An informational brochure about Equipped for Every Good Work is now available for download below. You can also find it on the About page, below the Process Overview section.
Informational Brochure for Equipped for Every Good Work: Provided in PDF format. For double-sided printing, rotate the second page 180 degrees and use the “borderless” setting on your printer, if available, for proper alignment.
Divine Savior United Methodist Church in Madison, Wisconsin, launched its Spiritual Gifts discovery initiative with a weekend workshop in September 2011. Participant Robin Pettersen shared the following testimony with the congregation during worship in October:
I feel a bit like an upstart giving my response to the Spiritual Gifts work, as I am a fairly new participant at Divine Savior. That said, attending the workshop in September felt like an important step on my spiritual path.
The workshop was so helpful, establishing distinctions between the different ways of approaching work in a community and assisting me to gain the appreciation for many different styles. It felt great to be able to laugh about how irritating we can be to each other as our styles bump, but it helped to see that if I could get beyond “MY perfect way of being,” I could acknowledge and appreciate the gifts others bring that I may not have. I learned that if we can get beyond our resistance to others’ styles, we can have a much more rich pool of ideas and paths-to-action to draw from.
The insights from the workshop let me identify more clearly my behavioral tendencies in different contexts and those that I shift to when under stress. I found I had been fooling myself, and I had some “Oh . . . no wonder” moments in regard to work as well as family and marriage.
As I grow in trying to see myself and my patterns and my assumptions,
As I accept those weaknesses in myself and become more humble,
As I let go of the stress of trying to be perfect and pretending to be,
I feel able to be more open to the generosity and work of Jesus’ teachings. This opening of my spirit helps me to see all of us on a journey fraught with beauty and difficulty and eases my need to judge others.
In my written reflection at the end of the workshop I said that I still don’t know that God has a “will” for me personally, but that I hope to be a small piece of doing God’s work in the world, which is what I believe Jesus was articulating for us.
The Nature of Spiritual Gifts Identifying our Spiritual gifts is a wonderful first step. Defining them is great. But what are these gifts of the Spirit? What is their nature? They are not talents, abilities, roles, or functions, but expressions of the power of the Holy Spirit, given by God, and the authority to use that power in building up of the body of Christ—fulfilling our mission—doing God’s will in the way that is best suited to who we are as unique and beloved individuals joined in community.
The power of the Holy Spirit is often characterized in the Old Testament as ruach, or breath, and as fire. It is the ruach that breathed life into the first earth creature (Genesis 2:7). It is ruach that guided the people of Israel through the wilderness toward the promised land (Exodus 13:21). It is ruach that comforted Elijah on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:12). And, in the New Testament, the rush of a mighty wind (pneuma in Greek) filled the house at Pentecost and settled as tongues of fire on the first believers, transforming their lives and the world (Acts 2:2-4).
That power, that breath, that spark of Holy fire, is revealed, or activated, in us as gifts of the Spirit or charismata—gifts of grace. They are within each of us waiting and ready to guide . . . and help . . . and hear . . . and care. We have, in our busyness, largely forgotten how to listen, how to find that spark. Much like the characters in the Wizard of Oz, we have just the gifts we need to fulfill our deepest desires and the world’s need, but we are not aware of them or lack confidence in their power.
We worship and work together in the church. But how well do we really know one another? What do we know of our own or each other’s deep passions in relation to God and the world?
Spiritual gifts discovery is a tool to help us begin hear the still, small voice, to be filled by the ruach, the breath of God, to find the spark of the Holy Spirit that will empower us to:
- know ourselves and one another better
- discern God’s will for our lives—where our deep passion and the world’s deep need intersect and move us to powerful ministry
- prioritize our time and activities
- learn to say no and yes appropriately
- find the joy of living in God’s will
Discovery of our individual gifts is the first step in this process. One hot coal will not keep the fire going, and it will eventually cool and die. Our gifts must be linked in community. We need to journey together, talk about and share our gifts, celebrate together the glorious power of the Holy Spirit moving through us for the sake of the body of Christ and the hurting and hungry world.
