Spiritual Gifts and Community Service
By Berit Kjos – July 2004
“The Church of the 21st Century is reforming itself into a multi-faceted service operation.” Bob Buford, founder of Leadership Network and founding president of the Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.
“More and more social needs are being met by these private organizations rather than large government bureaucracies…. Peter Drucker has called this private sector of social services the fastest growing segment of economies around the world.”
“[Rick] Warren says, ‘I read everything Peter Drucker writes…. Long before words like ’empowerment’ became popular, Peter was telling us that the secret of achieving results is to focus on your strengths, and the strengths of those you work with, rather than focusing on weaknesses.”“Community Connections“
“[God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'” 2 Corinthians 12:9
“God has a unique role for you to play in his family,” writes Pastor Warren. “This is called your ‘ministry,’ and God has gifted you for this assignment: ‘A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.‘ [1 Co 12:7-8, NLT] Your local fellowship is the place God designed for you to discover, develop and use your gifts.” [4, page 134]
Yes, that’s partly true. God calls each of us to specific roles in the Church. In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul wrote,
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant…There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge…. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Yet, His work through us isn’t limited to “the local fellowship.” God will use the gifts He gives us wherever He sends us. He will equip us for any assignment He gives us — when we hear and follow Him. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” [1 Thessalonians 5:24] While your service to Him may start at our local church, His true Church reaches around the world. Pastor Warren points that out in a later section of His book.
Today’s popular church surveys and “continual assessments” are misleading tools for discovering our spiritual gifts and place of ministry. Yet they — along with peer opinions and personal “experimentation” — are among the tools new members of Saddleback Church are encouraged to use to “discover,” record, and develop their spiritual gifts and potential for service. Though God doesn’t command us to “discover” our gifts, the man-made rules of the new church-growth hierarchy do.
So do powerful globalist leaders and management gurus. As Peter Drucker tells pastors,
“The pastor, as manager, has to identify their strengths and specialization, place them and equip them for service, and enable them to work in the harmonious and productive whole known as the body of Christ.”
Peter Drucker’s vision of the global management structure can be divided into three sectors: (1) the government sector, (2) the private (business) sector, and (3) the social sector. In the last or “third sector,” the key provider of social services would be churches. That’s why his efforts in the last decades have focused on church management and the leadership training needed to train church members to serve their communities.
Bob Buford, the founding chairman of the secular Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management, also founded the “Christian” Leadership Network, which helps pastors and church leaders build “successful churches” based on Drucker’s management policies and communitarian philosophy. The Drucker-Buford success story now reaches around the world, and the main trophies of his organizational talents are the mega-churches in the United States.
So why is that a problem? When the world’s secular managers tutor church leaders in church management in order to equip the “social sector” to fulfill the government’s vision for social welfare, God’s ways and truths will be compromised. In partnerships between the governmental and social sector, the former (which sets the standards and helps fund the projects) will always rule. [See Faith-Based Compromise?] Notice the blend of truth and distortion in Pastor Warren’s next statement:
“When we use our gifts together, we all benefit. If others don’t use their gifts, you get cheated, and if you don’t use your gifts, they get cheated. This is whywe’re commanded to discover and develop our spiritual gifts. Have you ever taken the time to discover your spiritual gifts? An unopened gift is worthless.”[4, page 237] Emphasis added
In the well-defined purpose-centered atmosphere of the postmodern church, discovery and development depend more on human plans and management formulas than on faith in God and the silent work of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps that’s why Pastor Warren suggests,
“Begin by assessing your gifts and abilities. Take a long, honest look at what you are good at and what you’re not good at. Ask other people. Paul advised, ‘Try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities.’ [Romans 12:3b, The Message] Make a list. Ask other people for their candid opinion…. Spiritual gifts and natural abilities are always confirmed by others.” [4, page 250]
They are? What if your spiritual gift has nothing to do with your natural talents or personal preferences? What if God gave you gifts that would show His exceeding greatness, not yours? In stark contrast to Pastor Warren’s view of spiritual gifts, the apostle Paul said,
“I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Did you hear that? God uses weak but faithful believers who will demonstrate His power, not their own talents. In fact, our own talents are often the opposite of our spiritual gifts. History shows us how some of God’s most powerful messengers served in total weakness, all the more demonstrating the amazing power of the Holy Spirit. Now as then, many of His servants come to Him as quiet, shy introverts who would fear speaking their name in a group and would shudder at the improbable thought of ever speaking in front of a group.
That’s where I was years ago: shy, avoiding groups and dreading attention. But when I surrendered my life to my Lord Jesus Christ, He filled me with His Spirit and gave me the absolute assurance that His strength was sufficient in my overwhelming weaknesses. Then, as I immersed myself in His Word — trusting His promises and seeking His will — I found that every time He gave me an impossible task, and I said yes (often after agonizing struggles and sleepless nights), He provided the love needed to overcome my fears, the words needed to counsel the needy, the courage to stand in front of a microphone, and the message needed to encourage His people. It was all by the wonderful, gracious gifts of my Lord and Shepherd! His life had filled this broken earthen vessel to overflowing!
