CHANGE & Why it won’t happen unless you understand the important difference between “mission” & “vision.”

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., excerpted from an address delivered to the Great Commission Research Network (GCRN), Asbury Theological Seminary, Oct. 19, 2017.

“How Changing Generations … Change: Harnessing the Differences Between Generations and Their Approaches to Change.”

Abstract

This article will compare and contrast two leadership change strategies as observed in older generations (influenced by modernity) and younger generations (influenced by postmodernity). It will be suggested that modernist leadership strategies may focus more on command-and-control and vision. It will be further suggested that postmodern leaders may employ a more collaborative and mission-centric approach to change leadership. This latter approach will be shown to have been described in postmodern circles by organic metaphors and four conditions as set forth by organizational theorist Mary Jo Hatch. Subsequently, it will be suggested that the style of leadership embraced should depend upon the cultural context of the generational actors and the environment.

… Motivating by vision vs. motivating by mission

There is some confusion among practitioners regarding the difference between vision and mission. Kent Hunter and I, in an earlier book, sought to compare and contrast various ecclesial definitions of vision and mission and suggest an abridgment.[21]

George Barna[22] Elmer L. Towns[23]

 

Whitesel / Hunter[24]
Mission: A philosophic statement that under-girds the heart of your ministry. Your ministry emphasis and your church gifting. “What do we do” (and why do we do it, 2017)
Vision: A clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God, and based on an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstances. Same as Barna. “Where do we believe God is calling our church to go in the future?”

My experience has been that older generations, influenced by modernity, typically emphasize the vision. By this, I mean they have a clear mental picture of the future and try to muster all of their forces to attain it. This can, and often does, result in a parade of different programs being promoted to the congregation which often – by their sheer frequency – overwhelms and wears out the congregants. Burnout is often the result.

I have noticed that younger generations are more likely to emphasize the mission that undergirds these various visions. This is perhaps because they have witnessed this in their parents’ congregations. According to Barna, a mission is “a philosophic statement that undergirds the heart of your ministry.”[25] This leads postmodern-influenced leaders to emphasize less the different programs that are being implemented and instead to motivate by stressing the mission behind them.

An interview with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s in USA Today yields a useful example.[26] In the article, Nadella criticizes founding CEO Bill Gates for mixing up the difference between a mission and a vision. Nadella states, “It always bothered me that we confused an enduring mission with a temporal goal… When I joined the company in 1992, we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we have done that, at least in the developed world.”

“…we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we have done that, at least in the developed world.” – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s in USA Today

Nadella was right because “putting a PC in every home” is not a mission – it is a vision. It is something that can be reached, can be pictured in your mind and is temporally bound. You can see a vision in your mind. You can envision every house having a PC computer. That is why every house today doesn’t have an IBM PC. Instead, many have Apple Macs.

A mission, however, drives the company and its values, therefore shaping its decisions. It is much bigger and grander than a vision.

When Steve Jobs was luring John Scully from PepsiCo to become CEO of Apple, Jobs shared a mission, not a vision, saying: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”[27]

A mission is just like that. It is exciting, world-changing … but somewhat imprecise so it could manifest in many different outcomes (i.e. visions). It is also not temporally bound, like “putting a PC in every home.” A mission drives your values and decisions through many different projects.

Apple’s mission reminds me of the trend I see in my youthful seminary students to emphasize mission over vision. They correctly understand that mission can be realized in many different visions. Apple’s mission would be realized in varied visions including: the vision to revolutionize the way music is purchased via iTunes, the vision to miniaturize the computer into a handheld device, etc. The result is that Apple devotees have a passion that IBM followers don’t. Apple has an ongoing mission that continues to be realized in various visions. As a result, the clarity of Apple’s mission, best exemplified in Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad, unleashes a passion in its followers.[28]

Best practices for the church: When leading younger leaders, it may be helpful to emphasize the mission while letting many subcategories of vision come and go as opportunity rises and wanes. The younger generations appear to want to be reminded of the mission but allowed to create multiple visions of how it may be carried out. They don’t want to stick to one idea or tactic, but rather one mission. Therefore, the mission becomes more important than a time and measurement constrained vision which often influenced their parents’ church.