The printed text of Equipped for Every Good Work, originally published by Discipleship Resources in 2001, has been re-released by Wipf & Stock Publishers. Here’s the link to the book page on their website:
. . . Where and how is God calling you? Is your church helping you to discover and answer God’s call?
. . . How do we maximize our leadership potential without driving one another crazy?
. . . How can we make our church more open, inclusive, and able to meet the ministry needs of a constantly changing culture?
Equipped for Every Good Work provides a way to explore these questions. The four tools — Spiritual Gifts Inventory, Leadership/Interaction Styles, Spirituality Web, and Task Type Preferences — help individuals and groups discover and understand the gifts, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that influence their ability to live as Christian disciples and to lead within a community of faith.
If you have purchased the book Equipped for Every Good Work, this is the place to get handouts and slides (Downloads), to get answers to questions (FAQs), and to find Exercises, Articles, and Resources to take the process beyond information gathering into a true journey of transformation toward gifts-based ministry.
This website is intended to be a companion resource to the book, Equipped for Every Good Work. If you are here out of curiosity or have used a different tool for spiritual gifts discovery, you will find helpful and interesting information on these pages. Gifts discovery is not dependent on one tool or one process. While we believe we have provided a process of scripturally based integrity, the tool is not as important as the dialogue inspired, the connections made, the power of grace released when we focus our attention on the work of the Holy Spirit within us.
We hope that the book Equipped for Every Good Work and this website will foster connections among Christian stewards — connections founded in the common experience of the Holy Spirit, the ongoing, living presence of God in Christ. May we be filled with light and heat, opened to the power of grace and love as we build gifts-based ministry. This is ministry that knows no institutional walls. It grows out of clearer understanding of who and whose we are as the body of Christ, ready to respond to the needs of a hungry and hurting world — “equipped for every good work.”
Let’s go . . .
A few years ago I received a letter from the lay leader of a congregation working on the discovery and development of spiritual gifts. One line stood out as I read the inquiry: “We are lacking in the greater gifts, but have an abundance of the lesser gifts.” I phoned the author of the letter and asked her to explain more fully what she meant.
“In First Corinthians (12:27-31) Paul writes that the gifts God gives are first apostleship, second prophecy, then teaching, and on down the line. We have lots of administrators and helpers, but no prophets, apostles, or teachers. We are really depressed that we don’t have any of the really important gifts.”
This comment reflects one of the most common mistakes we make in our thinking about spiritual gifts. All gifts are important, and each may be the most important gift in any given situation. All gifts are necessary; and in different combinations, all gifts have the power to transform lives and glorify God. Paul does not write to prioritize spiritual gifts, but to explain the order in which they were revealed and employed in the church at Corinth. A gardening metaphor may help illustrate.
First, apostles entered to break up and plow the soil. Prophets then followed to plant seed in the tilled earth. Teachers fed and watered the new growth. Miracle workers shone life-giving sun, while healers weeded and hoed. Helpers and servants harvested, administrators organized and packed, and those with the gift of tongues delivered the growth to new sources. Paul describes a linear process whereby the gospel grew from barren ground to bounteous fullness to feed starving souls beyond the confines of the established congregation.
Is this the only order in which this wondrous work might happen? Of course not. Gods Holy Spirit works in combination with each community of faith to lay a foundation and build upon it with whatever gifts are shared. The important thing to note is that whatever gifts are present, those are the right gifts each valuable and necessary to the greater will of God.
Paul writes of primacy, not priority, when he helps the Corinthian congregation understand its identity as the body of Christ. Seek ways to better understand how you might use, combine, and grow the gifts God has given your faith community.
Throughout my adult life, discernment has been my primary gift. Always hovering close by are the gifts of teaching, wisdom, and knowledge. People often tell me that I am a good teacher, and one of the things they appreciate is my ability to see what others often miss and to point out where arguments or concepts break down. I cannot count the number of times someone has said to me, “I never would have thought of what you taught the way you do, but now that you say it, I see it perfectly. It’s so obvious!” For me, this is the grace of our spiritual gifts — we are enabled to do something exceptionally well that, in turn, benefits others. All gifts are given to individuals, but as the writer of Ephesians reminds us, the gifts are given to equip the saints for the upbuilding of the body — for the common good.