I still don’t know what my permanent spiritual gift or gifts are. Different challenges in my life have called for different gifts. None, other than perhaps service, matched my natural inclinations. That’s why I chose to study nursing. But God had a different plan. He showed me that to use His gifts, I just needed to keep my heart and mind fixed on Him, not on myself — “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Then any assignment He would give me would be matched by the spiritual gift(s) and resources needed to triumph in Him.
Notice that Pastor Warren used a quote from The Message to validate his last point “Begin by assessing your gifts and abilities. Take a long, honest look at what you are good at and what you’re not good at.” But the corresponding verse [Romans 12:3] in any of the standard translations has nothing to do with “assessing your gifts and abilities.” It simply reminds us “not to think” of ourselves too highly — an important warning considering today’s emphasis on self-esteem. It warns us to guard against pride and inflated egos, and it complements the two preceding verses: “…present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God…. And do not be conformed to this world…” (Romans 12:1-2).
In other words, when we, mere humans, try to use business practices to measure and monitor what God is doing in the spiritual realm (instead of trusting and obeying Him and leaving the results in His hands), we are likely to get everything wrong. When ambitious visionaries reinvent God’s churches according to their strategic goals, humanist psychology and sophisticated data processing, they evade the Holy Spirit. Cloaking their own lofty plans and vision in Biblical words and phrases doesn’t help. Instead, it deceives open-minded people. And when today’s detailed management strategies point the way, there’s little room for God’s intervention. In other words, it’s hard to be Spirit-led if you are driven by organizational purposes.
These organizational purposes include experimentation. “In the living laboratory of Saddleback Church, we were able to experiment with different ways to help people understand, apply, and live out the purposes of God,” Pastor Warren wrote in Developing Your SHAPE to Serve Others. Apparently, Saddleback’s “laboratory” experiments involved assessing “measurable results” against pre-planned outcomes (or purposes), which give little credit to what God might do outside the boundaries of the manmade standards. As Warren wrote in The Purpose-Driven Church:
“To remain effective as a church in an ever-changing world you need to continually evaluate what you do. Build review and revision into our process. Evaluate for excellence. In a purpose-driven church, your purposes are the standard by which you evaluate effectiveness.
“Having a purpose without any practical way to review results would be like NASA planning a moon shot without a tracking system. You’ll be unable to make midcourse corrections and will probably never hit your target.” [8, 151-152]
“Just start serving, experimenting with different ministries and then you’ll discover your gifts,” said Pastor Warren in The Purpose-Driven Life. “…I urge you never to stop experimenting…. I know a woman in her nineties who runs and wins 10K races and didn’t discover that she enjoyed running until she was seventy-eight!” [4, page 251]
So she discovered that she enjoys running races. But what does a new hobby or physical exercise have to do with discovering spiritual gifts? Pastor Warren’s next statement doesn’t help answer that question:
“Paul advised, ‘Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.'” [Gal 6:4b, The Message] Again, it helps to get feedback from those who know you best. [Perhaps a reference to the small group each church member must attend.]
“Ask yourself questions: What do I really enjoy doing most? When do I feel the most fully alive? What am I doing when I lose track of time? Do I like routine or variety? Do I prefer serving with a team or by myself? Am I more introverted or extroverted? Am I more of a thinker or a feeler? Which do I enjoy more–competing or cooperating?
“Examine your experiences and extract the lessons you have learned. Review your life and think about how it has shaped you. Moses told the Israelites,‘Remember today what you have learned about the Lord through your experiences with him.” [Deut 11:2 TEV] [4, page 251-252]
When you compare Pastor Warren’s Bible references with standard Bible versions (we included the NIV even though it, too, presents some dubious interpretations), you see how they change the essential message. The first of the two verses quoted by Pastor Warren, Galatians 6:3-4 may seem a bit confusing, but the word “prove” or “examine” is used repeatedly in the New Testament with reference to examining your heart and walk with God — and has nothing to do with discovering your spiritual gifts.
For example, 2 Corinthians 13:5 says: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” It’s a warning to those who think they are Christian but were never really “born of the Spirit.” But such translations are unacceptable to postmodern church leaders who view all unbelievers as potential church members or “pre-Christians” just waiting to be caught up in the Church Growth Movement (CGM) by their marketing strategies.
