.
    3. Research:  Biblical scholar F. F. Bruce has stated that critics of the Bible’s text have uncovered no variants that affect any historical fact or belief on which Christianity is founded.
  3. Humankind basically has the capacity within itself to improve morally and make the right choices.
    1. The Good News: Psalm 51:1-4, 143:2, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Ezekiel 18:4, Romans 2:14-16, 3:23, 3:10-18, Ephesians 2:8-9, 1 John 5:1-10, etc.
    2. Books:  “Postmodernism: A Declaration of Bankruptcy” by Kathryn Ludwigson,  and “Evangelism in a Postmodern World” by James Emery White, in The Challenge of Postmodernism. 
  4. Happiness consists of unlimited acquisition of material, knowledge, experience, etc.
    1. The Good News: Romans 1:18-32, 2 Peter 2:18-22, Titus 2:11-14, etc.
    2. Books: Your God is Too Small: A Guide for Believer and Skeptics Alike by J. B. Phillips, The Hole in the Gospel: The Answer That Changed My Life And Just Might Change the World, Randy Alcorn’s Money, Possessions, and Eternity, and The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne.
  5. There really is no objective basis for right and wrong.
    1. The Good News: Jeremiah 6:16-19, John 8:34-44, Romans 2:1-16, Galatians 2:15-16, etc.
    2. Books: God in the Dock; Essays on Theology and Ethics by C. S. Lewis, Christian Apologetics by Normal L. Geisler, and N. T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense.
  6. If a person lives a “good life,” then eternal destiny is probable.
    1. The Good News: Matthew 7:13-14, Luke 13:23-25, John 14:6, Romans 5:12-21, etc. 
    2. Books: Why I Am a Christian edited by Norman Geisler and Paul Hoffman, Faith on Trial by Pamela Binnings Ewen, The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, and The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller.

Resources to Support a Biblical Worldview

To aid in this dialogue, the five elements below of a Christian worldview are accompanied by applicable Scriptures, suggestions, ideas and books.

  1. There is one God, Creator, who actually exists in space and time.
    1. The Good News: Genesis 1-2, Exodus 15:11, 20:2-6, Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 45:5, 6, 21-22, Malachi 3:6, etc.
    2. Books:  “Why I Believe the God of the Bible is the One True God” in Why I Am a Christian, Faith on Trial by Pamela Binnings Ewen, The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (these books are also useful with the following four elements).
  2. Humankind, because of a willful act of disobedience became severed from a personal relationship with the God who made him and her.  The consequence is that humankind has become imprisoned and most live a self-seeking life with no possibility on their own of restoring this lost communion.
    1. The Good News: Genesis 2:16-17, Genesis 3:7-8, Ephesians 2:13-16, Romans 3:23, Romans 3:9-18, Romans 6:23 etc.
    2. Books: Tears of God by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Know Why You Believe by Paul E. Little, and Epic: The Story God is Telling by John Eldridge.
  3. Jesus Christ, a human being who actually lived on earth, is God’s Son who has provided, through His death and resurrection, the only way for humankind to be restored to fellowship with God.
    1. The Good News: Isaiah 53:5, Hebrews 9:22, 11:6, 1 John 1:7-9, John 1:29, 6:47, 14:6, Colossians 1:4, Matthew 1:21, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Ephesians 2: 8-9, 1 Timothy 2:5, etc.
    2. Books: “Why I Believe Jesus Is The Promised Messiah” by Barry R. Leventhal, “Why I Believe Jesus Is the Son of God” by Peter Kreeft, both in Why I Am a Christian.  “Analyzing Jesus” in The Case for Christ, co-written by Lee Strobel and others.  How to Give Away Your Faith by Paul E. Little, Philip Yancy’s The Jesus I Never Knew. 
  4. The Bible is a valid witness to eternal spiritual truth.
    1. The Good News: Psalm 119, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Jude 3, etc.
    2. Books: “Why I Believe the Bible Alone Is the Word of God” by Winfried Corduan in Why I Am a Christian.  Also see F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
  5. Restoration of fellowship between God and humankind requires an acceptance by humans of the free gift God offers, but only on the terms that God has provided.
    1. The Good News: Zechariah 13:9, Matthew 6:33, 7:7-8, Romans 10:9-13, 2 Peter 3:9, Romans 5:1, Romans 8:1, Romans 8:38-39, etc.
    2. Books: “Why I Have Made Jesus Christ Lord of My Life” by J. P. Moreland in Why I Am a Christian., Brad Kallenberg’s Live to Tell, The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge,  and the classic treatise Peace With God by Billy Graham.
    3. This point will be discussed further in the remainder of this book, especially along the journey between Waypoints 11 and 4.