The tip of an iceberg

These approaches to change are just the tip of an iceberg of divergences between the leadership modality of the modernist and postmodernist. I’ve compared and contrasted more areas in my Abingdon Press book ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church. The reader may be interested in how I delve into the striking difference regarding how younger generations offset the disadvantages of homogeneity. For a thorough investigation of the distinctions between modern and postmodern leadership, I would encourage the reader to consult this volume.

[1] The Atlantic magazine, March 25, 2014.

[2] Generation Z has been suggested as the descriptor for this generation by the New York Times, see Sabrina Tavernise, “A Younger Generation is Being Born in Which Minorities are the Majority,” New York Times, May 17, 2012.

[3] Bob Whitesel, “Toward a Holistic in Postmodernal Theory of Change: The Four-forces Model of Change as Reflected in Church Growth Movement Literature,” The Journal of the American Society for Church Growth, Fall 2008.

[4] Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 53-56.

[5] Eddie Gibbs in Church Next (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 23) explains that though Frederico de Onis created the term “postmodern” in the 1930s it was not until the 1960s that it gained popularity due to its use by art critics.

[6] Emil Bruner, trans. Harold Knight, The Misunderstanding of the Church (London: Lutterworth Press, 1952), pp. 15-18.

[7] Mary Joe Hatch, Organizational Theory: Modern, Symbolic, and Postmodern Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 53-54.

[8] While Hatch utilizes the term requisite harmony, I have substituted the helpful term dissonant harmony as employed by Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model. Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792-822. I have applied the Dyke-Starke model to the church in Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It(Abingdon Press, 2003).

[9] Charles H. Kraft, Christianity in Culture, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1979), pp. 113.

[10] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, op. cit., p. 120.

[11] Eddie Gibbs, I Believe in Church Growth, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), p. 92.

[12] See for the example the hedgehog versus Fox’s comparison in Abraham Zalesnik’s book, hedgehogs and foxes: character, leadership, and commanding organizations parentheses New York: Palm grave McMillan, 2008). Zalesnik use this is a metaphor of hedgehogs who live by unwavering rules with the more long-lived foxes who adapt to their environment..

[13] Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776; reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago press, 1976), books 1 and 4.

[14] Quoted by Daniel Boorstin, The Americans: The Democratic Experience (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp. 368-369

[15] Harrison Monarth, Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009), p. 55.

[16] Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, The Formation of Breakaway Organizations: Observations and a Process Model. Administrative Science Quarterly (1999), 44:792-822.

[17] For more on this seek Bob Whitesel, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change, And What You Can Do About It (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002) and the chapter titled “Go Slowly, Build Consensus and Succeed” in Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: The Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007, pp. 151-169.

[18] Harvard Business Review (Boston: Harvard Business Press, January 2007).

[19] Bruno Dyck and Frederick A. Starke, ibid., 44:812-813.

[20] ibid., 44:813-819.

[21] Bob Whitesel and Kent R. Hunter, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001), p. 107.

[22]George Barna, The Power of Vision: How You Can Capture and Apply God’s Vision for Your Ministry (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1992), pp. 28, 38–39.

[23] Elmer L. Towns, Vision Day: Capturing the Power of Vision, (Lynchburg, Virginia; Church Growth Institute, 1994), pp. 24-25.

[24] Whitesel and Hunter, op. cit., p. 107.

[25] Barna, op. cit., p. 28.

[26] Marco della Cava, “Microsoft’s Satya Nadella is Counting on Culture Shock to Drive Growth,” USA Today, Feb. 20, 2017.

[27]John Sculley and John A. Byrne, Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple: A Journey of Adventure, Ideas, and the Future(New York: HarperCollins, 1987), p. 90.

[28] The 1984 Apple commercial is available on YouTube and is best described by MacWorld writer Adelia Cellini in the following: “Apple wanted the Mac to symbolize the idea of empowerment, with the ad showcasing the Mac as a tool for combating conformity and asserting originality. What better way to do that than have a striking blonde athlete take a sledgehammer to the face of that ultimate symbol of conformity, Big Brother?” “The Story Behind Apple’s “1984” TV commercial: Big Brother at 20,”MacWorld, 21 (1), p. 18.

