You don’t have to be afraid of discovering God’s will. The process is always covered by His grace and the natural giftings He gives us.
As a little boy raised in the church, I was often confused by the words of certain songs. For instance, whenever the song “Bringing in the Sheaves” was sung, I thought we were singing about bringing in the “sheeps.” I always wondered where we would get these “sheeps” and why we wanted to bring them in anyway. Spiritual themes, whether spoken or sung, can easily confuse the simple mind of a child; and while I learned quite early that “sheeps” is not even a word, the topic of God’s will continued to be a point of confusion for a long time.
I remember another song we used to sing, usually after a missionary had told depressing stories about the hardships and toils of the mission field: “Jesus, use me / Oh, Lord, don’t refuse me / Surely there’s a work that I must do / And even though it’s humble, help my will to crumble / Though the cost be great, I’ll work for You.”
As wonderful as those words are in and of themselves, there was something about the combination of the lyrics, the music and the context that made me afraid of God’s will for my life. I thought He must have something simply dreadful for me to do. I just knew He was going to send me deep into the jungle where I would live in a mud hut, survive on a diet of grubs and wind up being eaten by cannibals.
Looking back, my naïveté is quite amusing now, but the reality is that many people—ministry leaders included—really are afraid to discover God’s will for their lives, even if subconsciously.
They think: What if God wants me to do something I don’t want to do? What if God wants me to do something I’m not good at? What if doing God’s will means I have to give up my hopes and dreams? I think sometimes people haven’t discovered God’s will simply because they are afraid to.
God’s Will Fits You
After I preached at a certain Bible college one of the students approached me. He was nearing graduation and had been seeking God’s will for many years but still had no direction. He asked me, “How can I figure out what God wants me to do with my life?”
We were standing next to a lamp, and I noticed that it had been unplugged. I pointed to the plug lying on the ground and said to him: “How do you know what that three-pronged contraption is for? Should I stick it in my ear or use it to comb my hair?”
“Of course not,” he replied. “It goes into the electric socket.”
How did he know that? Because of its shape. That plug fit so perfectly into that electric socket that there was no question that it was made for it. Even a child who had never seen a plug or socket before could figure out that they were made for each other.
This is one way you can know what God wants from you. Where do you fit? What do you enjoy? What brings you delight and satisfaction?
I have heard people teach that God’s will is always difficult and requires great sacrifice. But I have seen that the most effective people in any ministry or occupation, or just life in general, are not the ones forcing themselves to do some dreadful task because they feel it is God’s will. Rather it is the ones who are doing something they enjoy so much that they feel guilty taking a salary for it.
When you find something that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning, when you find something that challenges and thrills you, when you find something that you sense you were made to do, chances are you are getting close to discovering God’s will for your life.
This does not mean that obedience, death to self and sacrifice are never required or necessary. But when a person is doing what he or she was created to do, there is a taste of sweetness in the sacrifice, a sense of fulfillment in the obedience and an enduring hope in the suffering.
With Your Gift Comes His Gift
We often talk about the fivefold ministry gifts—apostle, prophet, pastor, teacher and evangelist—that are listed in Ephesians 4. But it is vital that we remember what it says in verse 7, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
Grace comes with every gift! Jesus is the fullest expression of all of the five ministries, but when He ascended He distributed 20 percent of His ministry to the apostles, 20 percent to the prophets, 20 percent to the pastors, 20 percent to the teachers and 20 percent to the evangelists. Not only did He give the gifts, He also gave grace according to the measure of the gift.
Did you ever receive some special gift for your birthday as a kid, then after you had torn open the package you realized it needed batteries to operate? When Jesus gives a gift, He also gives the batteries the gift requires to operate. The battery for “the gift of Christ” is grace. But He will give you only the measure of grace you need for the gift He has given.
I hear a lot of preachers talking about “burnout” these days, and it doesn’t surprise me. Imagine a pure pastor who is wonderfully gifted in his pastoral office. He is using 100 percent of his God-given ministry gift, yet his gift is only 20 percent of what his congregation needs. This precious pastor is working around the clock, attempting to provide 100 percent of what the church requires to be perfected and edified in the way Ephesians 4:12 describes, yet he has only 20 percent of the grace to do that job!
Anyone can see that this is a formula for disaster. If a person’s body has only 20 percent functionality, we would say that person is handicapped. If an airplane lost all but 20 percent of its mechanical capabilities, the pilot would bring it in for an emergency landing. If a business operated at only 20 percent output, it would soon go bankrupt.