I am often asked about how I became “interested” in the gifts of the Holy Spirit; and more particularly, about my desire to develop Christian leaders who are grounded in their spiritual gifts. The short answer is that I became interested in self-defense. In the 1970s, I was serving as an education coordinator at High Street United Methodist Church in Muncie, Indiana. One of my tasks was to recruit teachers for all age levels for the coming year. At a church council retreat, I asked the questions: “How do we determine whom to ask to teach? What are the criteria we use for teacher selection?” The questions were met with dumb silence. Finally, the associate pastor said, “We take whoever is willing.”
As an idealistic twenty-year old, “taking whoever was willing” seemed inadequate somehow, so I proposed to develop a “tool” to help determine who possessed the necessary skills and abilities to teach in the church. Hearing no argument and ignoring the eye rolling and head shaking, I determined to develop a means for teacher identification. The problem was, I had no clue how to begin.
As luck would have it — or by the intervention of the Holy Spirit (I don’t want to rule that out!) — I attended a seminar on education at Ball State University. The speaker, William Dorton, was introduced as a “gifted” teacher; and throughout the presentation, Mr. Dorton repeatedly referred to his “gift.” At one point, he mentioned that growing up he never considered himself a teacher until “a group of Friends (Quakers) discerned this gift in me at a meeting and it changed my life.” Curious, I approached Mr. Dorton following his seminar. I inquired about his use of the term “gift” in relation to his teaching, and he referred me to a “new” (this was 1976) book by another former Ball State graduate, Kenneth Cain Kinghorn, titled Gifts of the Spirit. Although I do not fully agree with everything in this slim volume (nor did I then), I can confidently say that no other book — short of the Bible itself — has done more to shape my ministry or create in me a personal vision for my life’s work. Kinghorn’s work set in motion a lifelong course of study and reflection. I have worked with the discovery, development, and deployment of spiritual gifts with thousands of men and women of
fifteen denominations, a dozen secular professions, and four major Catholic orders over the past seventeen years. Of all the work of my calling, nothing is more satisfying or rewarding.
Relying on a few pages of Kinghorn’s book, I developed a short series of questions to help people determine whether or not they were “gifted” to teach. That original list is long lost. And I am sure that were I to develop a list of questions today, it would be quite different; but it served well to identify a group of teachers — some who never considered teaching before in their lives. The result was a core group of highly effective, deeply spiritual educators who used every means available to bring all ages to a deeper relationship with God in Jesus Christ. Every new teacher that year stuck with education in some form for years, and most continue to this day.
As my awareness and study of gifts deepened, I began applying the thinking to other areas. As I expanded discussions in the church to gifts of leadership, evangelism, prophetic utterance, faith, and healing, Ken Kinghorn published an incredibly helpful tool called Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts — a two hundred statement inventory. I began using the Kinghorn tool — with limited success.
Over the years, my thinking around spiritual giftedness has evolved in one essential and significant way: Almost all the early spiritual gifts materials held the institutional church at the center. In other words, we are gifted to support the church. What I have come to realize is that we are not gifted because of the church; rather, the church exists because we are gifted. Instead of identifying spiritual gifts as a way to place men and women on committees or councils, we should form committees and councils that enable people to discover, develop, and live from their gifts twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We do not serve the church; we are the church — gifted by God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and called to live from our gifts in the world.
My most recent learning concerning spiritual gifts is their synergy. Gifts are given to individuals for the common good, but they are most powerful when they are linked together. When a person possessing the gift of knowledge joins a gifted teacher, amazing things can happen. Gifted healers find a new level of ministry when linked with those possessing the gift of compassion or miracles. Leaders complement administrators; evangelists empower apostles; the wise benefit the prophets; discernment builds faith. Spiritual gifts provide us with an incredible kaleidoscope of mix-and-match possibilities. Living from our gifts allows us to form wondrous networks of spiritual power for the building of communities grounded in love, peace, mercy, acceptance, and grace.
My life has been transformed by my awareness of God’s gifts. I join Barbara in the hope that your life and vocation might be transformed as well.