How it Works — the Fanning the Flame Process, part 1

This article was published in The Lutheran Ambassador, our denomination’s magazine.  It gives you a look at how the whole Fanning the Flame Process is working at St. Paul’s.  

I’m a member of St. Paul’s Free Lutheran Church in Leitersburg, Md.. Located in a small village, the congregation has grown smaller and the membership older over the years.  In an effort to become healthier, we embarked this year on a program of revitalization called “Fanning the Flame.”  Our ten-member team has been meeting, studying, and praying for the Holy Spirit to guide our efforts.  During this time of spiritual introspection, God has revealed our need to change our focus.  We must look outside of ourselves into our neighborhood, community and even the world.  We are small, but God still has a purpose for us.

Many member participated in a spiritual gift assessment to learn how we, as individuals and as a group, are best suited to serve God.  As Romans 12:6-8 says.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve;  if it is teaching, then teach;  if it is to encourage, then give encouragement;  if it is giving, then give generously;  if it is to lead, do it diligently;  if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

One of the most prominent gifts in our congregation is the gift of mercy.  This gift is the special ability God gives to some members of His body to feel empathy and compassion for other people who are dealing with physical, mental or emotional problems, and to translate their empathy into deeds that reflect the love of Christ.  (For a listing of all the spiritual gifts see Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4).

People with the gift of mercy are naturally attracted to caring ministries, ministries that help people meet all sorts of needs.  Caring ministries are also a great way to evangelize.  Why?  According to Pastor Harry Reeder, who developed Fanning the Flame, here’s what can happen when a congregation undertakes mercy ministry:

  • First, God is glorified because others see the gospel in action
  • Then, people are influenced by encountering authentic Christians
  • Last, church members are encouraged and edified, becoming better disciples as they participate in ministry

Since more than 50 percent of our members have the gift of mercy, it seemed like a no-brainer.  St. Paul’s needed to invest in mercy ministry.  Where would we start?

…… to be continued

Talk To Me by Dean Nelson — Book Review

The subtitle of this book is:  How to ask better questions, Get better answers and Interview anyone lie a pro.  At this point you may be wondering, “why is Joan reviewing this book for the blog?”  Stay tuned while I explain, as there are several reasons.

My job on our Fanning the Flame team is Spiritual Gifts Coordinator.  That means I “interview” our members about their spiritual gifts, passions and hobbies.  All of this information is then recorded in a database for use by the Pastor, church leaders and committees so that people are able to use their abilities in ministry.  I actually wish I had come across this book earlier in the process.  Although Dean Nelson is a journalist, and that is his focus, it is chock full of useful information including:

  • How to get people to talk to you in the first place
  • How to make people comfortable during the interview
  • How to prepare for an interview
  • How to take notes
  • How to interview people you like and people you don’t like

Above all, he encourages interviews to know and remember the why of a particular interview, and to stay focused.  Here’s an important quote:

“Keep in mind that you’re interviewing the person to reveal what the person is about and to get information about a particular topic.  You want their perspective, their insight, their unique point of view, their anecdotes,  their expertise their wisdom, their personality, their ability to point you to a greater understanding.  So get out of the way, and let the person talk to you.”

He makes the point, and it’s a good one, that we all interview others every day.

One of the things I’ve learned from the Fanning the Flame process is to take advantage of secular wisdom when it’s appropriate, and this is a good example.  It’s also Biblical.  Remember the parable of the shrewd manager?

“For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.  I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

The shrewd manager was commended for his diligence and cleverness in dealing with a problem.  As Christians, we can also use worldly knowledge for heavenly purposes, when it’s appropriate.  Our Fanning the Flame coach has recommended other secular books, and maybe he’ll add this one to the list.

I can even make a case for fitting Talk to Me into our monthly theme, since we are instructed to “speak with one another.”  That speaking should be without letting our ego get in the way (as Dean Nelson recommends) and with an earnest desire to know and to understand a brother or sister in Christ.

VERDICT:  I give this book five stars.  If you are involved in interviewing others in any way, you’ll find it quite readable and a good resource!

Spiritual Gifts from the Holy Spirit

This was written by one of our Fanning the Flame team members, Debbie.  It is about her experience in learning more about spiritual gifts.

One of the many positive things coming out of Fanning the Flame is that we are finding out what our spiritual gifts are. Some of us already know what our gift is but we might not really understand what it means and are not quite sure how we can use it to the glory of God. God has given us all spiritual gifts through the Holy Spirit. We may find out we have more than one but one or two are the strongest. One thing I have learned is that there are spiritual gifts that I don’t have that someone else may have but that is okay. I need to use the gifts God has given me because as a congregation we need to use the gifts that are given to each of us. When you put all of our gifts together we have everything covered to do God’s work. That is the Holy Spirit’s plan. A Church that as a congregation does not use their gifts is impotent. The definition of the word impotent as used in the Bible is “to be without strength”. That means the Church that does not use their gifts will not be a healthy Church. Even though we may know what our gifts are and would like to use them as God has intended we might not know what to do. I know for me that the Small Groups Discipleship Ministry that we are starting is going to help me use my gifts working with others in the group. In a small group you get a chance to really get to know each other and learn to work together to achieve what we are intended to do. I personally don’t think I would be able to do enough on my own but in a small group I feel the possibilities are endless. Anyone who has not done a spiritual gift assessment I urge you do that. It is very interesting and exciting to do. Also Joan is sharing her knowledge of spiritual gifts with us in the Sunday School class. We are looking at each spiritual gift and what them mean, where they are described in the Bible and there is discussion of examples of each and how they apply in our daily lives.

