How do we spot potential in people?
If we are going to be a missional church, we have to be more careful not to fall into the trap of the minister-centred church. In order for the Body of Christ to carry out his mission, every member of the body needs to play their part. It may feel a giant culture shift from the model where the minister — the professional Christian — leads from the front and people passively receive information, and then occasionally sign up to volunteer for things that were the minister’s idea (or even the Kirk Session’s idea). But it is possible to identify the gifts the Spirit is constantly giving and to encourage and equip people to use them!
The first thing to remember is that the Spirit gifts the church with everything we need for the calling God has placed upon our community. If there is something we want to do and there is legitimately no one with the gifts to do it, then it may not be our current calling. And likewise, if there seem to be a lot of gifts that cluster in particular areas and we aren’t currently using, that may be a signal pointing toward what our current calling is! We have the tools we need to pursue God’s vision, so always begin from an assessment of our assets, not our deficits. If all we think is “it would be amazing if we could do that but we don’t have xyzabc123” then that isn’t our thing. Or else we need to look more closely at our community, where gifts may be hiding in plain sight!
This should be obvious but just in case: start with prayer for God to reveal your calling and increase your capacity to follow it. Pray for clarity of thought and vision, and for the Spirit to bring forward the people you need to see in order to put things in motion. Pray for the Church. Sit in the sanctuary and hall and pray for the people who come there, seat by seat or row by row. Pray through your church roll, a page a day. Remember to listen as well as talk!
That conversation style with God carries into people too — listen as well as talk! Knowing people’s stories is the key to empowering people for mission. When we know people, we see the things they may not see, the gifts that reveal themselves in their habits, their everyday activities, the things that bring them joy. And we then have the relational “capital” to invite them to try using those gifts in a new way. Especially when we are making steps into a new missional outlook or opportunity, it can be hard for people to imagine that they’re the ones God is calling, but when you know them you can couch the invitation in their story. “I know you used to really love baking with your kids, what would you say to helping lead a class for new parents who aren’t sure they have those life skills to pass on to their own kids?” “I was thinking about how often we’ve talked about films we’ve seen…what do you think about a faith and film discussion group?” “You know how you told me once how hard it was for you to learn to use your phone? What if we got together a group of people who are still struggling with that and you could walk them through the things you had to learn the hard way?” The opportunities are endless, and they start with one person seeing the potential and being willing to try it out, and to invite others. It doesn’t have to be a fully-formed plan, it can grow through practice into what God needs it to be.
Once you’ve got those conversations going, remember to encourage people without insisting they do it how you would do it. Encourage, Release, and Thank people at every opportunity, and you may just be surprised at what the Spirit will do in your part of the Body of Christ!