Monday, June 25, 2012

June 24, 2012 - Spiritual Gifts: The Three R's - Pastoring

Luke 15:1-7

In seminary some years ago one of my professors offered a piece of reality when he told us – 5% of your congregation will think you can walk on water.  Another 5% of your congregation will think you don’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain.  The other 90% just want to get out of church on time.

I know someone who was very literally in that first 5%.  One year Tanya was teaching a group of kids in Vacation Bible School.  They were around the age of first grade, and Tanya was quizzing them about some Biblical events.  She asked the question who can walk on water?  One young lady raised her hand, and displaying wisdom far beyond her years said, Dave can.  Tanya still hasn’t recovered from that comment.

It’s an interesting life, being a minister.  This morning, as we continue our series of messages about spiritual gifts, we come to another in the category of relational gifts – pastoring.  Most people probably think this gift is reserved for members of the clergy, but it is not.

There are three primary terms that refer to people who serve as clergy – preacher, pastor, and minister.  Each term refers to a specific role and specific gift, but those roles and those gifts are not exclusive to those who are vocational ministers.

People sometimes call me preacher, but my role is more than just preaching.  It’s my most visible role, but I am also charged with being a pastor.  The pastoral role is to provide pastoral care.  I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals, nursing homes, funeral homes, family homes, and other places listening to people and to their joys and their struggles, and it is a gift that people open a door into their lives in the midst of all manner of circumstances.  I’m also a minister, which is the root of the word administration.  In some societies government officials are referred to as ministers – the minister of agriculture, minister of education, etc.

The most recognizable expression of being in ministry is that of preaching.  Plenty of people preach sermons, although most are not given in church.

I want to take a few minutes and talk about the need not only for vocational ministers, but the need for strong lay leaders.

One of the critical issues facing churches is the shortage of vocational ministers.  I am a vocational minister, and as such am becoming somewhat of a dinosaur.  By virtue of my age I have a foot in two different worlds.  I am old enough to remember the “golden age” of church life, when a church growth program consisted of opening the door, turning on the lights, and getting out of the way of the crowd.  In that era it wasn’t difficult to get people to come to church; they simply showed up.  My other foot is in the newer era, where many people have fled institutional religion.  Many people now see no need to be connected to a church in order to meet their spiritual needs.  This has brought about significant changes in the way ministry is done, and the depth of the changes and the accompanying stresses are among the reasons why many people do not stay in ministry.  The declining number of ministers has lad to the reality that many churches – of all sizes – are finding it is a struggle to find vocational ministers.  Disciples churches, in fact, are beginning to adapt to this new reality by creating in many of our Regions a different track for ordination that does not require as many years of education and training.  It is in recognition of the changing landscape of church life that for churches to have ministers, an increasing number of those ministers will not come to ministry through the traditional channels.

This is a trend that is not entirely negative.  I believe that in some ways churches have ceded over too much to vocational ministers.  I believe we need vocational ministers, but I also believe we need very strong, very prepared lay leaders.

I am not picking on vocational ministers when I say this – I am, after all, a vocational minister – but ministers can sometimes be the primary barriers to the growth of a congregation.  Ministers sometimes take too much responsibility and too much authority upon themselves, and this strangles the life out of a congregation.  Congregations really come to life when they identify, nurture, and train strong lay leaders.  The Catholic Church has learned this lesson, as the number of priests decline to very low levels.  The Catholic Church learned they must develop lay people to lead many of their congregations.
We must also help people of all ages when they have even a small inclination that they are being called to vocational ministry, and camp is one of the ways we can help people to identify that gift.  I grew up going to church camp, and it was very important to my faith development.  At a board meeting for the Christian Churches in Kentucky last fall Greg Alexander, our Regional Minister – asked how many of the ministers discovered their call to ministry through camp.  Would you like to guess how many raised their hands?  Every one.  Isn’t that amazing?  Unfortunately, one of the greatest financial challenges facing us as Disciples in Kentucky comes from the financial needs of our camps.

Like some of our other gifts, this is a gift that can be developed.  Indeed, I would argue that in our present social climate, it is a gift that must be developed.  We are progressing in some ways.  We are progressing scientifically, technologically, and medically, but I find it hard to deny that we are regressing in other ways – spiritually, morally, and socially – the ways in which we relate to one another. 

