September 6, 2013

How to Discern Your Cross, Gifts and Ministry

Jesus is building a Ministry Team – just as we are at St. Magloire’s. He is warning his followers to count the cost before they commit to discipleship. Jesus is warning them that unless they love Him more than their families, their ministry as disciples may end in failure. My task at St. Magloire’s is to build a similar Ministry Team that can carry on the work of a full-time priest – without having a full-time priest, or even a part-time resident priest. I know you can do this work because you have done this already. The real challenge is to do this better. We can help more people discover their spiritual gifts, in consultation with others. I can work with Parish Council to assign responsibility for leadership in each ministry as we begin implementing the Strategic Plan. But first we have to heed the warning of Jesus to examine our lives for ‘crosses’ that could limit our success in a particular ministry.

 1. What are the crosses that limit our ministry?
A physical cross kills by limiting movement. Jesus teaches us that we must be ready to take up our cross and move. We must overcome our cross or we will not succeed in a ministry. Holy Spirit led ministry is limited by:
·         Feelings of Guilt and shame that poison our Spirit – can’t hear HS
·         Physical and emotional trauma - doorways to spiritual oppression
·         Personal losses, unresolved grief – sucks energy out
·         Un-forgiveness – a spiritual block to effectiveness
·         Anger, jealousy or bitterness can immobilize us spiritually
·         Pride, narcissism and self-centeredness blind us spiritually
·         Fear hardens our heart, narrows our view and limits effectiveness
These crosses may limit which ministries we will succeed in. They may indicate we should be a ‘helper’ in a ministry instead of the leader.
2. What are my spiritual gifts?
In preparing for this exercise I have developed (actually no, I was led by the Holy Spirit to develop) a “Spiritual Gifts and Ministries Map” which is simply a four column listing of spiritual gifts (Romans 12.3-8; 1 Cor. 12.4-14, 27-28; 1 Cor. 13.1-5) from Paul’s letters which are lined up with the ministries they seem to point to. Copies of the Map are available in the Church and at
·         Leading – gift of being able to gain respect, discern direction and take charge
·         Wisdom – a profound idea / solution that just drops into your head unexpectedly and without a lot of analysis or thought
·         Prophecy – semi-audible instructions that seem to come from God
·         Teaching – ability to organize, summarize and present information that is relevant and useful to others
·         Mercy – ability to feel love, forgive and care for others
·         Encouraging – ability to see and express the positive to others
·         Serving – sense of self-sacrificial love for others leading to action
·         Knowledge – receive words of knowledge from Holy Spirit
·         Healing – listening and receiving guidance in what to pray for
·         Miraculous Powers – receive and follow guidance in prayer
·         Distinguishing Spirits – ability to discern counterfeit spirits
·         Faith – ability to believe in the miraculous and (humanly) illogical
·         Love – strong self-sacrificial desire for the good of the other

We have to be very humble, realistic and careful in discerning our gifts as we are vulnerable to self-deception. What does what you have experienced say?

3. What is my ministry?
Everyone can have a ministry. It can be as simple as praying, financial support or doing little acts of kindness. All Baptized believers receive gifts of the Holy Spirit which can grow as they are used in a ministry:
·         Leading / Oversight - based on gifts of leading and wisdom that enable taking the long view and leading people in a wise direction and managing the overall worship and administration of churches
·         Teacher - Ministry of discerning, organizing and presenting knowledge helpful to people in their spiritual lives
·         Healing / Intercession - Ministry of being available to pray for
and with people who are sick, spiritually oppressed or facing a challenge in their secular or spiritual life
·         Pastoral Visiting - visiting people in homes, care homes and hospitals to pray with them and encourage and guide them in faith
·         Serving / Hospitality - Ministry of humbly serving the needs of others through parish administration, making and serving food, doing maintenance, driving people and helping as needed
·         Priest - Ministry of connecting people to God through inspired worship, teaching, prayer, spiritual direction and sacramental ministry

May God the Holy Spirit bless you as you wrestle with your cross, discover your gifts and discern your ministry!

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