Discover Your Gifts: Celebrating How God Made You: Don Everts
Ever wonder what you were made to offer the world? Author Don Everts digs into human dignity, biblical perspectives on spiritual and common gifts, and the power of our gifts to reconnect with our communities.
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Ever wonder what you were made to offer the world? Author Don Everts digs into human dignity and the power of our gifts to reconnect with our communities.
Discover Your Gifts: Celebrating How God Made You: Don Everts
Don: Everyone it turns out is well made. Everyone is imbued with dignity and beauty at their birth, and even before their birth, because God knit them together in their mother's womb. So, like, what are the implications of that biblically? What does the research tell us about how people are gifted and how everyone is gifted? People are hungry to have their gifts discovered and they need help discovering their gifts. And they really want to be able to connect their vocation and their other gifts, even with their church.
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: Okay, so I have a question.
Dave: If you—I don't know what you're going to say. What would you say if I have any giftings, what would you say mine is, number one?
Ann: Are we talking spiritual gifts?
Dave: There's differences. There’re spiritual gifts; there's common gifts. Any one that comes to your mind; first thing comes your mind.
Ann: You have a gift of teaching.
Dave: Oh, really?
Ann: And you have an evangelistic gift as well. You have an evangelism gift.
Dave: That's what you thought of?
Ann: First two, yes.
Dave: First one?
Dave: You know what I thought for you?
Ann: Oh no. [Laughter] What?
Dave: No, it’s good—it drives me crazy—generosity.
Ann: Oh, that's not—I don't think that's even in my top two or three.
Dave: I mean when I thought of you walking up to women in the checkout line at the grocery store, [Laughter] handing them cash; walking up to a drunk lady on a sidewalk in Detroit, handing her cash and actually putting her in your car and driving her home. [Laughter] I mean, that's a part of being generous and seeing people.
Ann: It's so interesting that's the first—it’s because the money is affecting you. That's why you're thinking of it.
Dave: Yes, yes, there have been times I've been annoyed by that, but it’s a beautiful thing.
Ann: Why are we talking about—why are we talking about this?
Dave: Because we've got the guy who wrote the book on gifts in the studio. Don Everts is back with us. I don't know how many months it's been, but we love having you here. Don, welcome back.
Don: Thank you, good to be with you, Dave and Ann. So fun. I was just wanting to have a little couple’s therapy here. [Laughter] This is really fun; that’s good.
Ann: Well, that's why we brought you in. It's a secret but you're going to help us.
Dave: Yes, and it's interesting—you know last time you were here; you have a fascinating life. You're a pastor in Springfield, MO, but you're also a writer and a lot of your writing has to do with research on different topics. Talk about your life. I mean, that's a unique blend.
Don: It is and it's fun because I get to work with really nerdy, really smart [Laughter] Christian social scientists who are like—you know, do these like nationwide research studies to find out about relevant topics. And yet I'm a practitioner, right. I'm in the church. I'm in the pulpit. I'm in people's homes. I'm in the coffee shops. It kind of allows me maybe this kind of stereo view, like on the one hand taking kind of a nerdy, sort of just research based, “What do we learn?” “What do the statistics tell us or not tell us?” And then I have this other view that's from a ministry perspective and maybe if we had a third view, it would be kind of the biblical one, right?
Don: They also asked me, like, “Help us think Biblically about these topics that we're looking into as well.” It's kind of fun. I have a graph here, the Bible open here, [Laughter] and then I'm thinking about interactions I've had with real human beings. It makes me think and it actually forces me to change and grow and learn.
Ann: And you're doing that as well as being a husband, a dad of three, and continuing—we heard about it at lunch—
Dave: and renovate your house.
Don: That's right.
Ann: Your Victorian house built in 18—
Ann: And you painted it, sanded it, prepped it yourself.
Dave: And by the way, those are pretty impressive pictures.
Don: Isn’t this a beautiful house? It’s a beautiful house.
Dave: Yes, it's awesome. But you know when I was pastoring, we would often in meetings say, “Here's some, some”—we call it some guy research. I hated that because it meant that, you know I walked off the stage on Sunday and some guy said, “Hey, what about this?” And then you bring it into a meeting and people would say, “We need to change this and this.” And I go, “Wait, wait, what's our basis? Why are you saying that?” “Well, some guy—” I'm like, “Who is this guy?”
Don: Maybe he just had a bad day.
Dave: Exactly. It drove me crazy, but I was always like, “No, let's get real data. That's how you make decisions that are going to be life changing.” You had that blend of, you’re leading people in a faith community, in a church, and you've got real research. Let's talk about your latest one.