And, very significantly, as our society ages, there are so many people who are joining the ranks of those forgotten by the larger society.  At our previous church, in my last several years there, I also served as the chaplain at the local nursing home.  There were residents of the home who never received a visitor from anyone other than staff or other residents.  Never. 

Pastoral care is a gift we give to other people.  Jesus, in telling this parable about the one lost sheep, is saying that no one can be left behind or forsaken by others.  We ask ourselves how do we pastor others in a world that moves with increasing speed and constantly piles responsibilities upon us?  I don’t know; I just know we are called to do so.

If you saw the video of the bus monitor being bullied by the group of middle school students in New York you probably asked what is happening to our world?  What is happening is with alarming frequency we are losing the capacity to care for one another, as we live in a world that increasingly leaves others behind while demonstrating a growing hardness of heart towards others.

This one is a little easier. 

I am not an administrator.  I wish it were my gift, but it is not.  At the beginning of the year I purchased two notebooks.  One was for my calendar, which is about three inches thick, because I purchased a calendar with so many extra pages, thinking it would help my lack of organization.  The other notebook has a section for the various areas of our church, and in each of those sections I keep notes and reminders.  The problem is, it’s a lot just to keep up with those two notebooks.  And when I took my big, thick calendar to meetings people would laugh at it.  I finally got a small, pocket calendar for carrying around so I don’t have people laughing at me.  But now I have to put information in my organizational notebook, my big calendar, my little calendar, my phone, and my online calendar.  I don’t have enough time to keep organized.  I’m grateful we have Racene and others who are gifted at administration.

Some of you are wonderful at organizing and recruiting and planning – all those things that keep a church, a family, a business, or a civic club working.  That’s a gift I wish I had.

Here is an important reminder I want to leave you with this morning – these gifts are not ones you can measure in the traditional ways of measuring.  It has become a joke at our house, and even here at church a few times, that I have attempted to build a deck behind our house.  This is the third summer of working on the deck and I’m still not finished!  I need to repair a few places on the old deck and then stain it and I’m finished.  It’s really ridiculous.

And then there’s the inside of the house, where I am very slowly painting. It would be so much easier to hire someone, and Tanya would be eternally grateful if I did, but there’s a reason why I don’t.  It may be a crazy reason, but it’s a powerful reason to me.  When I work on our deck, or when I paint a room, it’s something I can do and I can see what I’ve done and I know when I’m done.  Those two things are not often present in my life, and when any of us are engaged in ministry we find it is rare that we can see what we have done.  We rarely get to see the difference we make in the life of another person and we never get to enjoy the sense that our work is complete.

That’s okay.  Don’t ever try to measure the effectiveness of your own ministry in the standard ways of measuring, but know that your ministry makes a difference.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June 17, 2012 - Spiritual Gifts: The Three R's - Encouragement

Acts 9:19b-21; 26-31

I was sitting at an intersection the other day when another vehicle pulled up beside me.  It was one of those intersections where the light takes a long time to change.  I noticed a couple about my age occupied the other vehicle.   He was sitting in the passenger seat, so I had a good view of his actions.  He was very, very impatient as he waited on the light to change.  He was bouncing around in his seat, making repeated obscene gestures at the traffic light, and appeared to be yelling at the other person in the car with him.  She looked as though she wanted to put him out of he vehicle and leave him.  When the light finally changed, I was driving along in the lane next to them for a little bit of a distance and he was still wound up, and still appeared to be yelling. 

I really felt sorry for the woman riding with him.  Who wants to be around someone acting in such a way?  Words and actions can either build up others, or tear them down.  When someone is impatient or angry and dumping a load of negativity on someone else it can create a wound that takes a long time to heal.

We are in the midst of a series of messages based on spiritual gifts.  I am grouping the gifts under three headings – Relational, Revelatory, and Redemptive.  Today we come to the gift of encouragement.  Did you know encouragement was a spiritual gift?  It’s a gift of great importance.

Our text for today tells us of a man who embodied the gift of encouragement.  His name was Joseph, although we know him by his nickname of Barnabas.  Acts 4:36 tells us that Joseph was given the nickname of Barnabas by the apostles.  Barnabas means son of encouragement.  Joseph was so well-known for his encouragement that he was given a name to reflect his gift for encouragement. 

As we talk about the gift of encouragement this morning we’ll look at some of the ways that Barnabas lived out his gift of encouragement.

