Valuing Personality and Gifting: Part 2, Vocational LensApril 28, 2016
Have you ever wondered why different people seem to view the world differently? It’s as if everyone has on different lenses through which they decide what is important and what isn’t. Knowing which lens you view the world through can help you understand with greater clarity why you do the things you do and how God has gifted you to serve in this world.
In the first blog in this series, I unpacked how the foundation for understanding your gifting is the miracle of the new creation. If you haven’t read that one yet, do so now before continuing because this is where everything starts. The reformers believed that being called out of darkness and into new life with Jesus was what they called one’s “primary calling.” Simply put, knowing Christ and being conformed to his image is what it’s all about (Rom. 8:28-30). But once a person has received Christ, then what? The reformers called this a “vocational calling”—to do something for him in this world.
This Blog: Understanding Your Vocational Calling
Before the miracle of the new creation, Paul tells us, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritual discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). But, when a person encounters and receives Jesus, his Spirit comes in and fills them with his kind of life (Eph. 2:5). As C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, Jesus is, “beginning to turn the tin soldier into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin.”
When God breathes this new life into people, everything they do gets reoriented in a worshipful posture for the one who made them alive (Rom. 12:1). Ephesians 4 tells us God gives people gifts for the purpose of “filling all things” (Eph. 4:8-10). In other words, God gives his people specific gifts so that every place and space would be filled up with his power and presence in this world. This is a mind blower. Think on that for a moment.
There’s a reason some gravitate toward business, art, sales and toward the helping and teaching professions—this is God’s amazing way of filling up the whole earth with his power and presence. Indeed, everything counts. If you work in any of these arenas and have thought your interests aren’t significant, think again. These things are representative of what God’s vocational calling could be on your life—his way of filling all things with his presence, through you.
Ephesians 4 and Vocation
Ephesians 4:8 tells us that Jesus gave gifts to people to equip them for works of ministry, which means service in this world. Verse 11 tells us what the gifts are. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers.
- The apostolic gift is manifested in the ones who want to take the Gospel to new places. They are concerned that systems get put in place to ensure the long term success of the church.
- The prophetic gift is seen in those who have a burning inside to draw attention to the things that matter to the heart of God. They are the ones who sense if God is in something or not. They care about his causes and his presence.
- The evangelistic gift is at work in those who somehow manage to get to Jesus into almost every conversation. They are also gatherers who have the ability to pull people together.
- The shepherding gift can be seen in those who about the heart and want to make sure people get to experience the real and tangible love of God.
- The teaching gift is seen in those who care about idea transference. They keep us on track theologically. They are the ones who want to make sure ideas and practices are clearly understood.
These gifts are everywhere. Allan Hirsch calls the shepherding and teaching gifts “operative” and the apostolic, prophetic and evangelistic gifts “generative.” Shepherds and teachers often are focused on making sure believers are cared for and taught well. Apostles, prophets and evangelists often have an outward thrust to take the Gospel to new places.
Start looking for these gifts on display around you. It’s quite amazing.
- The apostolic gift often plays itself out in people who lead businesses or start new ventures.
- The prophetic gift is sometimes at work in artists and musicians or in those who highlight social justice issues that need a voice.
- The evangelistic displays itself in those who have the magical powers of convincing others. Great salespeople have this gift.
- The shepherding gift is at play in good counselors or in other helping professions.
- The teaching gift is seen in those who are good at training or teaching.
Jesus—The Perfect Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher (APEST)
We see these gifts exemplified perfectly in the life of Jesus. It’s a worshipful experience to discuss with fellow believers how Jesus was the perfect apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd and teacher. Try it out. I say this because, unless we see these gifts perfectly at work in Jesus’ life, we will not know how the Holy Spirit will release these gifts in ours. Because followers of Jesus have his Spirit, this means we all have some of this placed inside us! This is an amazing thought.
Gaining Clarity on Your Vocation—Your One Sentence
Once people understand the new creation and their new creation identity, talk about the Ephesians 4 gifts with them. Have each member of your missional community discuss together how they’ve seen these gifts play themselves out in their lives. If they need help with this, Allan Hirsch or Mike Breen have good APEST assessments they could take to help gain clarity. After that, discuss their results in community. Discussion is important because an assessment can’t tell you who you are, but it does give us data to agree with or disagree with.
Once people understand their “common identity” and their “vocational lens”, I’ll release them to talk with a spouse or close friend about how God has wired them to make disciples. Then I’ll have them come up with one sentence that describes their “vocation” that arises out of their gifting.
For instance, I’m wired as an Apostle/Evangelist. I see the world through new initiatives and exciting conversations about the person and work of Jesus. My one sentence is, “God has gifted me to add people to the community of faith and to equip them to live out their calling.” Notice, my sentence has an outward thrust and is large scale. That’s because of the generative gifts of evangelist and apostle.
My wife is an introverted Shepherd/Teacher. Her sentence reflects this. “God has gifted me to listen to people’s stories and speak words of truth.” Notice her sentence is smaller in scale and reflects the operative gifts of shepherd and teacher.
Once a person can articulate their unique gifting in light of Ephesians 4, then a whole new world opens up for how each person can serve. Whether it’s life of the missional community or in her everyday job and interactions, my wife knows it all gets shaped by her desire to hear people’s stories and speak words of truth. For me, as I work in my normal job, I’m always thinking about gathering people and equipping. It makes sense that some of my time is spent working as a consultant and the rest is spent meeting new people in my neighborhood and equipping my missional community—it’s how I’m gifted and this colors everything I do.
Imagine if everyone in your missional community could articulate their unique gifting. Whether it was around the table, at the playground or in their daily job, articulating one’s vocational lens adds wonderful clarity for how you go about your normal life and job.
You wouldn’t go into battle with a team unless each member knew their role and how to use their tools. The same is true with the church. Helping people understand their unique gifting, I’ve found, is one huge way to add clarity and meaning to a person’s life. Yes, God has designed each person uniquely—a leaders job is to help them understand that and release it.
Next Steps and Next Blog
Discuss with your group their common identity and Ephesians 4 vocational lens. Remember to talk about how Jesus exemplified these gifts perfectly. Then have each person from your group craft a sentence that describes how they are gifted to make disciples. Last, discuss how that sentence could play itself out in your community and in other arenas of life.
In my next blog I want to add another layer of focus to this gifting series. In particular, what about the other spiritual gifts? How do they fit in?
Once you’ve done this exercise with your missional community, we’d love to hear what your gifting is and your one sentence that describes your design.