Positive Attitude Toward LIVING the Good News

Waypoint Characteristics: 

At Waypoint 11, the traveler is growing with an increasingly positive attitude toward the act of accepting Christ and joining His community.  Yet, this is a very fragile and complicated waypoint.  As noted earlier, media and popular culture may have painted a pessimistic picture of the Christian lifestyle.  Therefore, the Christian community must be prepared to patiently, unwaveringly and loving help the traveler gain an authentic picture of a faith community, as well as the person God intended the traveler to be.

Signs of Travelers at Waypoint 11

The Lost Traveler.  This is a traveler who has exhausted all other road maps.  Like Mike Franzese, the trekker may be at the end of their options.  It is here the faith community must begin to help the traveler understand the direction and basics of this new route.  Yet, often at this waypoint the church will feel compelled to remind the hiker of the errant paths he or she has taken.  However, one of the lessons of the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) is that the unwavering older brother should celebrate the return, not reprimand it.

The Returning Traveler.  Other travelers may be returning to the road map of their youth.  Again, it becomes tempting for the faith community to disparage the years the trekker has squandered.  Still, the Parable of the Prodigal Son reminds us that the faithful older brother should not only celebrate his own faithfulness, but also celebrate his brother’s recovery.  Jesus concluded this parable by putting the spotlight on the trekker’s return, saying, “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’” Luke 15:31-32 (The Message).

Actions That Help W11 Travelers

SWOT is an acronym for a helpful analysis tool.  Though often employed to analyze businesses, it’s holistic nature makes it a good tool for understanding a person’s aspirations, fears, hopes and dreams.  Each of the letters of SWOT stands for an area that must be studied.  And, when a community of faith is helping a traveler at Waypoint 11 gain a positive attitude toward living the Good News, it is critical to look at these four areas. 

Action 11.1: Empower Strengths

“S” in the acronym SWOT stands for strengths.  These are strengths that each person possesses.  Leadership researcher Peter Northouse believes such strengths can be traits, abilities, skills or behaviors.  Traits are inherent and natural qualities with which a leader is endowed.  Abilities are aptitudes developed by experience.  Skills are means and methods for carrying out leadership responsibilities.  And behaviors are what people do with the traits, abilities and skills they have been given.  Though we will discuss their differences more in the next chapter, for this chapter the reader should keep in mind that a person’s giftings include things they are born with (traits), things they learn through experience (abilities and skills), and the behaviors that result.

There is little doubt that everyone possesses strengths in some traits, abilities, skills and behaviors. Yet the Scriptures indicate that a full unleashing of such gifts awaits a new birth experience that originates in God’s Spirit.  Such strengths and gifts testify to the goodness of the divine Giver.  Speaking to the Corinthian church, Paul states: 

God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:

    wise counsel

   clear understanding

   simple trust

   healing the sick

   miraculous acts

   proclamation

   distinguishing between spirits

   tongues

   interpretation of tongues.

   All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, The Message).

When encountering a wayfarer that has arduously traveled a spiritual journey, churches can easily be put off by the demeanor, appearance, habits and opinions of the traveler at Waypoint 11.  Yet, every person has redeeming strengths, and it is the Christian community’s task to nurture what God has planted.  Helping travelers at Waypoint 11 means helping them uncover their fledging strengths, to see these gifts were given by God, and that they still await His full empowerment.  The following two actions will assist in that process.

Action 11.1A: 

Help the traveler recognize the diversity of God’s gifts.

