Friday, November 27, 2009

Spiritual Gifts - Part III

Balancing Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual Habits

We have been looking at spiritual gifts in recent posts and this is the third instalment. We have journeyed with this topic so that you might explore where you should be serving in ministry based on your gifting rather than personal interest. Before we continue with part III, how has that journey been for you? Have you come to any insights about how you are gifted to build the Church? In this journey have you discovered more about where you are not gifted? I encourage you to experiment with a variety of ministries so that you continue your journey with spiritual gifts.

This week I wish to explore the balancing act of spiritual gifts and spiritual habits. Spiritual gifts, as mentioned previously, are not just talents, skills or interests. Spiritual gifts are specific gifts given to you by the Holy Spirit so that you can build the Church in a unique way. You may discover people with similar gifting in your ministry, however you will need to gather people with different gifting in order for your ministry to really fire. For example someone with a leadership gift may need to find people with the gifts of service, administration and evangelism in order to make their ministry grow, not just survive.

In contrast to spiritual gifts which are specific to you, there are spiritual habits or practices that every Christian is called to. These are habits or practices that every person needs to undertake in order to come closer to God and to become more like Christ. In our discipleship journey with Jesus, we all need to take on the habits of a disciple. If we look at the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) we can see a few spiritual habits that Jesus calls all disciples to:
“Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Being a disciple in the Great commission means being baptised, most of us can tick that box. However in the text we read that there is more to discipleship than baptism, so here is a list of some spiritual habits that all disciples are called to work on:

Formation: In the Great commission, Jesus calls his disciples to teach and learn everything he taught. We have to take on the spiritual habits of a learner, how willing are you to learn about your faith? Who are your teachers? What are the voices that you allow to speak into your life?

Prayer: Prayer is our communication with God. Some people have the spiritual gift of intercessory prayer, yet all of us are to communicate with God. We know that in Matthew 6:5-15 Jesus taught His disciples to pray so that they could communicate with His Father in heaven. Jesus gave this prayer to everyone and is know today as the “Our Father”. This is an important prayer and the Holy Spirit has revealed many other forms of prayer to our Church. Prayer should be a spiritual habit that we develop in a variety of forms, so we should Talk to God, Thank God, Ask things of God and Listen to God in prayer

Gathering with Believers: recently I heard a young person say that they can follow God without coming to Church. Yet it is very clear throughout history that Catholic’s need to gather with other believers as a spiritual habit. St Paul reminds the early Christian community of this spiritual habit in Hebrews 10:24-26 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.”

Sharing your faith: In the Great Commission Jesus tells His disciples to go make other disciples. This is the spiritual habit of sharing your faith. Whilst there is a specific gift for evangelism given to certain people who excel in this area, all Catholic’s are called to evangelise or share our faith even if we find it difficult. We all have to develop the spiritual practice of sharing our faith, we don’t just leave it to those with a spiritual gift of evangelism.

This is not a complete list of spiritual habits but it is a start. If you can work on these you will be on the right path to being more like Christ. I would love for you to post a comment about other Spiritual Habits that you try to develop. I would also love to hear about how you are exploring your spiritual gifts.

Mark McDonald

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spiritual gifts - Part II

In the history of our Church, the Holy Spirit has blessed communities and groups with gifts called charism. If you went to a religious primary or high school, you may be familiar with the charism of the Josephite sisters, Mercy sisters, Jesuits or Christian brothers. There are many different religious groups and movements in the Catholic Church, all with their own particular charism. If a charism is a call from the Holy Spirit to a community, what is the Holy Spirits gift to an individual? If you have never heard of spiritual gifts you are not alone, many people don’t realise that the Holy Spirit has blessed them with gifts to build the Church.

Spiritual gifts are not talents or skills; they are not hobbies or interests. Spiritual gifts are not tasks or activities that you are good at. Whilst these could reveal something about your spiritual gifts, they are more than this. When reflecting on your spiritual gifts you need to look beyond what ministries you are involved in to look at why you chose that ministry. For example a person who is studying to become a teacher, may not have the spiritual gift of teaching, but chose the teaching profession because they have the gift of encouragement.

Spiritual gifts are special graces given to you by the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church. The Holy Spirit is calling each one of us to build the Church in a variety of ways. So whilst you may have a favourite ministry in the Church, your spiritual gifts are not for your benefit but for the benefit of the Church. Once you understand what your spiritual gifts are, you can move between ministries with more freedom, because you know how you can build the Church in a variety of ways.

As in intern you may find that certain ministries appeal to you and others don’t. If you find yourself attracted to one ministry over another, you need to explore why you choose this ministry. Whilst you might like the people in the ministry, perhaps you chose this ministry because this is an environment where you can use your spiritual gifts.

Here are some examples, if you have the spiritual gift of leadership, you may be able to lead the young adult group, but is there another ministry that need your leadership? Or say your spiritual gift was service, you may serve the young adult ministry because your friends are there, but have you thought of serving the seniors ministry? If your spiritual gift is evangelisation, rather than working in overseas missions, how can you evangelise the people in your own backyard?

It is helpful to remember that your spiritual gifts are not for your benefit but for the benefit of your church community. As an intern how can you best serve your community using your spiritual gifts? If you serve based on your spiritual gifts rather than your interests then you are less likely to burn out and more likely to benefit the lives of those around you.

Good luck in exploring your spiritual gifts, please leave a comment about your reactions to this post or to share your spiritual gifts with us.

Mark McDonald
Coordinator of Broken Bay Youth Ministry

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Distance Mentoring

You may have heard about or even studied by distance education. Distance education is a way of providing educational services to remote areas or where distances are too great to travel. In some forms of distance education, the student and the teacher will never meet face to face. In other forms, such as those offered by the Broken Bay Institute, the student can access material provided by the teacher and interact with the teacher using technology without being in the same room.

Perhaps you may not have heard about distance mentoring, or perhaps you are receiving distance mentoring without knowing it. Do you have a favourite writer that you read everything they write? Do you search YouTube just to get another clip of an inspiring or dynamic speaker giving a talk? Are you a Facebook fan of somebody who inspires you? If you answered Yes, then you are receiving distance mentoring.

Mentoring is growing in popularity but it can be difficult to find a mentor who is the perfect fit, especially if you wish to meet them face to face. But if you are prepared to engage a mentor using the new media, you have access to a whole range of material that can teach you new concepts and expand your thinking. The difference with distance mentoring is that just like distance education, you may never meet your mentor and they may not even know who you are. Without having to meet your mentor face to face, this opens up new possibilities to finding a mentor. You could recieve mentoring from someone famous, someone in another country or even someone who died over a century ago.

I encourage you to find a distance mentor who can teach you about life and ministry in your area of interest. Search for someone who expands your thinking, inspires you and develops you as a person. Perhaps you need to find a distance mentor who gives you a vision of something better. Find a media that suits your style, perhaps podcasts are you thing or maybe you prefer to read.

So who are my distance mentors? I will always download the weekly podcast by Matt Chandler because I love the way he breaks open the Scripture. I learn so much from Matt because he is 35 years old with children, just like me. Whilst he is one of my current mentors, because he lives in Dallas Texas we will never meet.

If you are looking for a distance mentor check out websites that host blogs or articles. Start by reading this blog every week to get into the habit of learning from others. The articles from the Catalyst team are a good start You could also read articles posted on Cathnews and follow the links to the original writers. Or start your own search for a distance mentor by searching podcasts on Itunes.

If you have a distance mentor, please leave a comment or post it on the discussion board of our Facebook group. I would love to hear from you.