I learned early on the importance of developing character along with gifting. When I was leading the youth work, one of the guys on the team was brilliant with the young people. Have you ever met one of those? It doesn’t matter what age they are – they just connect with young people and young people love them! They might have a bit of the Peter Pan about them as this guy did – he was the most gifted youth worker on my team. My problem was that I did not know from week to week what emotional state he would be in when he turned up! If he was on a good week – an emotional high – he would be an inspiration and all the youngsters would gravitate to him. The next week he would be at the back of the meeting feeling sorry for himself. I could not depend on him. It didn’t take long to realise that the dependable (but not so inspirational) youth worker bore more fruit. Before too long one of the elders and I had a talk with the guy with the wide swing on his emotional pendulum and challenged him about this aspect of his character. Initially unwilling to acknowledge the reality of how he was, before our time together was over he asked for help.
If your character and gifting develop at different rates you will find yourself over-exposed. The gift opens up opportunities for you but your character cannot support your skill and will lead to trouble. In fact – your character needs to be ahead of your gifting. One of my prayers is, ‘Lord, please make sure that my character is up to speed!’ and ‘Lord, don’t let me get myself into a position beyond my character and gifting.’ I’ve seen that happen to people – they get badly burned and either withdraw completely from ministry or the setback costs years, sometimes decades, of fruitful work.
One Hundred and Forty Years in Cape Town
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