The Scriptures describe a variety of God-given gifts.  Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 along with secondary lists in 1 Corinthians 7, 13-14, Ephesians 3 and 1 Peter 4 describe many of the “gifts of the (Holy) Spirit” that God uses to empower people for service and ministry.  Here is a brief, yet annotated list:

  1. Administration: Effective planning and organization (1 Cor. 2:28; Acts 6:1-7).
  2. Discernment: Distinguishing between error and truth (1 Cor. 12:10; Acts 5:1-11).
  3. Encouragement: Ability to comfort, console, encourage and counsel (Rom. 12:8; Hebrews 10:25; Timothy 4:13).
  4. Evangelism: Building relationships that help travelers move toward a personal relationship with Christ (Luke 19:1-10; 2 Timothy 4:5).
  5. Faith: Discerning with extraordinary confidence the will and purposes of God. (1 Cor. 12:9, Acts 11:22-24, Hebrews 11, Romans 4:18-21)
  6. Giving: Cheerfully giving of resources without remorse (Romans 12:8; 2 Cor. 8:1-7, 9:2-8; Mark 12:41-44).
  7. Hospitality: Creating comfort and assistance for those in need (1 Peter 4:9, Romans 12:9-13, 16:23, Acts 16:14-15, Hebrews 13:1-2).
  8. Intercession: Passionate, extended and effective prayer. (James 5:14-16, 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Colossians 1:9-12, 4:12-13).
  9. Knowledge: To discover, accumulate, analyze and clarify information and ideas which are pertinent to the well being of a Christian community. (1 Cor. 2:14, 12:8, Acts 5:1-11, Colossians 2:2-3).
  10. Leadership: To cast vision, set goals and motivate to cooperatively accomplish God’ purposes (Luke 9:51; Romans 12:8; Hebrews 13:17).
  11. Mercy: To feel authentic empathy and compassion accompanied by action that reflects Christ’s love and alleviates suffering (Romans 12:8, Matt. 25:34-36; Luke 10:30-37).
  12. Prophecy: Providing guidance to others by explaining and proclaiming  God’s truth (1 Cor. 12:10, 28; Eph. 4:11-14, Romans 12:6; Acts 21:9-11).
  13. Helps: Investing time and talents in others to increase other’s effectiveness (1 Cor. 12:28, Rom. 16:1-2, Acts 9:36).
  14. Service: A tactical gift that identifies steps and processes in tasks that results in ministry to others (2 Tim. 1:16-18, Rom. 12:7, Acts 6:1-7).
  15. Pastor: Long-term personal responsibility for the welfare of spiritual travelers. (Eph. 4:1-14, 1 Tim. 3:1-7, John 10:1-18, 1 Peter 5:1-3).
  16. Teaching: Communicating relevant information that results in learning (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11-14, Rom. 12:7, Acts 18:24-28, 20:20-21).
  17. Wisdom: To have insight into how to apply knowledge (1 Cor. 2:1-13, 12:8. Acts 6:3, 10; James 1:5-6, 2 Peter 3: 15-16).
  18. Missionary: Using spiritual gifts effectively in a non-indigenous culture (1 Cor. 9:19-21, Acts 8:4, 13:2-3, 22:21; Rom. 10:15).
  19. Miracles.  To perform compelling acts that are perceived by observers to have altered the ordinary course of nature (1 Cor. 12:10, 28; Acts 9:36-42, 19:11-20, 20:7-12; Rom. 15:18-19, 2 Cor. 12:12).
  20. Healing. To serve as human intermediaries through whom it pleases God to restore health (1 Cor. 12:9, 28; Acts 3:1-10, 5:12-16, 9:32-35, 28:7-10).
  21. Tongues. There are various explanations of this gift.  For instance it can be to speak (a) to God in a language they have never learned and/or (b) to receive and communicate an immediate message of God to his people.  Another option is that this can mean an ability to speak a foreign language and convey concept across cultures (1 Cor. 12:10, 28, 14:13-19, Acts 2:1-13, 10:44-46, 19:1-7).
  22. Interpretation: To make known a message of one who speaks in tongues.  And/or it can mean “those who help build bridges across cultural, generational and language divides.” (1 Cor. 12:10, 30, 14:13, 26-28).
  23. Voluntary poverty.  To renounce material comfort and luxury to assist others (1 Cor. 13:1-3, Acts 2:44:45, 4:34-37, 2 Cor. 6:10, 8:9).
  24. Celibacy: To remain single with joy and not suffer undue sexual temptation (1 Cor. 7:7-8, Matt. 19:10-12).
  25. Martyrdom. Ability to undergo suffering for the faith even to death, while displaying a victorious attitude that brings glory to God (1 Cor. 13:3).