1 Corinthians 12:6-7 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

The Heart of a Servant

“That piety which sanctifies us, and which is a true devotion to God, consists in doing all His will precisely at the time, in the situation and under the circumstances, in which He has placed us.  Perfect devotedness requires, not only that we do the will of God, but that we do it with love.  God would have us serve Him with delight.  It is our hearts that He asks of us.”  Francois De La Mothe Fenelon

As I prepared for my first Sunday School lesson on spiritual gifts, I began studying what the gifts are not.  They are not fruit of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, self-control, goodness, faithfulness. These qualities are also gifts of the Holy Spirit, but they are given to and expected of every Christian.  The spiritual gifts are varied, and assigned to specific individuals.

The fruit of the Spirit does, however, tell us the manner in which we are to use our gifts.  Remember how the apostle Paul said:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1

If we exercise our gifts in ways that are impatient, unloving, rude or unkind, they become worthless.  We must not only have the hands of a servant, we must have the heart of a servant.  This is harder to achieve, but much more satisfying than just going through the motions in order to “do our duty.”

How can we develop the heart of a servant?  I know I can’t do it on my own.  It comes only through surrender to God.  It comes only imperfectly on this side of eternity.  I’m praying today for a servant’s heart.  What about you?

Serving God with Your Gifts

“My sons, do not be negligent now,  for the Lord has chosen you to stand before Him and serve Him, to minister before Him and to burn incense.”  2 Chronicles 29:11

This was part of my devotional reading a few days ago, and it brings me back to spiritual gifts once again.  The King Hezekiah is speaking here to the priests and Levites.  The previous King Ahaz was wicked and had kept them from performing their duties in the temple;  now Hezekiah intends to set things right.  He reminds them that they have been chosen to serve God and should return to the special tasks they’ve been assigned.

God has chosen us to be his children and to serve Him.  In order to do that, He gave every one of us at least one spiritual gift.  If we don’t use those gifts, we’re not only being negligent, we’re being disobedient and ungrateful to the Giver!  Listen to what the apostle Paul has to say:

“We have different gifts according to the grace given us.  If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve;  if it is teaching, let him teach;  if it is encouraging, let him encourage;  if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously;  if it is leadership, let him govern diligently;  if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”  Romans 12:6-8

So my question to myself (and to each of our readers) today is this:  how am I using my own spiritual gifts?  A gift that is left unopened is of no use at all.  Don’t be negligent — use your gifts in the service of the one Who gave them.

The Spiritual Gift of Service

Well, ladies you know that this year my focus is on spiritual gifts.  I thought it would be appropriate this month, as we talk about servanthood, to examine the qualities of the spiritual gift of service.  All of us are called to serve, but some have a particular talent for this.  Here’s the definition:

SERVICE: The gift of service is the special ability that God gives to certain

members of the Body of Christ to identify the unmet needs involved in a task

related to God’s work, and to make use of available resources to meet those

needs and help accomplish the desired goals. Contributes: Skills.

You may have this spiritual gift if you:

  • Serve behind the scenes wherever needed to support the gifts and ministries of others
  • Seek the tangible and practical things to be done and enjoy doing them
  • Sense God’s purpose and pleasure in meeting everyday responsibilities
  • Attach spiritual value to practical service
  • Enjoy knowing that you are freeing up others to do what God has called them to do

You can study more about this gift by looking up the following passages: Romans 12:7 and Ephesians 6:5-9

 People with the gift of service will often tell you, “I didn’t really do anything important.”  That’s not true.  Every ministry depends upon the everyday support of average people like you and me.  Serving in quiet ways builds up the whole body.  How can you serve this week?

 

Live and Learn

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1

Sometimes we use the fact that we are not “gifted” in a particular way as an excuse.  We tell ourselves that we shouldn’t bother to witness, offer acts of service, or show mercy because it isn’t our “gift.”  This is wrong and not Biblical.  Our individual gifts will be our serving “sweet spot” — they will show us where to concentrate our efforts.  That doesn’t mean we can never do things that are outside of our natural comfort zone. Living the Christian life means learning and growing.

One way to do this is observe those with a particular spiritual gift and imitate them.  I have several friends with the gift of hospitality.  I may never be able to match their effectiveness and joy in opening my home to others;  but I can watch and learn.  I can take note of how they try to make their guests comfortable and welcome and I can try to incorporate some of those things into my own life.  I can take some steps in the direction of becoming a more hospitable person.

I have another friend who once talked to be about how she had taken care of her mother when she became elderly and ill.  She said she came to realize that God gave her that opportunity so she could learn to be a better servant.  She has the gift of mercy.  I don’t, but when I faced the same situation with my mother, her words encouraged me and helped me to see unpleasant tasks as an opportunity instead of a chore.

My husband has the gift of teaching.  I don’t.  But I have learned some of his techniques by many years of sitting in his classes.  When I need to step up and lead a Sunday School class, I do not have his poise and natural style of delivery, but I do have the gift of knowledge, and I can work to impart that to others.  In the same way, my husband does not have a natural gift of encouragement, but he has seen me send cards and notes and give hugs, and he reminds himself that sometimes these things are good to do even if it’s not his natural inclination.

In the verse above, the apostle Paul tells the Corinthians to imitate his life, just as he is trying to imitate Christ.  We too should find godly people within our church and strive to imitate them.  Remember the story of the little boy with the small number of loaves and fishes?  Jesus used his small gift to feed 5000!  Give your willing gift, however small, to Christ and he will multiply it and use it to bless others.