Dave: Discover Your Gifts: Celebrating How God Made You and Everyone You Know, which by the way, I didn't expect, and everyone you know.
Don: Is that right?
Dave: When I saw the subtitle, I’m like, “Yes, you celebrate how God made you and everyone you know;” you're making a statement, right?
Don: That's it; that's right. And part of our approach—and you a little bit hinted at this earlier when you were talking about, were we talking spiritual gifts or common gifts—because the research itself, we were looking at gifts, talents, abilities, passions, skills, whether they're innate, born with them, develop them over time. And we were specifically and explicitly were looking not just at spiritual gifts, but at what we call common gifts or creational gifts. Gifts that God is a good creator. Everyone He makes, He makes well, and He does a good job. As David put it, “Wonderful are your works. I'm fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Actually, God's a really good Creator and so with our research, we wanted to focus on gifts in general. And then from the scripture we wanted to look at what's a biblical anthropology, not just what does the Bible say about believers. It has a lot of very great things to say about us that are insightful, but it also has something to say about humanity as a part of creation that God has made.
So that's why the title is like we're celebrating how God has made you and everyone you know. Everyone, it turns out, is well made. Everyone is imbued with dignity and beauty at their birth, and even before their birth, because God knit them together in their mother's womb. So, like, what are the implications of that biblically? What does the research tell us about how people are gifted and how everyone is gifted? And what I found is we as Christians have a lot of experience thinking about spiritual gifts.
Ann: And let's define that as well.
Don: Yes, so spiritual gifts would be the gifts that are talked about in the New Testament which are these like special empowerments brought by the Holy Spirit. And so, these are special to believers when you have the Holy Spirit in you. One of the things, not the only thing, but one of the things the Spirit does is imparts these special enablements, that empower you to do ministry, empower you to bless other people. What we're talking about are common gifts; not common like not special, but common like everyone has common gifts that God gives them at their creation.
Ann: Whether they're a believer or not, they've been bestowed by God.
Don: That's right, that's right. They’ve been bestowed by God, as their Creator. Because the Bible tells us everyone has been made by God; and the Bible tells us that God's a good maker. And so having that view and what the research shows us, what the scriptures tell us, there are just some kind of startling implications for when we just actually sit and think about kind of the doctrine of creation, if you will.
Don: We're told in the Old Testament God shows no partiality and so neither should you. In the New Testament He writes really clear show no partiality. And showing partiality is when it's like, “Well, you two are different than each other and I'm going to treat you differently than I treat you.” I'm showing partiality. Why do we do that? I mean, when the reality is everyone is like, beautifully made; everyone is knit together, Everyone, you know, is as Calvin put it and Calvin's really into the fallenness of humanity, right?
Don: But even he, in his commentary on Genesis said< “every human is clothed and ornamented with excellent gifts.” And yet, as fallen people, [Laughter] you know as fallen people, we do have that tendency. We judge other people. We look down on certain people. We dismiss people rather than taking them seriously.
Dave: Or we highlight people because of their profession, or their athletic gift, or their musical gift and the same thing. It's like, what are we doing?
Don: That's right. And then some of us do the same thing to ourselves, right?
Don: I'm someone who grew up really struggling with low self-esteem. I mean to the point of self-hatred at times, deep, deep seated. And we can, you know you can do counseling for me. We can talk about why that was. [Laughter] But like that's weird, right? I'm beautifully made by God and so what is it like to allow the truth of Scripture, what God says about us?
You know the Bible is like a mirror you hold it up because you can see yourself, you learn about yourself. One of the things that you learn is that you're wonderfully made, and so is that guy you hate next door. And what does that mean about how you feel about yourself? What does that mean about how you treat other people? And that's some of what we explore.
Ann: Well Don, as I hear you say that, like I had a front up that no one would have thought that I had struggled with any kind of self-esteem issues, but I really, I just covered it well. But I really did struggle, and I had a lot of negative thoughts going in my head: “Oh, I'm not good enough. I'm not pretty enough. I'm not smart enough.” I think a lot of people struggle with that. Maybe they don't tell a lot of people. And I think a lot of parents see their kids struggling with it. And there's more reason to now. The kids are being bullied. The social media is just a hard place. You struggled with it. Did that have anything to do with why you wanted to write a book like this?