Download the article here… ARTICLE Whitesel 2017 Changing Generations Change GCRJ GCRN 17.10.17

Bio

Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D. holds two doctorates from Fuller Seminary and is the former founding professor of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. A speaker/consultant on church health, organic outreach and multiethnic ministry, he is the award-winning author of 13 books published by national publishers. National magazines have stated: “Bob Whitesel is the change agent” (Ministry Today) and “Bob Whitesel is the key spokesperson on change in the church today” (Outreach Magazine). The faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary awarded him The Donald McGavran Award for outstanding scholarship in church growth and The Great Commission Research Network awarded him The Donald A. McGavran Award for outstanding leadership in church growth.

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018 Theological Reflection Seminar #TheoReflect #GCRN #CLIOrlando2018

COMMUNICATION & From Gutenberg to Google – analysis by Elmer Towns

Commentary by Prof. B: Elmer Towns, founding professor of Liberty University School of Theology and elder statesman of the Church Growth Movement, shared his meta-perspectives on communication, by contrasting Gutenberg and Google.

Address by Elmer Towns D.Min., Ph.D., 10/19/17 to the annual meeting of The Great Commission Research Network at Asbury Theological Seminary, Oct. 19, 2017.

Gutenberg controlled the printing process by utilizing lightly trained individuals and an expert who oversaw the process. This created a top-down approach, which is not a rational approach but a power-based approach.

Google has democratized information.  It is bottom up and individualized. The next generations will probably attain their knowledge in this manner.

Speaking Hashtag #GCRN

WESLEY & Dr. Elmer Towns thinks he is the greatest world changer since the Apostle Paul

John Wesley: The Greatest World Changer Since the Apostle Paul

“John Wesley was the most influential Christian leader since the apostle Paul because he carried out the Great Commission in its entirety. When Wesley died in 1791, there were 243 Methodist churches in the United States. By the War of 1812, there were 5,000 Methodist churches. John Wesley not only preached the gospel to lost people but also raised up an army of circuit-riding preachers, each one of them planting some fifty to one hundred churches. Within one generation after the death of John Wesley, the Methodist Church became the largest Protestant movement in the world.”

—Elmer L. Towns. co-founder and vice president of Liberty University, dean of Liberty University School of Theology. Excerpted from the “Foreword” of the devotional guide titled: Enthusiast! Finding a Faith that Fills [Wesleyan Publishing House, 2017]).

Read an excerpt of Enthusiast! Finding a Faith that Fills at Enthusiast.life

WESLEY’s METHOD & Why It is Needed Again Today

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 1/30/16.

Many denominations trace their histories back to a “revival movement” sparked by John Wesley’s “METHOD” in 1700s England. These denominations include

  • the Methodists of course,
  • the Free Methodists,
  • most Pentecostals/Charismatics,
  • the Nazarenes,
  • most of the Church of God denominations,
  • Freewill Baptists
  • some Baptist denominations (e.g. in parts of Texas)
  • the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church,
  • Evangelical Church of North America,
  • African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church,
  • the Salvation Army
  • and of course the Wesleyan church.

But what is made this made Wesley’s “METHOD” so influential and so dramatic?

The secret was Wesley’s leadership and organizational “METHOD.”

So clear to his detractors that this “METHOD” was at the core of the movement’s emphasis upon conversion and discipleship that his detractors labeled his followers “Methodist.”

Methodist was a derogatory term. But the people following the “METHOD” knew that the “METHOD” worked and so they embraced the name. This would be analogous today to someone calling you a “program Christian,” meaning that you were just following some “program.”

But those who had been changed and now started caring for the poor because of this “METHOD” knew that the method was Biblically-based and divinely inspired. This they were proud to be called “Methodist” … attaching it to every church name.

