Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Equipping Others--A wonderful personal testimony

All of us as ministers have certain people and experiences that "keep us going." For me, one of those people is Kim Smith. Kim and her daughter were baptized into Christ a couple of years, and about a year ago her husband was baptized as well. Kim has an amazing ability to talk about her faith in a way that is real, authentic, and heart-warming. In short, she has the gift of evangelism.

Over the past couple of years, I have encouraged Kim to use her gift of evangelism. I can remember being in a D.Min. class at Fuller about a year and a half ago, writing her a letter, telling her that she had a great gift for evangelism and encouraging her to be involved in outreach ministries.

Today I received the following email from Kim. This email--used by permission--shows better than I how she has the ability to put spiritual things into words. Here was her message to me:

"James, Thought you might enjoy reading todays "Insight For Living" and some of the additional suggestions Mr. Swindoll gives. I thought of you and all the times that you have encouraged me and others to share our own testimonies. I really appreciate the times when you remind me and encourage me to share my own experiences. I need to realize that even I can actually make a difference to someone and todays reading was a good reminder of how. Thank you James for all the times you have given me that encouragement to share. It is such a blessing for me when I am able glorify God by sharing how my life has changed by giving it to Christ!! I pray that God will give me opportunities to serve him in this way and that he will always give me the right words to speak."

Her is the article that Kim references by Chuck Swindoll.

Kim's email made my week. It is truly a joy to help others discover and use their gifts for God and to find meaning in this. Here are some lessons on equipping others from this:

1. People must be encouraged in using their gifts. Usually, this must happen many times. This is probably why the words for encouragement and exhortation are used over and over again in the NT.

2. Mass methods of equipping and involvement fall woefully short. Surveys and sign-up sheets and the like have their place. I've used them in the past, and I will continue to use them at times. But Jesus and Paul worked personally with people, and this is far more effective. I don't think that Kim would have sent me an email saying, "Remember that time you passed out that survey to three hundred people? Wow, that was great. Thanks for the encouragement." As our society becomes more and more impersonal with mass email and the like, the personal touch becomes even more powerful. If you want to help someone learn to serve, then take them out to lunch and share what you see in them. Write them a personal letter and then follow up after that letter. Tell them what you see in them and see what happens.

3. When people serve using their Spiritual gifts, it is incredibly meaningful to them. Do you hear the excitement in Kim's voice? It comes from using her gifts. She said, "It is such a blessing for me when I am able to glorify God by sharing how my life has changed by giving it to Christ!!" This why spending time with people in Strengths and Spiritual gifts discovery is so important. Getting people to participate in this discovery process requires personal attention too. Some will sign-up on their own, which is great, but most need to be encouraged in this as well. Until they use their gifts, they do not know what they are missing.

Kim, thanks for sharing these thoughts and allowing me to share them with others. Once again, you have used your gifts for God.

How have people encouraged you to serve and use your gifts?