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September 11th, 2007

My church is in the beginning stages of a study on S.H.A.P.E.

S.H.A.P.E. comes from Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, and talks about how God has made each believer uniquely made for ministry.  As were in one of our church’s small groups I’ll be studying this series and will most likely have a post or two about the content as we go.

To help a bit in introduction, the acronym stands for this:

S – Spiritual gifts
H – Heart
A – Abilities
P – Personality
E – Experiences

While I agree that each believer possesses each of those attributes, and God will use those things in a believer’s life to expand His kingdom, I think that there are some points along this subject that might be distracting to the larger role where believer’s fit in God’s greater plan.  So I’m taking this first post to talk about some of my reservations, before I really start to study the content of the lesson.

I blogged through 40 Days of Purpose in my old blogs, and since that time I’ve read some critiques of the PDL and all things Purpose Driven.  Admittedly, those critique may have colored my thinkings on how I perceive the content we’re going through.

What I don’t think S.H.A.P.E. should focus on is the individual alone, but more how the individual using his shape becomes part of God’s church, and allows for a better understanding of how the body of Christ works in the world.  The body of Christ is a mystery, and can’t fully be understood, but I think the most real understanding can be seen in the behavior of the local body of believers that is normally called the church (primarily but not limited to the people in the same building on a Sunday morning).

I think we, as Christ followers, are called into a church for it to be a central part of how we live.  It is a family and a place where we can belong, learn, grow, fail, continue, worship, fellowship, minster and serve.

On the face S.H.A.P.E. seems fairly self-centered, and I think might be totally misunderstood that this is a self-help program, where we can learn to be better people,  get our lives under control, or be inspired to do something different, under the guise of doing that which God intends.

That is wrong thinking.  For with Christ we can do all things, yet apart from Him we can do nothing.  If we think S.H.A.P.E. is a way to make us better believers, then we are failing to think big picture.  If the think knowing our S.H.A.P.E will make us better people, then we are failing to serve others.  S.H.A.P.E. cannot be a singular focus, it must be a community focus.  We should better understand how our S.H.A.P.E. fits into the larger body, how our weaknesses are often countered by others’ strengths, and our strengths improved by sometimes opposite strengths.

In 1 Corinthians Paul has a large discourse about how the body of Christ is made up of different people possessing different gifts, and he makes a wonderful analogy about how the physical body could be compared to the spiritual body of Christ.  We are better together than we are alone.  That must be the focus of understanding our personal S.H.A.P.E., is how it is used within the larger shape of the church.

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