Some Calvinistic churches and leaders may have disagreed with Wesley’s Arminian theology. But they don’t disagree with his “METHOD-ology.” Famous Baptist theologian and founder of the Liberty University School of Theology, Dr. Elmer Towns said:

Wesley Method Keynote Slides 2 copy.jpgWesley Method Keynote Slides 5 copy.jpgWesley Method Keynote Slides 4 copy.jpgWesley Method Keynote Slides 3 copy.jpg

See more at … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2017/10/12/method-3-basics-every-christian-should-know-about-wesleys-ministry-method/

#Speaking Hashtags: #BreakForth16 #TransformationalLeadershipConference

INNOVATION & These Churches Influence You More than You Realize! #LeadershipNetwork

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Two of my research colleagues, Dr.s Elmer Towns and Warren Bird have just released an interview discussing innovative churches of the 20th Century and how they have impacted how we do ministry today. Dr. Towns has been a mentor to both myself and Warren, and I think you will glean historical insights from this interview.

Watch the video interview here … https://youtu.be/xnT8nha9v74

Read more at … http://leadnet.org/these-churches-influence-you-more-than-you-realize/

MEGACHURCHES & Elmer Town’s View of Healthy Large Churches via @DanReiland #12StoneChurch

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “The thing that impressed me most about 12Stone© Church in Atlanta (a Wesleyan congregation) was that every Saturday night the pastors and leaders join together in the sanctuary to pray for the Sunday worship services.  Lead pastor Kevin Myers told me that this was something God impressed upon him.  Kevin said, and I’m paraphrasing from memory, ‘God said He would show up Sunday morning if I (Kevin) showed up Saturday night and prayed.’  The church has grown to a mega-congregation, but you can still feel what Elmer calls ‘the presence of God that impresses me. That warms my heart. That makes me trust the leaders.’  Another friend and 12Stone© leader, Dan Reiland, posted a great interview with Dr. Towns from which I gleaned this quote.  Here is the entire interview posted with permission from a great website (you should follow it): DanReiland.com.”

Wisdom from a Sage: Dr. Elmer Towns

by Dan Reiland, May 6, 2015, retrieved from http://danreiland.com/wisdom-from-a-sage-dr-elmer-towns

dan-reiland

What I consider a killer combination: Lunch last week at P.F. Changs with Dr. Elmer Towns!

Dr. Elmer Towns is the co-founder of Liberty University and the former Dean of the School of Theology and the Seminary for 32 years. Even at 82 years of age, Dr. Towns is fired up and going strong! He is one of the sharpest leaders I know. Dr. Towns has written 200 books and is working on 3 more right now. He travels the world speaking to thousands of church leaders. Dr. Towns is also writing curriculum for 12 new online courses that will be made available to thousands of Bible Schools internationally and in the US.

Let me slow down a bit. Elmer is a good friend. I love and appreciate him. He has more energy than most 40 year olds, and after all these years he just switched to a Mac! He also proudly showed me his new iPhone 6 Plus!

Elmer loves the local church and has invested in more leaders than most of us could ever imagine. Before his calling to the academic arena, Dr. Towns was a pastor starting at 19 years old in Savannah, GA, while in college.

I asked Dr. Towns what churches impressed him these days. He paused and said,

“Big churches don’t impress me.”

OK, I was hooked and asked him which ones do? He said,

“When I walk in the church and I immediately sense the presence of God that impresses me. That warms my heart. That makes me trust the leaders.”

Elmer said he can quickly sense the Holy Spirit or a “deadness” in the room. He called it the “atmospheric presence of God.”

Dr. Towns went on to say that the presence of God comes from worship, and the presence of God follows the man of God (The Pastor). The pastor is the intercessor that brings God to the people. (This was not meant to suggest that the people do not have direct access to God, but intended to reveal a Pastor’s heart as he or she prays for the people and delivers God’s Word.)

I asked what he would share with young next gen leaders stepping into ministry today. Dr. Towns said:

“Tell them not to focus on building a church but concentrate on feeding the people. If you lead and shepherd the people the church will grow.”

Last, I asked how to go the distance in ministry:

“First you must know why you’re doing what you are doing, then it must be a calling not a job. From there chase God, not success. Most people don’t know what to do with success. If you walk closely with God through Bible reading and prayer, when your church hits a rough patch, which they always do, you can weather the storm, and God will show you what to do next.”

