If you’ve been reading my Ministry Toolbox articles for a while, you’re probably familiar with the concept of SHAPE—but you may not understand it fully.
For us at Saddleback, SHAPE has become a critical part of how we help mobilize people for ministry. Architecture teaches that function follows form. We believe the opposite is true for ministry—form follows function. Your ministry is determined by your makeup.
When you don’t understand your SHAPE, you sometimes end up doing things God never intended or designed you to do. And when your gifts don’t match the role you play in life, it can be frustrating to you and the people you’re leading. Not only does it produce limited results, but it is also an enormous waste of your talents, time, and energy.
Five important factors make up how God SHAPEs us for ministry.
The moment you become a believer, God gives you certain spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 8; Ephesians 4). Every believer has a spiritual gift.
Most churches say, “Discover your spiritual gift and then you’ll know what ministry you’re supposed to have.” But they have it backwards.. I believe the exact opposite: Start experimenting with different ministries and then you’ll discover your gifts! Until you actually get involved in serving, you’re not going to know what you’re good at doing. You can read every book out there about spiritual gifts and still be confused about what you are gifted to do.
The Bible uses the heart to represent the center of emotions, desires, interests, and inclinations. God has given every individual a unique physical heartbeat. This unique heartbeat is like a thumb print. It’s different from everyone else’s. God also gifts us with a certain emotional heartbeat. Certain things get you excited while others do not.
These passions help us better understand how God wants to use us in ministry. God has gifted certain people to teach, but if he also gives them a heart for children, it will change how they use that gift. Your God-given motivational bent provides an internal guidance system for your life and will determine what will bring you the most satisfaction in your life.
These are the natural abilities God gives you from the moment you were born. Some people are natural athletes. Others were born with innate mathematical abilities. Others are great at working with people.
Just like spiritual gifts and heart, God gives us natural abilities so that we can use them to do his work in the world. There are people in your church who are gifted with all kinds of abilities. Your church shouldn’t waste them.
Your personality influences how you’ll use your gifts and abilities. Those who are extroverted will serve in ways that are different from those who are introverted. The same is true for people who like routines and people who like variety.
Your personality will affect how and where you use your spiritual gifts and abilities. There is no “right” or “wrong” temperament for ministry. We need all kinds of personalities to balance the church and give it flavor. The world would be a very boring place if we were all the same.
God never wastes an experience. Specifically, he gives us four kinds of experiences that shape the ministry he wants for us: educational, vocational, spiritual, and painful.
That last one may surprise you, but it’s the most important. God never wastes a hurt. God takes us through painful experiences and comforts us so we can minister to others who are in pain.
One of the best ways to help people discover their ministries is to encourage them to reflect on their past and ask, “How can God use that?”
Because our SHAPE was sovereignly determined by God for his purpose, we shouldn’t resent it or reject it. Romans 9:20-21 says, “What right have you, a human being, to cross-examine God? The pot has no right to say to the potter: Why did you make me this shape? Surely a potter can do what he likes with the clay?” (JB).
We are most effective and fulfilled in ministry when we use our spiritual gifts and abilities in the area of our heart’s desire—in a way that best expresses our personalities and experiences.
Fruitfulness is the result of a good ministry fit.
Click HERE to discover Saddleback Church’s proven method for helping its members find out what God designed them for. In particular, Class 301 will help them assess their SHAPE to see where in ministry they are best fit to serve.
Rick. Keep up the good work. Pastor Mark Zeek