In Philippians 1, Paul is talking to his ministry partners (the ones who were supporting him financially). In verse 5 he expresses his gratitude for their partnership in the work of the gospel, and then says in verse 7, “Ye all are partakers of my grace” (KJV). Do you realize that you can actually tap into the grace that is on someone else’s life? By partnering with Paul’s gift, the Ephesians became partakers of the grace on his life!
Let’s go back to my example of the pastor who is burning out. Rather than attempting to provide 100 percent of his church’s needs with 20 percent of the gift and grace, he should partner with others who are gifted in the areas he is not. When he partners with their gift, he will also become a partaker in their grace, and the whole church will benefit.
The principle is simple but profound, and Eph. 4:7 encapsulates it: “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” The grace comes with the gift!
Although this verse is set in the context of the fivefold ministry gifts, it is not applicable just to those called into “full-time ministry.” The Bible says this grace is given to every one of us according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
Whenever God calls you to do something, He will always supply the perfect measure of grace so you will be able to operate in your gift. But whenever you try to operate outside your gift, you will find it difficult, burdensome and miserable because there will be no grace for it.
Take, for instance, someone who is called to live a celibate life. The apostle Paul was called to this. In fact, he said in 1 Cor. 7 that remaining single was a good thing, and he went so far as to say: “I wish that all men were like I myself am [in this matter of self-control]. But each has his own special gift from God, one of this kind and one of another” (v. 7, AMP). Although Paul preferred singleness and wished everyone would remain single, as he was, he had the wisdom to recognize that his ability to lead a happy and full life without a spouse was a special gift from God.
Paul understood that without the gift, there would be no grace. This is why he warned against those who would forbid marriage (see 1 Tim. 4:3). We have seen in the modern Roman Catholic Church priests who have been forbidden to marry, though many neither have the gift nor the grace to remain single. The result has been an appalling international scandal that has shamed Christianity and landed many priests behind bars.
Paul’s singleness was a gift, and with the gift God gave him the grace. Without the grace Paul would have seen his singleness not as a gift but as a burden.
An interesting side note here is that because Paul was given the calling, gift and grace to lead a celibate life, he said, “I wish that all men were like I myself am.” I have noticed that when the gift and grace are on a person’s life to do something, it seems so natural and obvious to them that they think everyone else should be doing it as well.
Grace Makes All the Difference
There are two lessons to learn from this principle:
1. Don’t make the mistake of trying to force those around you to do what God has called you to do. And don’t look down on them for doing something other than what you think is so important! Recognize that, as Paul said, “Each has his own special gift from God, one of this kind and one of another” (1 Cor. 7:7, AMP).
2. If you think everyone should be doing one particular thing, chances are that is what you are called to do! If you think everyone should be an evangelist, you are probably an evangelist. If you think everyone should be a political activist, then that is probably what God is calling you to do! When God’s gift and grace rest on a person for a certain task or calling, he is able to do with joy what seems difficult, or even impossible, to others.
It is interesting that as a boy I dreaded the thought of being sent into the jungle in obedience to the call, but today I often go to the “jungle,” preaching the gospel in Africa and around the world—and I don’t know of anything I would rather do. I love my life, and I love my calling as a missionary-evangelist.
What I had not taken into consideration as a child was this great truth: The grace comes with the gift, and the grace makes all the difference.
With this understanding, you never need to be afraid to discover God’s will for your life. If He calls you to do something, He will also give you the grace to do it. When you are in God’s will, covered by His grace, it is the most wonderful place to be in the whole world.
Daniel Kolenda is a missionary evangelist who has led more than 10 million people to Christ face-to-face through massive, open-air evangelistic campaigns in some of the most dangerous, difficult and remote locations on earth. He is president and CEO of Christ for All Nations and hosts an internationally syndicated television program.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional and human rights law, announced Wednesday it is representing the wife of an Iranian-American pastor who is being held in an Iranian prison because of his Christian faith.
Saeed Abedini, who converted to Christianity, has been indicted by an Iranian court and is facing formal charges that could result in a lengthy prison term or possibly even the death penalty. The ACLJ, which is providing legal representation for his U.S.-based family, is also launching an international campaign calling on the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and Congress to demand the release of Pastor Saeed.
“This is a very troubling pattern that we have seen inside Iran—Christian husbands and fathers who are punished for their religious beliefs,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ. “What makes this particular case so much more disturbing is that Pastor Saeed, who was born and raised in Iran, has been granted U.S. citizenship. He's been in prison for nearly three months simply because of his Christian faith.