SPIRITUAL GIFTS LIST & How to Help Others Discover Their Ministry Calling #SpiritualWaypointsBook

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

Waypoint 2: Ministry Emergence

“So remember, every picture tells a story don’t it.” – Rod Stewart and Ron Wood, musicians and songwriters[i]

Spiritual Waypoints [104KB]Artistic Emergence (the true life story of author/worship leader Sally Morgenthaller)

Though not yet three years old, Sally climbed on the piano bench and began pounding out a song. Soon Sally added words, and much to her mother’s surprise Sally began to weave a song describing God’s restoration of a destroyed world. “The song began very ominous,” remembered Sally. “The music began dark and sad because humans had done such evil to the world. But then the music turned cheerful, and I played very lightly. I began singing about how God was restoring happiness and joy to the world. I like the word emergence, Bob,” continued Sally, “for from a very young age I had a sense of an emerging divine presence and a special gifting to make Him known.”

By the time she was a teenager Sally carried a camera wherever she went. “I wanted to use pictures to tell stories of how God works. I looked for God’s divine activity in everyday life. I felt it was through artistic gifts that I was created to share God’s message.”

Slowly Sally’s artistic bent shaped her writing as well. One day in church the worship leader said, “In worship we should encounter God.” “So I began reporting on what God was doing during worship in my life and in the lives of others,” recalled Sally. “God united my artistic gifts with my writing talents. The result was a book called Worship Evangelism about how people are reencountering God through worship.”

“But my journey is really about how telling God’s story through artistic expression. I want to bring to people a hope in God. And, I want to help people see His subtle but obvious presence.”

Waypoint Characteristics:

Signs of Travelers at Waypoint 2

Travelers may experiment with a variety of ministries. At this juncture the traveler may yearn to try their hand at numerous ministries that the seasoned traveler may feel are unsuitable for them. But some experimentation, within spiritual, moral and theological boundaries, must be allowed. This is because the traveler must learn to discern the difference between spiritually empowered gifts and those whose that have their genesis in human aspiration. The importance of personal spiritual confirmation will be explored under Action 2.4.

Travelers may focus too narrowly on one ministry. While some travelers will try many ministry options, others will focus too narrowly, smitten with the first Spirit empowered ministry they experience. The community of faith must encourage the traveler to see God’s diverse matrix of gifts as well as realize that all ministry requires a mixture of gifts. A leader’s unique assortment of gifts is what Clinton calls a “gift-mix.”[ii] And, this mixture may be received in different proportions and in different strengths. Rarely do Christians have just one gift, for God’s creation is customarily a wonderful synthesis of diversity. Sally Morgenthaler most likely has a gift mix of encouragement, artist and prophecy.[iii] And, these might just be the most noticeable ones, for God’s creation is customarily comprised of a splendid array of elements. The community of faith must encourage the wayfarer to not just focus on the first gift that emerges in their ministry, but to continue to explore God’s endowment for their lives.

Actions That Help W2 Travelers

At this waypoint traits, abilities, skills or behaviors[iv] can become supernaturally empowered by the Holy Spirit as manifestations or gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is important to note that these can be understood as gifts or manifestations. Theologian James D. G. Dunn observes that they are “gifts” because they are given, and “manifestations” because they attest to the reality of the unseen Giver.[v] And, according to the Scriptures these are given to all Christians:[vi]

1 Cor. 12:7     “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

Eph. 4:7          “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

1 Peter 4:10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

Clinton states that at this waypoint the leader now “recognizes that part of God’s guidance for ministry comes through establishing ministry priorities by discerning gifts.”[vii] Discerning or determining a leader’s gift-mix can take place through the following four actions.

Action 2.1: Learn About Your Gifts

The route toward discovering a leader’s gift matrix begins with a study of the gifts in Scriptures. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 along with secondary gift lists in 1 Corinthians 7, 13-14; Ephesians 3 and 1 Peter 4 describe approximately 25 gifts of the Holy Spirit. Yet, because none of the gift lists are complete in themselves, it is reasonable to conclude that there may be other plausible gifts if they can be Scripturally verified.[viii] Therefore, I have listed an additional gift of “artist” that is not mentioned in the main gifts lists, but which appears to have attestation in Scripture and church history.

