Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Gifts that Differ

“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function.” Romans 12:4

There are moments in life when you know some things to be true. There are things that we have learned and they become part of our collective understanding of reality. Then there are times when we learn something, and it goes completely against everything that we come to know as truth.

There are also moments in life when you hear something again and it only reinforces ideas or concepts that you have previously accepted. Sometimes, by hearing something again, you hear it differently than you had the first time. You can gain new insights, new ways of thinking, and for that matter, a new energy for moving forward.

That’s how I felt after having attended a continuing education event last week. I am a firm believer in Leadership Development and so having an opportunity to attend the Willow Creek Association Leadership Summit gave me an opportunity to hear some new and exciting ideas as well as being reminded of some things that I had already come to accept. Further more, I was given new energy to move forward in innovative and exciting ways in ministry.

In addition to hearing from the likes of Bill Hybels of Willow Creek, Carley Fiorina who served as CEO of HP, and Colin Powell, we had a session with business consultant and best-selling author Marcus Buckingham. In Buckingham’s books, he gives new insights to maximizing strengths and understanding the crucial differences between management and leadership.

Buckingham’s discussion centered on his new book “Go Put Your Strengths to Work.” In our society today, most people think that we need to fix the characteristics that are our weakest. However, he argues that we need to build around our strengths and manage our weaknesses. This is counter-intuitive, but it makes a lot of sense.

Think about it. If you want to make a strong marriage, are you going to study good marriages or bad ones? If you want to know what makes people happy, are you going to build upon what makes them happy, or ask them what makes them sad? If you want to know what makes people healthy, are you going to study the well or the sick? He would argue obviously toward the characteristics that lead to strengths. I like that!

Buckingham concluded that afternoon by talking about 4 signs of strengths. First of all, we find success when we operate out of our strengths. There are things that happen more out of our instincts. We can see growth in our lives. Finally, when we operate out of our strengths, there are certain needs that are met; when we fulfill those needs, you feel effective. You can say, “I feel strong when I ______.” You fill in the blank.

Events such as the Leadership Summit are designed in many ways to make personal application. But, they are also designed for leaders to develop other leaders. Certainly there are personal applications, but there are so many that apply to those who sit in the pews. I am looking forward to reading Buckingham’s book. But I am also excited to think about how this applies to the church.

Everything that Buckingham argues is exactly what we find in the scriptures. Paul argues in the book of Romans that each of us has different strengths. In the church we call them Spiritual Gifts. There are some that are more suited to certain activities. Some are leaders, some are teachers, some are preachers, and some are prophets. However, not everyone has the same gift, nor should everyone be doing the same thing.

If we combine those two thoughts, it would follow that maybe what we should be doing is targeting our strengths, our spiritual gifts, and use them rather than complain when someone asks us to do something toward which we are just not gifted. We should be maximizing our spiritual gifts, and managing those things that are just not our strongest.

I know people who have the gift of hospitality. You feel welcomed by them anytime you are in their presence. I know people with the gift of compassion, their heart breaks any time that tragedy strikes. You know people who have the gift of generosity, they would give you the shirt off their back without a question.

Doing those things, and operating out of those strengths only make those persons stronger. They also make the body of Christ stronger. There are also studies that show that when we operate out of our giftedness in the church, we are less likely to burn out, give up, and ultimately throw up our hands in frustration. When we are passionate about what we do, great ministry can happen.

What Buckingham is preaching is something that I needed to hear. Some of his insights were new twists on things that I had already come to know, but some of what he argues just goes against conventional wisdom. However, this idea of operating out of our strengths is exactly the truth that I have come to believe. “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.” Romans 12:6

But I think you knew that.

Won’t you pray for your strengths? “Gracious and loving creator, I thank you that you have given me so many gifts. I am unique and wonderfully made. Use me, O God, for the work of the church that your name might be glorified. Strengthen me for your purpose and toward you will. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.”

This week, Hengust Robinson will be preaching at College Hill. I will be preaching at my home church of St. Paul’s in Allison Park, as part of the 40th Anniversary celebration that is happening over the next few months. They have invited former pastors, and those who have been called into ministry from the church to preach. I am excited about it – it was the place where I came to know that I had some Spiritual Gifts to share. I will miss being with you this week, but know that Hengust will be spectacular! Don’t miss it!

Please pray for me, and know that I am praying for you.


Jeff Vanderhoff said...

Greg- some excellent insights, and ones that I tend to agree with. They don't resonate well with the fundamental theme of Natural Church Development, which says that we are to expend a lot of energy working on our weakest link. That's why the Conference put so much energy into training McIlwain, and look where it got us? Sorry Keith, couldn't resist. Seriously, though, although I like a lot of what NCD has to offer, I have some very real problems with the underlying concept of dedicating too many resources toward our weaknesses, when I believe that we achieve and grow a lot more when we focus on our strengths and on our giftedness. I'll have to add that book to my reading list. -Jeff

Greg Cox said...

Jeff - absolutely. I think the reason that many churches have minimum factors in certain areas is largely due to the fact that they have leadership that does not have the gifts to lead them in that area and the people to use in those areas of ministry. My mind was changed after hearing about the strengths idea. Although, I am still trying to come to terms with how an organization, rather than an individual can measure their strengths. Certainly, the maximum factor of NCD could help move in that direction.

Chris said...

One word - Blogstipation

Greg Cox said...

Was that one a little long for you, Chris?

Chris said...

Sophia turned five as I read it.... but I did enjoy it. Blessings brother.