 An encourager is someone who is faithful to others.
Has there been a time in your life when someone demonstrated faithfulness to you?  Perhaps they spoke on your behalf, or stood with you when others wouldn’t.  That’s a powerful experience, isn’t it, when someone is faithful.

One of the ways faithfulness is demonstrated is to speak on behalf of another person.

Our Scripture reading for today relates this interesting event that takes place after Paul’s conversion.  Remember that Paul had been a persecutor of the church and was converted as he traveled to arrest people who were followers of Jesus.  After his conversion there was a great deal of suspicion about Paul.  Many in the early church wanted nothing to do with him.  Luke tells us that when Paul came to Jerusalem he tried to join the other disciples but they resisted because they were afraid of Paul and they didn’t believe his faith was genuine.

It’s not easy to stand up and speak against a crowd.  It’s tough to go against the majority opinion.  But notice what Barnabas does – he brings Paul to the apostles and speaks on his behalf.  Barnabas tells the apostles about Paul’s faith and he is the one who opens the door of opportunity for Paul.  Barnabas stands before the apostles and the leaders of the early church to say you’re wrong about this guy.  Imagine the difference if Barnabas had not been willing to stand up for Paul and speak on his behalf.

Barnabas later traveled with Paul on his first missionary journey, and they took Mark along with them.  Mark did not complete the journey, returning home after completing only a portion of the trip.  When they were preparing for their second journey Paul refused to allow Mark to go with them, because he did not complete the first trip.  Barnabas was caught in the middle, as he felt Mark should be able to travel with them, but Paul was adamant that Mark not be permitted to accompany them.  Barnabas remained faithful to Mark, traveling with Mark while Paul chose Silas to accompany him.

Paul should have given Mark a second chance.  Because Barnabas advocated on behalf of Paul, Paul should have been willing to give Mark another chance, but he didn’t.  Paul was too quick, I think, in his willingness to leave Mark behind, but Barnabas, ever the encourager, was willing to take up for Mark, and to stand with him.  What would have become of Mark, and his ministry, if Barnabas had not remained loyal to him?

I had a time in my life where I felt very alone and abandoned.  It was a very, very difficult time.  One of the things that meant a great deal to me was having people who were faithful to me, and spoke on my behalf.  Life would be very different for me if they had not done so.

An encourager is someone who cares about the needs of others.
In Acts 4:36-37 Barnabas makes his first appearance. The passage relates that Barnabas sold a piece of property and brought the proceeds of the sale to the apostles.  Interestingly, the story that follows immediately is that of Ananias and Sapphira, who also sold some property but only brought a portion of the proceeds, while trying to mislead the apostles into thinking they were giving more than they really were giving.  Barnabas becomes an example of faithful giving, as he offers what he has to care for the needs of others.  Barnabas, along with Paul, later received a collection from other churches to aid the church in Jerusalem.  Many of the members of the church in Jerusalem were in great need, and Barnabas worked very hard to provide for their needs.

An encourager is one who cares about the needs of others, but it’s not just financial needs.  Some people need the gift of time, some need the gift of a listening ear, some need the gift of an encouraging phone call or note. 

For years I was really terrible about writing notes to people, which is odd because I so value receiving encouraging notes from others.  In recent years I’ve tried to do better, and my goal is to write a couple of encouraging letters each week.  Doing keeps me observant of what others, because I’m looking to see if someone needs a word of thanks or a word of encouragement.   I could still do better, but I’m trying. 

Take a few moments to do something encouraging each week.  Take a few minutes and write a note.  Take a few moments and make a phone call.  Take a few moments and make a visit.  You make a huge difference when you demonstrate a caring attitude about the needs of others.

An encourager makes a lasting difference in the lives of others.
Barnabas is not one of the “household Biblical names.”  We are so much more familiar with Moses, Abraham, David, Peter, Paul, Mary, and others. Barnabas receives only a few mentions in the pages of Scripture.  Much of his work was done out of the spotlight. But his work was very important, and his encouragement made a lasting difference in the lives of others.  The encouragement of Barnabas made possible the ministry of others, including people such as Paul, who became much better known.  Encouragement, or lack of it, makes a lasting difference in the lives of others. 