Here is a annotated expansion of the list the reader first encountered at Waypoint 11:[ix]

Gift Explanation Scripture
Administration Effective planning and organization 1 Cor. 2:28; Acts 6:1-7
Discernment Distinguish between error and truth 1 Cor. 12:10; Acts 5:1-11
Encouragement Ability to comfort, console, encourage and counsel Rom. 12:8; Hebrews 10:25; Timothy 4:13
Evangelism Building relationships that help travelers move toward a personal relationship with Christ Luke 19:1-10; 2 Timothy 4:5
Faith Discerning with extraordinary con-fidence the will & purposes of God 1 Cor. 12:9, Acts 11:22-24, Hebrews 11, Rom. 4:18-21
Giving Cheerfully giving of resources without remorse Romans 12:8; 2 Cor. 8:1-7, 9:2-8; Mark 12:41-44
Hospitality Creating comfort and assistance for those in need[x] 1 Peter 4:9, Rom. 12:9-13, 16:23, Acts 16:14-15, Heb. 13:1-2
Intercession Passionate, extended and effective prayer James 5:14-16, 1 Tim. 2:1-2; Col. 1:9-12, 4:12-13
Knowledge[xi] 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
Leadership To cast vision, set goals and motivate to cooperatively accomplish God’ purposes Luke 9:51; Romans 12:8; Hebrews 13:17
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
Prophecy[xii] Providing guidance by explaining & proclaiming God’s truth 1 Cor. 12:10, 28; Eph. 4:11-14, Rom. 12:6; Acts 21:9-11
Helps Investing time and talents in others to increase other’s effectiveness 1 Cor. 12:28, Rom. 16:1-2, Acts 9:36
Service[xiii] A tactical gift that identifies steps and processes in tasks. 2 Tim. 1:16-18, Rom. 12:7, Acts 6:1-7
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
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
Wisdom[xiv] 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
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
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
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
Tongues[xv] Various explanations of this gift include: (a) to speak to God in a language they have never learned and/or (b) to receive and communicate an immediate message of God to his people.[xvi] Another option is that this can mean an ability to speak a foreign language and convey concepts across cultures. 1 Cor. 12:10, 28, 14:13-19, Acts 2:1-13, 10:44-46, 19:1-7
Interpretation To make known a message of one who speaks in tongues.[xvii] And/or it can mean “those who help build bridges across cultural, generational and language divides.” [xviii] 1 Cor. 12:10, 30, 14:13, 26-28
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
Celibacy To remain single with joy and not suffer undue sexual temptation 1 Cor. 7:7-8, Matt. 19:10-12
Martyrdom[xix] Ability to undergo suffering for the faith even to death, while displaying an attitude that brings glory to God 1 Cor. 13:3
A gift that is not mentioned directly in the New Testament gift lists,

but which is seen at other junctures in the Scriptures and Church history.

Artist[xx] The ability to communicate God’s message via artistic mediums. 1 Chron. 5, Psalm 33:3, 42:8, 74:21; 149:1, 150, Col. 3:16 & Eph 5:19.
Action 2.2: Find a Need.

The next step is to look for a need that must be filled. The Scriptures say that “…to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7), so that “each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others” (1 Peter 4:10). Since the purpose is “the common good” and to “serve others,” areas in need of serving become a required starting point. Therefore, the community of faith must help wayfarers begin their discovery process not with leader, nor with the gifts, but with the needs of others that beg to be filled.

Action 2.3: Test Your Gifts.

Ray Stedman said, “you discover a spiritual gift just like you discovered your natural talents.”[xxi] Gift discovery often continues with testing various gifts that can meet the needs identified in Action 2.2. There are certainly some gifts that do not lend themselves to experimentation, such as the gift of martyrdom. But for most gifts, researching and testing is a way to discover your gifts.

Still, sometimes a need is so vital that experimentation is not recommended. In such cases there are spiritual gift questionnaires that can assist a wayfarer. Most of these questionnaires are based upon the work of Richard Houts.[xxii] Many denominational offices have theologically distinct versions available as well.

However, I have noticed that gift inventories are often given without subsequent follow-up or exploration. Churches often require congregants to take such inventories but do little with the results. Such inventories will only help if they are followed by testing, where under the supervision of a trained mentor the person puts into practice their perceived gift.