According to the old Hebrew manuscripts, Deuteronomy 11:2 (the second Scripture in the quote above) emphasized the significance of actual eyewitness reports of facts: what the people knew to be true because they (unlike their children) were eyewitnesses to what God had done. In contrast to learning “about the Lord through your experiences,” their understanding was based on the objective fact of what they had actually seen with their own eyes, not on second-hand information or subjective, feeling-based experience. This emphasis continues in the New Testament. So to validate the gospel he recorded, Luke pointed to “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word….” Luke 1:2
KJV: “And know ye this day: for I speak not with your children which have not known, and which have not seen the chastisement of the LORD your God, his greatness, his mighty hand, and his stretched out arm.” Deut 11:1-2
NKJV: “Know today that I do not speak with your children, who have not known and who have not seen the chastening of the Lord your God, His greatness and His mighty hand and His outstretched arm.” Deut 11:1-2
NIV: “Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the LORD your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm;” Deut 11:2
TEV: Remember today what you have learned about the Lord through your experiences with him.” [4, page 151-152]
Led by Moses, God’s people had seen the amazing miracles of the sovereign God of heaven and earth. They had faced His disciplines and knew the consequences of putting “common sense” or human intuition above the commands of their Lord. “Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone followed the dictates of his evil heart,” wrote a grieving prophet centuries later (Jeremiah 11:8).
Trusting their own inclinations, the people turned a deaf ear to God’s directions until their foolish choices and self-focused ways had blinded them to His goodness and devastated their land. “As I live,” God warned them, “surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you.” Ezekiel 20:33
The church’s place in the 21st Century community
Why would God’s churches implement the world’s management system? To grow and be successful? To make an impact on the community? To gain more control? To win fame in the Christian community? To find acceptance in the world?
These may all be true, but you see a more obscure reason when you look at the larger picture. Behind all the lofty promises and seductive promotion hides a purpose that has little to do with truth and God. It has everything to do with the structure of global governance for the 21st century. [See Reinventing the World] And, as you saw in earlier parts, it’s grounded in the pragmatic policies of Peter Drucker (“the world’s pre-eminent management thinker”) and his vision for a “healthy community.” In his mind, the “pastoral mega-churches are surely the most important social phenomenon in American society in the past thirty years.”
Bob Buford echoed that belief in a book titled, The Community of the Future. In his chapter of the book, “How Boomers, Churches and Entrepreneurs Can Transform Society,” he wrote:
“Religious organizations are already far and away the most dominant part of the social sector…. Therefore, in terms of both money and volunteers, churches are already in a position to play a leading role in the years ahead. But because of its innovative organization, which affords it the size and scale to do things that have real community impact, the Next Church holds perhaps the greatest promise of converting good intentions into real results.”
The “real results” are not simply success in caring for the needs of the community. The goal is to create a new kind of humanity — the global citizen, the group thinker and willing worker needed for the global village. Bob Buford goes on to say:
“The social entrepreneur transforms a process in the social sector, also with a view toward extracting a higher yield. Here however, the ‘product ‘ is neither a good nor a service (as in business) nor a regulation (as in government), but a changed human being. In June 1996, I hosted a gathering of people who fit this profile. They were all people who had excelled in their careers as entrepreneurs, having started or built successful, innovative businesses. Now they were innovating in the social sector….
Whatever the issue, the attraction for them was not the need per se, but the prospect of getting results, of actually bringing about a change in human lives and circumstances. This is a distinguishing feature of social entrepreneurs, they do not engage in charity, but in transformation. They ask, ‘Are people actually different as a result of my efforts?’
This result orientation is a new paradigm for social sector work. Traditional philanthropy, including the welfare state, has tended to apply resources to problems without much accountability for near-term, measurable results. Indeed, many in the nonprofit world balk at the very idea of measuring results and performance….
Who are the models of innovative social entrepreneurs? They include Millard and Linda Fuller of Habitat for Humanity…. Eugene Lang of the I Have a Dream Foundation (a secular organization partnering with globalist education leaders such as iEARN), and Kenneth Cooper of the Aerobics Center in Dallas…..
The questions, according to Peter Drucker, are What are we doing to encourage them? and What are we doing to make them effective? … What we need is a changed society, a revitalized community, and nothing less than a civilized city.”
Neither the coveted “transformation,” nor the “measurable results,” nor “new paradigm for social sector work” have anything to do with Jesus Christ, our Lord, nor with the cross that makes us one with Him. If people call themselves Christian, as in the mega-churches, that’s fine as long as their faith doesn’t hinder the social transformation. In other words, if Christianity can be molded to fit the new view of Christianity as “helpful energy,” it can be useful. But the Holy Spirit cannot be permitted to interfere with the measurable social goals of tolerance, unity, and participation in the dialectic process.
Bob Buford left the secular Drucker Foundation to found the “Christian” Leadership Network, which helped pastors and church leaders build “successful churches” based on Drucker’s management policies and communitarian philosophy. Buford’s success story now reaches around the world, and the main trophies of his organizational talents are the mega-churches in the United States.