Don: It's part of what deepened the research for me, right. We're doing research on gifts because of the research we did about neighborhoods, which told us if you want to be changing your neighborhood, it's all about people using their gifts. And we're like, “Well, that's interesting; let's study gifts more.” And when we started studying gifts more, both through the social science research and throughout the Scriptures, I tell you, Ann, like, immediately, it got really deep.
Ann: In what way?
Dave: You mean for you?
Dave: Yes, personal.
Don: Yes, because here I am—you know I can sit back as a theologian and like, “Yes, this is the doctrine of creation, and I'm reading Abraham Kuyper’s three volumes on common grace and blah blah blah.” But you handle that stuff enough and you're like, “I really am wonderfully made.” And thankfully, I'm at a place in life where just the love of Jesus has just like clobbered that in my life, you know, and it took, it takes time.
Ann: Me too.
Don: But I think it brought it back and I was like, “I wish I had learned the doctrine of creation earlier in life. I wish I'd had more preachers who said, “God makes everyone, and He makes them well. Deal with it. [Laughter] You know, I wish someone had said that to me because I would have been like, “Well, yes, everyone else, but not me.” You know then the love of Jesus, of course; that can ruin low self-esteem. Yes, so it got real, I think both because of that and how real that is and so in talking with people about this, how many people like you and we're like, “I haven’t told anyone else, but I you know I've struggled with this a lot.”
And then the other side of it is just, you know we live in an age where showing partiality is now at an art form, right? I mean, in terms of how people talk about other people, how little grace and generous assumptions we have on others.
Dave: Cancel culture is part of that.
Don: Yes, and so that's another reason why it got deep really fast, and it was like, we're not just talking about gifts anymore, we're talking about like our humanity and how we treat each other. Man, as Christians, we should be the most gracious people who celebrate the people around us, who have grace on other people, because we know—you know I may think you're a jerk, but my God made you. [Laughter] And so I have to pay attention to that, which makes it kind of sad when Christians, kind of lead sometimes in the course of showing partiality. [Laughter]
Dave: As you are studying gifts, the spiritual gifts, common gifts, where do we start if we want to discover our gifts?—your book title. What do we do?
Don: One of the things I would say to people is if you haven't heard about spiritual gifts, obviously you pay attention to that, but one of the things our research showed us is when pastors are talking about gifts, they're talking about spiritual gifts. When Christians are reading books about gifts, they're reading books about spiritual gifts. And anytime they're talking about any other gifts, they're specifically talking about them in the context of a church.
One of the more sobering statistics we found was when we asked people to, agree, disagree to the following statements. And one of the statements was: in my church—this was to pastors—in my church people are celebrated for the gifts they have that they use in their everyday life. And another statement was: people at my church are celebrated for the gifts they have that they use for the church's ministry. And you can probably see, [Laughter] you can probably guess what the statistic was.
Dave: Oh yes.
Don: We celebrate spiritual gifts, and we celebrate common gifts that are used for the sake of the church. But we have multiple vocations. We have callings in our households, and in our neighborhoods, at our jobs. We're just not talking about it. So, in answer to your question—that's my preamble. I'm going to answer your question—where do we get started? My encouragement to people is think broader than maybe you're used to thinking.
Dave: I remember walking up to a guy in our church years ago who is a CEO of a company and I remember saying, “Hey, I know you're an usher here and probably like that and I'm glad you do it, but I wonder if you could help me lead this meeting. I have a pretty high leadership meeting coming up and you're gifted obviously, at that.” And he looked at me like, “You want to use that?—that gift? No, I serve here, and I appreciate it. Nobody's ever asked me that.
Don: That’s awesome.
Dave: I’m like, “My goodness you have a better leadership gift than I do. Even if we sat down and you helped me structure what this meeting would look like I guarantee it's going to”—and he just looked at me like “Nobody's ever asked for that here,” and that's what you found out and that's—
Don: Absolutely, and people—you know the research told us people are hungry for that. People are hungry to have their gifts discovered and they need help discovering their gifts. That's one of the things we found. They really want to be able to connect their vocation and their other gifts, even with their church. They long for that. It reminds me of the story of Gary Haugen who started International Justice Mission.
Dave: Right, right.
Don: I mean he tells the story of like he was—I think it was the same thing. He was an usher in his church and he's this brilliant lawyer who has all this experience in these justice issues in the world. And then he just hit a place of saying “I bet I could use those gifts for God too in His Kingdom.” And then, of course, this fabulously successful, like profound, profoundly impactful ministry—
Ann: —that has affected the world.