Action 2.4: Expect Confirmation

A supervisor should give confirmation. Because all ministry involves human souls and spiritual destinies, it is critical that all testing be supervised. James Dunn points out that Paul encouraged supervision in Corinth to prevent overindulgence in the more unusual gifts.[xxiii]

The person exercising the gift should expect confirmation. God gives good gifts to His children (Matt. 7:11) and thus while exercising in giftedness, leaders should sense an anointing in their work. In The Greening of the Church, Findley Edge labels this the “eureka” factor, because a person senses that “this, really, is what I had rather do for God than anything else in the world.”[xxiv]

The recipient should give confirmation. Testing should not be done in an autocratic or detached manner, but rather in close partnership with the recipient. This is called “action research” for it signifies research that is conducted with the active involvement of the recipient and their input. The recipient is not a guinea pig, but rather a soul formed in God’s image. As such, the recipient possesses valuable feedback for the minister.

The community of faith should give confirmation. When a leader operates with a God-given gifting, one that has been given “for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7) and “to serve others” (1 Peter 4:10), then the community of faith should perceive and appreciate that common good as well as the appropriateness of that service.

[i] Rod Stewart and Ron Wood, “Every Picture Tells a Story,” album by the same title (Los Angeles: Polygram Records, 1971)

[ii] Clinton, The Making of a Leader, 32.

[iii] See the definitions and Scriptural explanation of these gifts in Figure XX.X.

[iv] Leadership scholar Peter Northouse describes traits, abilities, skills and behaviors as the basic building blocks of leadership (Introduction to Leadership, 2-3). Traits are inherent and endowed qualities, abilities are aptitudes developed by experience, skills are methods for carrying out leadership, and behaviors are what leaders do with traits, abilities and skills. Northouse makes a persuasive argument that all leaders develop these elements of leadership. 1 Cor. 12:7, Eph. 4:7 and 1 Peter 4:10 appear to indicate that such predilections take on supernatural vigor when empowered by the Holy Spirit.

[v] James D. G. Dunn, Jesus and The Spirit: A Study in the Religious and Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians as Reflected in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 205-209.

[vi] The author is indebted to Eddie Gibbs for this comparative structure from I Believe in Church Growth (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1981), 325.

[vii] Clinton, The Making of a Leader, 32.

[viii] Wagner holds that witnessing a gift in use in the Body of Christ verifies its legitimacy (Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow, 67). I disagree with Wagner here, who embraces in my view a too open-ended approach to spiritual gifts I find Wagner’s viewpoint interesting, and possibly supportable if there is spiritually mature verification (c.f. 1 Corinthians 12-14). However, this may be forcing the text to express too much from silence. I see the lack of comprehensive nature in the three gift lists suggesting other Biblically verifiable gifts, but not going so far as to support just any gift that appears in the Church. For more on a Scriptural three-criteria assessment of spiritual gifts, see Dunn, Jesus and The Spirit, 293-297.

[ix] Adapted from the United Methodist Church’s Explore Your Spiritual Gifts (http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.1355371/k.9501/Spiritual_Gifts.htm, 2009), Jack W. MacGorman’s The Gifts of the Spirit (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1974), Kenneth C. Kinghorn’s Gifts of the Spirit (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1976), and C. Peter Wagner’s Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow: How to Find Your Gifts and Use Them to Bless Others (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1994). Note that the list tendered here is not definitive, nor exhaustive. Rather it is a codification of the above gift inventories and designed to provide a holistic list for Christian communities seeking to help travelers at Waypoint 2. For a chart of the gifts correlated with their Biblical attestations, see George Elton Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1974), 534-535.

[x] The gift of hospitality is often primarily associated, though erroneously, with church assimilation programs such as hosting newcomer tables, greeting church visitors, etc.. However, when the Scriptures discuss the gift of hospitality, something more radical and basic is indicated by the context. For example, Peter admonishes the church in 1 Peter 1:9 to offer hospitality in scenarios where grumbling might be the normal reaction. The context of Peter’s admonition (1 Peter 1:1-11) indicates that Peter is talking about giving hospitality not only to the Christians, but also to those that heap abuse upon Christians. Such radical hospitality means meeting what Maslow described as physiological and safety needs before that person is ready to have their needs met for belongingness and love met (Abraham H. Maslow, Motivation and Personality, p. 300-394; and Abraham H. Maslow, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, p. 300).