Some years ago I was with a group passing out food.  It was a hot summer day, there was a long line, and we ran out of some of the food items.  A man came through the line and when he came to where I was standing, he started to complain to me.  They weren’t big complaints.  He said he didn’t get some of the food items he saw others carrying.  I was hot, tired, and a bit frustrated, and I unleashed my frustration on him.  In front of all the people who were in that place I told him he was ungrateful, that we were doing the best we could do, and if he didn’t like it that was too bad.

He didn’t say much in response.  Neither did anyone else.  What I did was wrong, it was embarrassing for everyone, and it was also a moment that is hard for anyone to forget, because words and attitudes – positive or negative – reach deeply into our hearts, our souls, and our minds, and they stay there.

The man walked out with his box of food and I tried to convince myself that I was perfectly justified in lecturing him, but I wasn’t.  I went in search of him and thankfully I found him.  I apologized to him and he was very gracious.  He even told me that he had been in the wrong, but he wasn’t.

A discouraging word makes a lasting impression, as does an encouraging word.  I can’t go back and erase what I said.  That man needed an encouraging word and I didn’t offer it to him.  Other people needed to see me as an example of being an encourager and they did not.

An encourager – or discourager – makes a lasting impact in the lives of others.

Who are you a Barnabas to?  Who needs you to be a Barnabas?  The gift of encouragement is one that we can develop.  We can learn to be an encourager.  Be an encourager – there are people who need encouragement from you.

Monday, June 11, 2012

June 10, 2012 - Spiritual Gifts: The Three R's

Ephesians 4:4-6, 11-13

There are some people who possess extraordinary abilities.  A classmate of mine in college is a concert-level pianist.  I would marvel at his ability, and though I haven’t heard him play in years, I imagine he has increased in his ability.  He is the kind of person we describe as possessing a real gift. A gift, we often think, is an ability that rises to the level of being extraordinary. 

Perhaps this is why we sometimes claim we don’t have any gifts.  We don’t see ourselves as possessing any particularly extraordinary ability, so we assume we must not be gifted.  As we continue our series of messages about spiritual gifts I want to remind you that each person has been given a spiritual gift.

In the coming weeks I am going to go through the generally accepted list of gifts and spend a few minutes talking about each gift.  I say the generally accepted list of gifts because there are some variations.  In thinking about how to present these gifts, I decided to place them under three categories – Relational, Revelatory, and Redemptive – the three R’s.  The Relational gifts are, obviously, those gifts that deal with relationships among people.  The Revelatory gifts are those that deal with some matter of insight – something that has been revealed by the power of God.  The Redemptive gifts are those that have the effect of changing the life of another person.

There are seventeen gifts I will be dealing with in the coming weeks, and I will not have the time for any in-depth discussion of each gift.  What I hope to accomplish is to provide you with at least a brief explanation of each gift and also an idea or two of how those gifts can be used.

These are the gifts, according to category –




Apostle is a word we use to refer to the disciples who were the closest followers of Jesus – the original twelve plus Matthias, who replaced Judas, and also Paul.  The word means to serve as an ambassador on behalf of another person.

The gift of apostleship has a number of expressions but I want to mention a couple in particular.

The first expression is that of being a spiritual entrepreneur.  To explain the idea of a spiritual entrepreneur I’ll tell you about a friend of mine who is a minister, although he never set out to be a minister.  I was his youth minister years ago and he used to tell me that he couldn’t imagine being a minister and that he would never do such a thing.  He is the founding minister of a church and I am always impressed at his intuitive understanding of how to reach people and how to build a church.  He would be a great business entrepreneur, I think, because he just has an instinct for knowing not only how to do things but also an instinct for knowing what to do.  I always ask him the same question – how did you know to do that?

The gift of apostleship is one that brings creativity to people, it is the kind of gift that allows people to think outside of the box and look at life in a unique way.  It is a gift that we really, really need these days, as the world is changing so dramatically and as the old ways of doing things are no longer very effective.

If you find yourself thinking we don’t have to do the same old thing.  We can do something differently, you probably have the gift of apostleship.

