“You’re going to be a pastor,” God tells me in the summer of 2011 while working at a fishing lodge in the Haida Gwaii in western Canada.
And then I shoot back, “Are you crazy?” It seemed to make sense but I was scared of it being true, even after I told Him that He could finally have a hundred percent of me.
“It sounds like you want to be a pastor,” says John Mark Reynolds, my mentor during my time in the Torrey Honors Institute, a Great Books program at Biola University. “You just need to stop being afraid of it.” I stare around at his office filled with books and think of how I want to lead, write, preach, teach and counsel: all with the motive of helping people grow. Maybe that’s what a pastor does…
“I think you need to be a pastor,” Chad tells me over a meeting that was supposed to be about a fishing trip. “You have the gift of ‘withness’ and presence. You’re just denying it because you’re afraid.” Coming from someone who did not know me in depth, this was both shocking and peaceful. Shocking because he pulled back the curtain on my soul without much history. Peaceful because I knew that what he was saying was a timely truth from God.
I was in business at the time and could play that game well, but it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing long term. God certainly led me into business for a time of growth, which I consider invaluable. But it was time to move on. Four days later, I applied to Regent College in Vancouver Canada without telling anyone but my wife.
Not telling anyone was significant for me. I have historically sought much counsel in large decisions partly to be wise, partly to please others. And I lived in California, where my family lives. But here I was, applying to a graduate school in another country without consulting anyone because I was confident that this was the school I wanted to be shaped by: its people, its setting, its mission, its values, and its vision. Regent is a glove-fit for who I want to become: not just a pastor, but also a whole person who is intelligent, vigorous and joyful about his commitment to Jesus Christ, His Church, and His world. This newfound confidence in my decision to apply showed me that I was sure of this direction without needing anyone else’s opinion.
So what does this have to do with spiritual gifts? Everything.
The journey of discovering your true self is one that is actually quite disruptive. By “disruptive” I mean that it may lead to a geographical move, a career change, hardship, financial stress, and saying goodbye to those you love the most.
This is why many do not attempt to know themselves: it’s a scary process. But I would argue that it is a process through which you’ll experience the truest form of life there is.
Knowing yourself has so many factors to it. To name a few, there’s Meyers-Briggs, Strengths-Finder, family background, heritage, place, personality, weaknesses, passions, natural gifting, and last but not least, spiritual gifting.
It’s unfortunate that many people in Christian circles make a joke out of spiritual gifts—because to deny them or even worse to make fun of them is to miss out on how God himself has gifted you by His good will. It’s to miss out on your destiny.
Spiritual gifts matter a great deal. Because by them, God, out of His grace, uses us to bless a community. The gifts are not to build up our own kingdom, but His Kingdom.
I’ve had jobs all over the place. And it’s fascinating to observe the consistencies in my spiritual gifts across a wide variety of roles.
My primary spiritual gifts are:
I am a pastor-shepherd everywhere I go. I love to help people grow, I love protecting and governing and caring for my wife, I am burdened for the love, growth and care of the Church. Even when I was in business, people recognized my pastoral heart toward my coworkers. Nowadays, I’m the Dean of a Residence Hall at the University of British Columbia, where my wife and I get to take care of 40 undergraduate students who all have separate journeys and life stories. This role has been an incredible privilege and has been exhilarating as I get to essentially pastor a small group of students every single day.
To some this might be a draining role, but to me, it is life to my bones.
I feel alive. I don’t think about having to “go to work” or “do my job”—I’m just being myself everyday, and it just happens to be a “job” that the college wants someone to do! This kind of natural fit might be a clue to your own spiritual gifts being utilized.
The gift of mercy-showing comes out whenever I sense a burden or need in someone. I immediately want to surround them with love and compassion and comfort, often through physical touch. I am usually the first to notice someone on the fringes of a community and am drawn toward befriending them. Without really thinking about it, I desire to share in the pain of others and also help them to relieve their pain.
I am gifted in teaching. In every job I’ve had, I like to teach: how to make coffee, create a website, do direct marketing, write a great subject line on an email, study the Bible, start a blog, play guitar, and on and on. It’s my natural bent to teach people, and I’ve seen that gift in everything I do.
Lastly, I am an encourager-exhorter. I love to encourage my wife, friends, parents, brothers and sisters, coworkers, or people just doing great work in a given area. I am thrilled when I can exhort others to action, help them apply a situation to their life, or discover a little more about their purpose. Come to think of it, that’s probably why I wrote The Star Smith, my free 32 page eBook. The book’s primary purpose is to encourage others to find and do work that matters. In nearly all my writing, I end with a line that acts as a “push off the ledge” to go and do something or to be inspired or moved.
As I discovered my spiritual gifts, I slowly realized that they fell under the multi-faceted role of pastor, which was an incredibly freeing and exhilarating thought. Over the slow course of hammering this out, submitting myself to God, and a good deal of conversation with others, I’ve found my calling. I found a role that will require all of my particular gifts, talents, passions, and personality.
There is a great temptation in seminary to feel like you have to wait until you’re in an official role to start using your spiritual gifts. My own common mistake is thinking too much about how I can be utilized in the future while forgetting about what God has given me today.
So I encourage you to look at what’s in your hand. What has God given you today? Who are you in relationship with? What communities do you serve? Your spiritual gifts are for those people and they can be used today.
Someday, if the Lord wants it to happen, I will be at a local church, using my gifts for the people of God there.
But what to do with today?
Use my gifts for the people of God here—the community I am in today.
INVEST IN YOUR GOD-GIVEN GIFTS AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH
Your Gifts: Spiritual Gifts Discovery
God created you with purpose and passion—learn how you can take the gifts He has given you and use them to advance His Kingdom in ways you never imagined.