[xi] This is a gift for which there are several interpretations. Assemblies of God writer Donald Gee sees the gift of knowledge as a supernatural forth-telling (Donald Gee, Concerning Spiritual Gifts [Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1972). Others like Wagner (Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow) take a less supernatural route, noting that “those who have this gift are superior learners” (190). It is not this author’s intention to side with one interpretation over the other, for readers from various backgrounds and theology will use this book. Therefore, this book is designed to describe the gifts from varying perspectives, to allow the reader to embrace the interpretation that best fits their understanding, tradition and theology.

[xii] Here again there are several perspectives. For examples of the differences see Donald Gee’s Concerning Spiritual Gifts and Kinghorn’s Gifts of the Spirit.

[xiii] The gift of service is sometimes attached too exclusively to administrative tasks (Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow, 258), when in the context of verses such as 2 Tim. 1:16-18, the gift of service indicates organizing to meet the needs of all others. Thus, the gift of service should not be primarily a service to the church, but equally indicate serving the needs of those outside the church.

[xiv] This is another gift which has a more supernatural tenor in Donald Gee’s Concerning Spiritual Gifts. Kinghorn (Gifts of the Spirit) and Wagner (Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow) see the gift of wisdom differently, as those possessing insight and perception into problems and solutions.

[xv] See the United Methodist Church’s definition in “Explore Your Spiritual Gifts,” http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.1355371/k.9501/Spiritual_Gifts.htm, 2009.

[xvi] Regarding this gift, see Wagner’s Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow for a Charismatic viewpoint and Gee’s Concerning Spiritual Gifts for a Classical Pentecostal viewpoint on this gift.

[xvii] The Charismatic and Classical Pentecostal viewpoints are best described by Wagner in Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow, p. 256-257.

[xviii] For another viewpoint of this and other gifts see the United Methodist Church’s definitions in “Explore Your Spiritual Gifts,” http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.1355371/k.9501/Spiritual_Gifts.htm, 2009

[xix] For the stories of five missionary martyrs, see Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow, 62-63.

[xx] Some authors list craftsmanship and music as gifts of the Holy Spirit (c.f. Christian A. Schwarz, The 3 Colors of Ministry [St. Charles, Ill.: ChurchSmart Resources, 2001], 157), but these designations are actually sub-categories of artist. To use these sub-categories, ignores the important Scriptural attestations to the Old Testament artisans who worked in varied crafts and mediums. Thus, for a more holistic understanding artist better sums up this categorical gift. Needless to say, Sally Morgenthaler’s story illustrates the various permutations of what may be an artistic gifting.

[xxi]Ray Stedman, Body Life, (Ventura, Calif: Regal Books, 1972), 54.

[xxii] Richard Houts originally published his thoughts in Eternity Magazine (Philadelphia: Evangelical Foundation, 1976). He also penned the Houts Inventory of Spiritual Gifts: A Self-assessment Instrument to Help Ascertain Your Ministry Gift, or Gifts, And the Related Opportunities for Christian Service (Pasadena, Calif.: Fuller Evangelistic Association, 1985). Other authors have adapted the Houts questionnaire to specific audiences and denominational perspectives, including Ruth Towns and Elmer Towns, Women Gifted For Ministry: How To Discover And Practice Your Spiritual Gifts (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001); David Stark, Sandra Hirsch and Jane Kise, LifeKeys: Discovering Who Your Are (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2005), Aubrey Malphurs, Maximizing Your Effectiveness (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2006), 199-208; Larry Gilbert, Spiritual Gifts Inventory: Discover Your Spiritual Gift in Only 20 Minutes (Elkton, Maryland: Church Growth Institute, 1999); and specifically for teens Jane Kise and Kevin Johnson, Find Your Fit: Dare to Act on God’s Gift for You (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1999).

[xxiii] James D. G. Dunn, Jesus and The Spirit:, 291-300.

[xxiv] Findley B. Edge, The Greening of the Church (Dallas, Texas: Word, 1971), 141.