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Through the years Victory Church has become very clear and very focused on what we are trying to do. Why have we become so fixated on a single strategy? It is, first of all, because we have embraced the Lord’s Great Commission as our own. Making disciples is the driving force behind everything we do. Second, it’s because we have overwhelming confirmation in our own experience that this one move, if mastered, is unstoppable and indefensible. I believe all churches and ministries can grow if only they master a discipleship process that is simple, biblical and transferable. I know of churches that are missing many seemingly important things such as nice buildings, good music equipment, support staff, big givers and dynamic preachers. Yet they’re still growing because they are making disciples.
Churches can be blessed with all those seemingly important things and become completely consumed with activities that have nothing to do with making disciples. Our goal is to make our small groups and everything else we do support our discipleship process.
Unfortunately, crowded church calendars often compete with discipleship. No activity is neutral. We recognize that everything we do and say will either underline or undermine our discipleship process.
—From WikiChurch: Making Discipleship Engaging, Empowering & Viral by Steve Murrell
When a church operates with an “everyone’s a minister” mindset, combined with a defined leadership multiplication process, the potential for kingdom impact is infinite
I am an American, but most of my adult life has been spent in Manila, Philippines, as a cross-cultural pastor and church planter. My wife, Deborah, and I originally went to Manila on a one-month summer mission trip to establish a church that would reach Filipino university students. That one month has lasted almost three decades, and that student church we established now conducts 92 weekly worship services in 16 Manila locations. It’s also planted churches in 60 Philippine cities and has sent Filipino missionaries to plant churches in more than a dozen nations.
Because our church constantly plants new churches and sends cross-cultural missionaries, it seems we’re always in the process of training new pastors, new worship leaders, new kids’ pastors and other new leaders to replace those we send. Because of this constant need for leaders, we’ve had to develop a culture and process for leadership multiplication.
Here’s an example of what we’ve done: Joseph was a talented singer and musician, but his first few times on stage leading worship were less than spectacular. After a staff meeting (that did not include Joseph), the head of our worship department suggested we switch worship leaders for the following week because we had a big-shot foreign guest speaker scheduled. He reminded me that the last time Joseph led worship, it was “forgettable.”
My response: I said that I was well aware we were hosting the big-shot American and that Joseph was not our best. However, I didn’t see any reason to bench Joseph. I reminded our entire staff that we weren’t trying to impress our guest speaker. In fact, he had better impress us or he wouldn’t be invited back.
For me, it’s more important to equip a worship leader than to have a perfect worship service. I knew that if we rescheduled Joseph, it would shatter his confidence and set the equipping process back a few months. When Sunday came around, Joseph led worship and our big-shot foreign guest preached. Sure, the worship was less than average, but Joseph went on to become a good worship leader and later a great pastor and church planter. He and his wife are now pioneering an underground church network in a restricted nation. Being an upstart worship leader was an integral part of his equipping process. I’m not sure he would be where he is today if we had short-circuited the equipping process to impress our guest speaker.
We hear the phrase all the time, “Every member a minister.” Yet because of our performance-driven culture, we often have little tolerance for the messiness of the equipping process that empowers average members to minister.
We do church as if only professional ministers should do ministry. But Scripture offers a different perspective. The biblical job description for professional ministers—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers—is to equip the “nonprofessionals” for ministry, then get out of their way and allow God to move through them. When we forget that job description, we forget one of the primary reasons God called us in the first place.
As full-time pastors, it’s common for us to measure the effectiveness of our week by how busy we are with random acts of ministry. On Monday we saved a marriage, on Tuesday we prayed for Fred in the hospital, on Wednesday we taught lesson 26 of our 48-part Ezekiel series, on Thursday we preached to our mailman and on Friday we said a prayer at the high school football game. All that’s great, but in the process, did we equip anyone else to do ministry? Usually not.
It’s common for pastors to have a week packed with ministry activities and yet still be delinquent in our ministerial responsibilities. It’s because we’re not only called to do ministry, but also to equip others to do ministry.
I often ask pastors two questions: Do you spend more time ministering to people or equipping people to minister? Do you spend more time preparing sermons to preach, or preparing people to minister? Unfortunately, most full-time ministers I know spend far more time preparing sermons, leading meetings and running religious organizations than actually equipping regular people to do ministry.
Once we accept that we’re called not just to do ministry, but also to equip others to do ministry, the next question is: How? Out of the desperation of our endless need for leaders in the Philippines, we developed a simple, four-part leadership development process.