There is no Biblical reason why some of these gifts are not given in some measure before conversion, awaiting the regenerative experience to unleash them with divine empowerment.  Therefore, the Christian community should look for signs of such pre-empowered giftings in travelers at Waypoint 11, and then move to Action B.

Action 11.1B:  

Explain that new birth will unleash and empower these strengths.

A Christian community can help a traveler grasp that along with new birth will come divine empowerment for good deeds.  And, these good deeds will rise from the traveler’s traits, abilities, skills and behaviors.  People today often suffer from poor self-esteem, yet God’s intention is that each person has gifts to contribute to the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7, 1 Peter 4:10).  Christian communities should be a place where travelers with such emerging giftings discover that:

  1. Gifts, as listed in Scripture (i.e. above), are from God (Romans 12:5-6, 1 Corinthians 12:18, 1 Peter 4:10).
  2. These gifts were given so that travelers can serve others (Romans 12:6, 1 Corinthians 12:7, 18).
  3. The full empowerment and release of these gifts occurs following new birth. (1 Peter 4:10).

Action 11.2: Offset Weaknesses .

“W” in SWOT stands for personal weaknesses.  A Christ-like community can help travelers grasp that new birth (W7) and growth in God’s new community (W5-W0) can result in the traveler overcoming personal weaknesses.  The Scriptures promise that:

  • “Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.” 1 Cor. 6:9-11 (The Message).
  • “Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.  I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” Isaiah 41:10 (The Message)
  • “Is anyone crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you.” Psalm 34:17 (The Message).
  • “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Luke 12:29-31.
  • “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13.

Action 11.3: Capitalize on Opportunities.

“O” in SWOT stands for “opportunities” and God’s Good News is that His intentions are to help His offspring make the most of opportunities. Scriptures state: 

  • “Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you.” Hebrews 13:1-4 (The Message).
  • “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all’.” Mark 9:35.
  • “Anyone who sets himself up as ‘religious’ by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” James 1:26-27 (The Message).
  • “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.
  • “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Matthew 25:34.
  • “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” Matthew 6:20 (The Message).
  • “What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.” 1 Peter 1:3-4 (The Message).

Action 11.4: Overcome Threats.

“T” in SWOT stands for “threats” and these are things that are beyond a person’s control and which they fear.  Death, illness, estrangement, etc. are but a few of the threats that humans can be anxious about.  Again, here are just a few Scriptures that paint an image of triumph over anxiety and adversity:  

  • Fear of persecution:  “Fear nothing in the things you’re about to suffer—but stay on guard! Fear nothing! The Devil is about to throw you in jail for a time of testing—ten days. It won’t last forever. Don’t quit, even if it costs you your life. Stay there believing. I have a Life-Crown sized and ready for you..” Revelation 2:10 (The Message).
  • Fear of death:  “’Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Cor. 15:55-58. 
  • Fear of hardship:  “That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.” Romans 8:18 (The Message).
  • Fear of not being successful: “Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what.  Who or what can get to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 (The Message).

At Waypoint 11 the church must be careful to not overly romanticize nor paint a rosy picture of the future, even with Christ.  The Bible states that challenges lie ahead on our route, but advises: “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner” (1 Peter 4:12-13).  Thus, the Christian community must realistically and authentically let the traveler know that there will be barriers, detours, and challenges on the road ahead, but that Christ and his community provide aid and strength to continue the journey.

Download the chapters here (but remember, if you enjoy the content please purchase the book to support the publisher and author): BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT Spiritual Waypoints 13, 12, 11

Speaking hashtags: #Kingswood2018