My favorite Lay Servant Ministries course over the years is the “Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts” advanced course that I took several years ago. We were led through a process designed to put us in touch with ourselves, with each other, and with the practice of knowing and using various disciplines.
Part of what made it memorable was that the author of the original course, Dr. Charles Bryant, taught the course. He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Duke Divinity School and holds a doctorate from Drew University Theological School. He had conducted more than 300 workshops on spiritual gifts both nationally and internationally. He took early retirement as a pastor to fully pursue training others in the discovery and use of their spiritual gifts. We were all humbled by his knowledge and felt we had a long way to go.
One afternoon was spent taking and scoring a personal grace-gifts discovery, crafted to reveal, to shed light upon, to open up or to uncover part of who each one of us is. We were to rank statements given to us according to our experiences and our strong inclinations. These statements related to 32 spiritual gifts identified in Scripture by Dr. Bryant, such as pastor, teacher, discernment, giving, mercy, faith, service, spirit-music, battle, humor and others. It was a fascinating exercise, for in addition to having much of our self-understanding confirmed and validated, new and challenging insights were gained. The greatest surprise, however, came from the realization that although we were all laity eager to be in service to God, we were all very different. Some were extroverts, some introverts; some were thinkers, others, feelers; some were peacemakers, others battlers; and the variations went on and on. Some found it hard to accept the results and were unsure of them while others were affirmed and already using their gifts.
One can’t help but wonder if God know what he’s doing. Possibly, He just has a good sense of humor. He certainly doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all pattern for all Christians. But I believe He has a plan for all of us if we but allow Him to shape us and use the gifts we have. I encourage all lay servants to take this course whether you know your gifts or not. There is much to be done in this weary, wounded world. But by God’s grace and gifts, we can all be instruments in His service.
See what the United Methodist Church has to say about spiritual gifts, and take a spiritual gifts assessment.
Learn more about Lay Servant Ministries in the Great Plains Conference.
Phyllis Stoppel is director of Lay Servant Minsitries for the Hutchinson District.