1) IDENTIFICATION. The starting point for equipping spiritual leaders is to help people identify their unique and divine calling. A calling is from God. Everyone has one. Far too many people have no clue what they’re called to do.
Leaders help people identify their calling by helping them recognize and develop their God-given strengths and gifts. Leaders also help by recognizing hidden potential in others.
I never would have started teaching the Bible 32 years ago unless my pastor had first identified a potential gift God might have given me. Then he led me (and often pushed or dragged me) through open doors, even if the opening was barely a crack. I’m thankful for people who saw gifts and strengths in me that I never noticed because of my condemnation, ignorance and immaturity.
2) INSTRUCTION. Paul’s letters are filled with doctrinal, relational and practical instruction. Many times he sent instructional letters to churches in cities he had never visited, demonstrating that effective instruction does not depend on personal relationship or physical proximity.
My life has been positively impacted by instruction through books and podcasts written and spoken by people I have never met. Two seminary courses, Ethnohermeneutics by Larry Caldwell and The Book of Genesis by Dr. Nomer Bernardino, impact almost every sermon I have preached nearly 20 years after sitting in those classes. I could list many individual books or sermons that have redirected my life, enlightened my mind or softened my heart in life-changing ways.
3) IMPARTATION. As important as instruction is, it’s not enough. Paul wrote to the Romans, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong” (Rom. 1:11, NIV, emphasis added). Paul sent instruction to people he had never met, but he seemed to need a face-to-face relationship for impartation to happen.
I can read all about evangelism, but something happens when I actually hang around my friends who are evangelists. I get an evangelistic impartation that changes me for the better in ways that instruction alone can’t.
Impartation happened when King Saul was hanging around the prophets, then started prophesying (see 1 Sam. 19). Impartation happened when God took the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on the 70 elders (see Num. 11).
I’m not sure that the same level of impartation happens through email messages or online classes. There’s something about face-to-face ministry that God has designed to be part of the equipping process.
4) INTERNSHIP. Elijah and Elisha, David and Solomon, Barnabas and Paul, and Paul and Timothy are only a few of the biblical examples of internship. Internship is basically on-the-job training. Internships can be either formal or informal. Over the years, I’ve had formal interns who requested a mentoring relationship, and I’ve had informal “interns” who had no idea I was intentionally equipping them for ministry. They thought we were just hanging out together. Whether formal or informal, internship is a vital part of the equipping process.
In closing, let me explain the power of equipping every believer to do ministry with a real-world illustration. In 2000, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger started an online encyclopedia called “Nupedia.” Their goal was to include articles written only by credentialed experts. Before an article could be posted to Nupedia, it had to go through an extensive, seven-step, scholarly review process, which proved to be painstakingly slow. When Nupedia finally unplugged its servers in 2003, only 24 articles had been posted, and 74 were stuck in the review process. There weren’t many articles, but they were professionally written.
In 2001, one year after Nupedia launched, Wales and Sanger also started a feeder system called “Wikipedia.” They got the name from the shuttle bus at Hawaii International Airport called WikiWiki Transport. Wiki is a Hawaiian word meaning “quick.” The Wikipedia idea was to allow nonprofessionals, non-scholars and non-experts to write articles that the Nupedia scholars would then review. If the Wikipedia articles survived the seven-step Nupedia approval process, they would be posted. If not, they would be trashed.
By the end of 2001, volunteers had submitted more than 20,000 “wiki” articles. It took the trained expert scholars three years to create 24 articles and the volunteers one year to create 20,000. Wikipedia now contains more than 18 million articles written, edited and posted by volunteers.
Unfortunately, many churches and ministries today function more like Nupedia than Wikipedia. They allow only credentialed, ordained professionals to minister while volunteers are expected to show up and pay up, but not to engage in serious ministry.
Imagine if the situation were reversed. Imagine if every believer, not just paid leaders, actively engaged in ministry. That’s what I call a “WikiChurch.” That’s what happened in the book of Acts.
Wikipedia may be an imperfect source, but it has made information widely available by simply empowering volunteers. That’s what church leaders are called to do—to equip and empower imperfect people to honor God and make disciples.
Steve Murrell is the founding pastor of Victory in Manila, the president of Every Nation Churches and Ministries, and the author of WikiChurch, from which this article is adapted with permission. He and his wife, Deborah, have three adult sons and split their time between Manila and Nashville, Tenn.