Apostleship is also the gift of being able to reach across the things that divide people – the divides of class, ethnicity, language, economics – all those things that create divisions between people.  This was a gift the apostle Paul had in great measure.  While the other apostles were mostly content to stay in the area of Jerusalem and reach out to people with whom they were familiar and comfortable, Paul was the one who was talking the gospel to the larger world.  Paul ventured out into the world of the Romans and the Greeks, and his doing so was very controversial within the early church.  In fact, the book of Acts, in chapter 15, tells us of the Council at Jerusalem.  The Council at Jerusalem was a gathering called to bring together all the leaders of the early church to try and decide what to do about all the people who were coming into the church who were different.  They weren’t Jewish, they didn’t observe the dietary rules, they didn’t speak the same language, and that bothered a lot of people.  Barriers were being erected to try to keep people away because of their differences.  Imagine – so many people were responding to the gospel and some of the leaders were so unnerved by this great response they were trying to slow it down.  Can you imagine? 

Paul was the one who was reaching out to these people who were different.  Peter, the one who was arguably closest to Jesus, even had misgivings about what Paul was doing.  He was nervous about all these new and different people coming into the church.  Paul even says in Galatians 3:11 when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.  Ever read that verse before?  Isn’t that an amazing verse?  Peter was wrong and Paul publicly confronted him about his error.

We live in a day and age when we are becoming so afraid of the other.  We find ourselves uncomfortable with those who are not like us and there are those who, for their own purposes and gain, are exploiting those differences and the fear of those differences.

Oh that we could be as Paul, unafraid of stepping across cultural divides and embracing others.  If you love variety, if you love to meet new and different people, if you are embrace rather than fear diversity, you have the gift of apostleship, and in our present day and age how we need that gift.

My mom has been the organist for my home church for almost as long as I can remember.  She also plays the piano for the choir.  My mom had some months of piano lessons when she was young but couldn’t continue because her family couldn’t afford the lessons, so for most of her life she was self-taught.  She took some organ lessons not too many years ago, but it was something she was determined to learn on her own, and she did, and became a very good organist and piano player.  Some years back my home church had a music director who was the wife of the minister.  She was a very nice person, but was one of those people who don’t have a filter on what they say.  Sometimes she would say things that bothered people but she had no clue she had done so.  She once told my mom that she was adequate as a piano and organ player.  Adequate.  Can you imagine?  How would you like to be referred to as adequate?  Go home and try that one out.  Honey, I just want to let you know you’re the most adequate wife ever. You’re an adequate parent.  You’re an adequate employee.  You’re an adequate son or daughter.  Who wants to be adequate?  God doesn’t want you to be adequate – that’s why he has created you as a special and unique person with gifts you can use to make a difference in the world.  

You have something to offer, you have something to give to this world.  Take the gift God has given you and turn it loose for the world!

Monday, June 04, 2012

June 3, 2012 - Spiritual Gifts: The Building Blocks of Unity

I Corinthians 12:14-31

This is graduation time of year, which means a lot of soul-searching about what to do with one’s life.  What a huge question to consider!  Can you remember wondering what to do with your life?  Some of you are asking that question right now (and some of you who graduated years back may be still asking it).  It’s a tough question, isn’t it?

When we think about what to do vocationally in life we are actually asking a much deeper question, I think.  When we consider what to do with our lives we are actually searching for a way to make our lives count, to know that our lives matter, to know our lives make a difference in this world.

I think most people would like to earn a large salary, but I also believe most people would trade money for a vocation that allows them to make a difference in the lives of other people and a difference in the world.  How many of you would prefer to have meaning in life than money?

This morning we begin a sermon series on spiritual gifts, one of the most overlooked – and one of the most important – topics in who we are as people.

I believe God created every person with two things – one, a gift to use to make a difference in the world, and two, a desire to make a difference.  As you look around society today you will see ample evidence of that second truth.  Businesses sponsor days of service to encourage their employees to be involved in making a difference in their community.  Schools encourage community involvement.  And for those of you who have been applying to colleges, you may have discovered those schools are looking at more than simply grades and test scores – they are looking for involvement in service projects.  In fact, I knew a brilliant young man who had off-the-chart test scores.  His SAT was almost a perfect score.  His ACT was near the top.  He graduated with a 4.0.  A brilliant young man.  And yet he was turned down by his first choices of schools, not because he was lacking academically, but because he had not been involved in service projects.

This desire to serve – this expectation to serve – is a direct result of the faith that permeates our culture.  This is one of the gifts of Christian faith to our culture, that we should serve and that we are created to serve.

This is the essence of spiritual gifts – God has given you a gift to make the world a better place and to help others and he wants you to put that gift to use.  We are called as a church to help you discover that gift and to put it to use.

