Unwrapping Spiritual Gifts (October 5-26)

Introduction to the Unit

Barbara Joiner wrote:

When Jesus gave the disciples the job of telling the world about Him, it was no easy task. He said, “Go”; “Make disciples”; “Baptize”; “Teach.” Jesus also knew that bands of believers would come together in His name to worship and fellowship and serve. In order for God's people to survive, for His church to grow, for the world to know, God gave every one of the believers gifts (Your for the Giving, p. 8).

I have several books, resources, and inventories on spiritual gifts, if you would like to borrow any:

Yours for the Giving: Spiritual Gifts, Barbara Joiner (Birmingham, AL: WMU Press, 1986).
Klesis: God's Call and the Journey of Faith, Kathy Dobbins, Colin Harris, Doris Nelms (Atlanta: Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, 2005).
Discovering Our Spiritual Gifts: A Seminar in Spiritual Formation, Timothy Brock
How to Discover Your Spiritual Gifts, John Hendrix (Nashville: Convention Press, 1979).
Rediscovering Our Spiritual Gifts, Charles Bryant (Nashville: Upper Room, 1991).
Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts: A Personal Inventory Method, Kenneth Cain Kinghorn (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981)

Teaching in General

Information or Transformation?
Paul writes to the Roman church, “Don't be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God's will is—what is good and pleasing and mature” (Romans 12:2).

Rather than simply passing on information about the Bible, my hope in teaching is that we help create and place where lives may be transformed by God.

In Transforming Bible Study, Walter Wink, introduces an approach to Bible study that can be transformative:

“Let us suppose that we are ready to encounter Scripture with our whole selves, and have joined ourselves with others at least tentatively prepared to do so. we have come together in a classroom, church, prison, living room, retreat center, or office. There are perhaps six to twenty of us—more people would restrict everyone’s becoming involved, fewer would restrict the available experience and insights that can be shared. We begin with a time of silence for “centering,” the leader perhaps bidding others to explore whatever anxieties they bring with them, whether they can be willing to let something new happen, whether they can be open to the Spirit of God as it speaks to us through the text, one another, and in our own hearts.

All participants have copies of the text to be studied—ideally, copies of a synopsis of the Gospels, or a variety of versions of the New Testament. A passage of Scripture is read—I focus most often on the life and teaching of Jesus, but it could be any passage—and the leader initiates discussion by means of a carefully prepared sequence of questions that seek to enter the heart of the reality which initially gave rise to the text. The dialogue is, loosely speaking. “Socratic” or inductive—though in one essential respect it is not Socratic at all, since the object of the dialogue is not primarily a recollection of “the way we were” (anamnesis), but a discovery of the meaning of these objectively given texts for our lives. We begin by trying to understand the text in its own right, as an alien speech. Only when we have understood it in its own terms do we move to the impact of the text on us.  Then, like that amazing television camera that can be inserted in a vein in the arm and threaded all the way into the heart to survey possible damage there, the text becomes a probe into the mystery of our own emergent but arrested selfhood.

We try to come to these sometimes overfamiliar Scriptures as if for the first time, unencumbered by preconceptions as to their meaning. We consciously attempt to adopt what in Zen is called a “beginner’s mind.” Since the leader’s questions, if carefully prepared, have arisen from the very structure and intent of the text itself, we can trust them to help its meaning emerge. But we must apply our entire selves to the dialogue. The leader must also be alert to other questions which spring from the group, so as to flow with the discussion while at the same time adhering to the structure given by the text.

The questions arise from the material and at the same time lead the individual back into it. Correspondences or resonance between text and the individuals are evoked at various levels. In these moments something about the unknown is revealed. When the text is illuminated this way, the participants, too, in varying degrees, are illuminated. Meaning for individuals, not consenus, is the hoped-for outcome (“The Seminar Method Used by The Guild for Psychological Studies,” 1976, privately published by The Guild for Psychological Studies, 2230 Divisadero, San Francisco, CA 94115.).

When participants take responsibility for discovering the linkages between the text and their own experience, rather than passively deferring to “experts” to tell them what to believe, they begin to become aware of a new sense of personal authority and capability as agents in history. Gaining this ability to make conscious choices is indispensable for genuine spiritual growth. Part of the excitement in leading in this manner comes from watching people who had written themselves off gradually becoming aware that they are able to make profound statements, speak meaningfully to others’ lives, and be personally in touch with that Spirit which itself inspired the texts. They discover powers of discernment in themselves that they had never dreamed existed. They find themselves articulate where before they had been silent and afraid. Where previously they had accepted their lot in life as a kind of fate willed by a remote and judgmental God, they now find themselves becoming conscious, choosing human beings, risking the chance of becoming themselves. Whereas they had formerly clung to the security of living by right answers, they begin to trust that they can live out of the right questions. Rather than docilely conforming to religious or social norms, they find themselves struggling to discover what God wants them to be and do in the ambiguous flux of events. Instead of sheep blindly following a shepherd, they become conscious human beings on the road to maturity.”  (Transforming Bible Study, Walter Wink, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991, pp. 35-37).