Do you wonder why Ducker’s disciple would focus his time and talents on the development of “large churches”? Like his famed tutor, he sees the church as an essential provider for “leadership training and “service learning” in the “social sector” of the envisioned community. He knows that “the government sector” will be incapable of providing all the services needed for the envisioned global welfare system. Nor can the “private sector” (business) accomplish the job. The burden must be shifted from a government sector to the social sector, and the strongest and most organized institution within the social sector is the large, multi-faceted church. No other institution has the human, financial and motivational resources to train leaders and servers that can accomplish the job. To accomplish the task — leadership training, service-learning and actual community service — the large “pastoral churches” around the world must be brought into “faith-based partnerships” with the governmental and business sectors.
In The 21st Century Church, Dr. Robert Klenck summarized this new network of systems with a quote from the Leadership Network’s Compass Magazine. Its May, 1995, article titled “After Church Growth, What?” stated:
“The next movement will grow partnerships, not properties. Partnerships, alliances and collaboration will become the norm, rather than the exception, and the relationships will be built on new loyalties and a new common mission. … The next movement will grow people, not parking lots. … These same people are in the congregations of the 21st century and they are going to be the ‘point people’ for the partnerships and alliances that will achieve the vision beyond the property line.”
“The Church of the 21st Century is reforming itself into a multi-faceted service operation.” Bob Buford
As Dr. Klenck points out, these large service-oriented churches “’sanitize’ their surroundings of religious symbols ostensibly to keep from offending unbelievers… but that this ‘sanitization’ also ‘happens’ to bring them into compliance with partnership agreements with the government. There are approximately 100,000 schools entering into these partnerships with religious groups.”
In The Pied Pipers of Purpose, Lynn and Sarah Leslie together with Susan Conway bring a warning we need to remember:
“Many advocates of government-funded faith-based charities believe that the end justifies the means, and will point to the ‘results’ as evidence of a good work being done. These good-intentioned people probably don’t realize that their activities further the political goals of communitarian societal transformation. These folks may not understand the long-term negative repercussions of cooperating with this new system of governance. In a communitarian worldview any truly private entity (family, charity, church and small Christian school) poses a direct challenge to the ‘common good.’ In the future, the luxury of granting special “rights” to a group of people who profess and practice biblical separation will no longer be tolerated by communitarians. Separatist practices and beliefs do not align with the ‘common good.’”
Since God calls us to serve the poor, the imprisoned, the broken and the lame, community service makes sense. But genuine Christian service also involves the freedom to share the whole gospel, not a message watered down by politically correct guidelines and dialectic consensus. Any partnership with the government sector or the business sector will involve accountability to politically correct standards and guidelines that should be unacceptable to those who love God’s Word and cannot condone politically correct limitations on their freedom to share the gospel as the Spirit leads. No matter how great a person’s “felt needs,” the greatest needs are spiritual. And only Jesus Christ — through His Word and Spirit — can meet those needs. That’s true both for the server and those who are served.
“Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ,” wrote Oswald Chambers. “The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him…. Are we being more devoted to service than to Jesus Christ?” If so, we have lost our first love….
In the new global management system, service is considered successful if it is based on measurable standards that are met. But how do you measure the secret work of God’s Spirit in the hearts of the needy? Only God can measure the success of His work in a man, for –
“no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God…. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:11-14)
“The snare in Christian work is to rejoice in successful service,” warned Oswald Chambers, “to rejoice in the fact that God has used you. You never can measure what God will do through you if you are rightly related to Jesus Christ. Keep your relationship right with Him, then whatever circumstances you are in, and whoever you meet day by day, He is pouring rivers of living water through you… Beware of the people who make usefulness their ground of appeal….”
It’s true. “…the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God….” Rom 14:17-18 How would you measure “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”? How would you measure Mary’s service to God inLuke 10:38-41? She was commended for sitting at the feet of Jesus, while Martha prepared their food. You might be able to measure the results of the meal, but how do you measure Mary’s love for Jesus? No man can. Nor does God approve of man’s measures for comparing human performance. Remember how God disciplined his people because David measured the size of his army! [1 Chronicles 21:3-22]
God sets the standard for our work in Him. He provides the resources, and He will give the rewards. He is our beacon, our strength, or guide and our beloved! Him we must obey and Him we will serve.
“Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.” Eph 6:5-7
1.Leadership Network, NEXT, December 1997. http://www.leadnet.org/allthingsln/archives/NEXT/dec97.pdf
4. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002). See “Driven or Led?“
6. We are not to be “driven” by anything. Instead, we need to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross….” (Hebrews 12:1-2) “For with God nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:37)
9. See Part 1 of this series at Spirit-Led or Purpose-Driven?
13. Lynn and Sarah Leslie, Susan Conway, “The Pied Pipers of Purpose” at http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/04/pied_pipers_of_purpose.htm