But sometimes churches don’t do a very good job of this, and I’ll tell you why – it’s because churches don’t always understand this is one of the foundations of what they were created and called to do. 

I’ve been in a lot of churches throughout the course of my life, and most churches want to create a sense of unity.  Unity is a good thing, but many churches go about it completely wrong.  Most churches try to build unity on a sense of agreement.  That will never happen, and it shouldn’t happen.  Why should we have to agree on everything?  What a boring world that would be!

The New Testament definition of unity is built on a very different idea, and it’s found in the passage we read this morning.  Paul says unity is found when each person discovers and uses their spiritual gift.  Isn’t that an interesting definition of unity? 

To Paul, the church is like a physical body – each part has a particular function, and when all the parts work there is health in the body.  What do we do when something is not functioning properly with our bodies?  We go to the doctor to get it fixed.  We want everything to work properly, don’t we?
Church health and church unity is not based on agreement and it’s not based on everyone getting along and it’s not based on an absence of conflict – church unity is based on people using their spiritual gifts.
Remember these truths –

You have a gift.
Many people say, reflexively, I don’t have a gift.  Maybe some people feel it’s too arrogant to say I have this gift, but it’s simply recognizing a reality of how we are created by God.

We have provided spiritual gifts tests that help to identify specific gifts, and I hope you have taken the opportunity to work through one of those tests.  But here is one of the simplest tests when it comes to spiritual gifts – what is your passion?  I had a young lady ask me some years ago about how to become a singer.  Like I know anything about singing.  She has a beautiful singing voice and it is truly a gift.  I told her she was a singer, but she started asking questions about how to perform and how to find opportunities to sing.  What she was really asking was how can I make a living as a singer?  If you have a passion for singing, sing.  If you have a passion for writing, write.  If you have a passion for organizing, call me, I need help with that one.

We must learn to separate gifts from vocation.  In our culture we become so concentrated on vocation that we define ourselves by what we do for a living rather than by the gifts God has given us. 
It’s interesting to note that very few Biblical characters are identified by their vocation.  We know there were a couple of fishermen and that Paul was a tentmaker, but for the most part vocation is never mentioned. 

You have a gift, and it is that gift that defines your life far more than what you do in order to earn a living.  Throughout the summer we’ll be talking about some of the spiritual gifts, and I hope it will help you to identify your gift and inspire you to find ways to put it to use.

God desires that you use that gift.
I’m not saying this as a pitch on behalf of the Nominating Committee.  It’s not that God needs you to use your gift, or that the church needs you to use your gift – you need to use your gift.

I’m fascinated at what happens on mission trips or other activities that are based on service.  They are not usually the easiest of circumstances.  They often have bad accommodations, so-so food, it’s hard and tiring work, but at some point in during the trip people will say this has been one of the best times of my life, or perhaps the best time of my life.  In fact, I had a young man on a mission trip once who complained as we traveled to our location that he did not want to be there.  His parents pushed him to go and he kept telling me that he didn't want to go.  By the end of the week, though, he told me it had been one of the best weeks of his life.

How can that be?  How can giving up a chunk of your precious time, sleeping on a hard floor, and eating bad food be the basis for one of the best times of your life?  It’s because we are fulfilling a desire that God places within us.  We certainly enjoy a vacation where we get away and relax and do what we want to do, but when we give of our lives to serve others we touch something far deeper within us – we touch that part of us that makes us understand we are doing something significant with our lives.

You are called to use your gift.
I think we make too much of a distinction when we use the word calling.  Most of the time we reserve the word calling for ministers and people who do ministry as a vocation.  But the reality is that we are all called, and we are called to use the gifts God has given us.

In May of 1978 Tanya and I had only been dating a couple of months.  It was the end of the semester and her brother had come to campus to help her take her things home for the summer.  I was in the lobby of her dorm when he came in.  He’s a year and a half younger than Tanya so at the time he was almost 17, and all punk and swagger.
Mike and I had not met at that point.  I still remember his first words to me.  He came strutting over to me and said, so, I hear God has called you to be a minister.  How did you know, did he whisper in your ear or something?  What a punk.

But he asked a good question.  I know I have been called because we have all been called.

God has given you a gift, and he calls you to use it.  People need you to use your gift to make a difference in their lives.  You need to use your gift to make a difference in your life.