Don: It has affected the world, and I, you know as a pastor, I wonder how many Gary Haugens are hanging out in my church. And I'm like, “Hey, could you be a greeter?” Nothing wrong with being a greeter. We need greeters and hospitality is at the core of the gospel; but are there people—like I love what you did because you said, “I know because of your life that you have these leadership gifts.” And there are people with technical gifts and people with artistic gifts that I am not like naming those and calling those out. That's sobering for me as a pastor, especially when you look at the research and you find that people really want to discover their gifts and they need help doing it.
Dave: I've preached, decades ago—I don't even know about what, but I mentioned that there's a ministry in Africa that we're connected to with the Pokot tribe in the bush. Their biggest need is water. I mean, they have droughts and all this stuff.
Anyway, I said “Here's what it cost to put a well in Africa.” I think it was 25 grand at the time. “We want to put some wells in.” This guy comes up to me afterwards, and I’d never met him. He goes, “Hey, got an idea for a way to raise money to put more wells in Africa. What are you going to get? A couple of wells, you know, 50 grand?” I go, “I don't know; what's your idea?” He goes, “I'm an athlete. I run marathons. I run many a year.” I remember thinking, “Okay, what’s that got to do with Africa water wells?”
Don: How does that get me water? [Laughter]
Dave: He goes, “I think we could inspire people here to run for a purpose.” I go, “What's that mean? Run for a well in Africa; what do you mean?” He goes, “What if we created some kind of running club and each person tried to raise $1000? That's just the number I came up with. And we'll send that to putting a well in Africa.” “What's your name? What would it look like?” I had no idea this guy was not only a marathoner; he is an organizer of people. He ended up starting—we said, “Okay.” Long story short, we got up and said “If you want to run for”—it was called Hope Water.
Ann: And we're like, “Who's going to run a marathon? Nobody's going to want to run a marathon.”
Dave: All these people signed up because they wanted to help. People had never run a mile. And he said, “Every Saturday we're going to meet at this thing.” He had a whole seven-month training thing. They ran in the Chicago Marathon the first year. I think we raised $100,000.
Dave: Listen to this: the next 12 years—and they're still doing it—we run in the Detroit Marathon. I don't know what the number is, but I think it's about six to seven million dollars. We are the biggest running club in the nation, a church.
Dave: There's not a running club; it's just a bunch of people that run for Hope Water and it was all because this guy had gifts that I never had. Could you call it spiritual gifts? I don't know; he had the gift of leadership, but it was really just common gifts he said, “I want to use for the good of the gospel.”
Don: He had technical gifts when it comes to running. He had passion for that. He was, he had leadership gifts, teamwork gifts. Here's the thing about that. That's a story—like, he came up to you.
Dave: Yes. Yes, and I almost dismissed him.
Don: And even though you almost dismissed him. I love that story because it reminds us of two things: the power of listening to people and noticing their gifts. Because with me as a pastor too—because you know what it's like. People come up to you with all kinds of stuff, and just some of it's crazy or whatever, right? It's like, I have my buckets and if you want to come and talk about something in one of my buckets, then I'll listen to you.
But what about the things I'm not thinking about. And then what about the people who for whatever reason, they're not going to initiate the conversation. What does it look like for us to initiate with them and to help grow people's imagination? Imagine what—here's the gifts you have. Be creative with those. Be thoughtful about those—to be thinking about how could I use those for the common good? Or how could I use those for the Kingdom of God? And that's part of what we dream about in the book is like, what if we just paid a little more attention to it?—thought about it a little bit more.
Ann: Well, I love that you have a way to be able to assess your gifts. We can go online—what is it again?
Don: Everygift.org. With the research, we're like when we started finding out: A, gifts are really, really important; B, they matter to God, and He gave them to you because He wants you to use them; C, we're not talking about them very much and people have a hard time discovering them. We took the research and reverse engineered it and created a kind of common gift assessment tool; Christians, non-Christians alike can use it. It's called the EveryGift™ Inventory and it kind of looks at these different areas and by asking people questions, just trying to help them think about themselves in different ways.
We were talking about how I helped create this assessment tool and then you know when we had it up and running beta version, they said, “Well Don, go in and take it to kind of test it, you know, see if it works, see if the tech works.” I was blown away what I learned by doing it and what it spit out at the end to say “Here's what you've said” made me recognize I had been in a season of life where I was not using my leadership gifts. And this kind of held up a mirror to me and one of my common gifts were leadership gifts. It actually led to a vocational change for me.
Dave: I mean, when you were saying that Don, I thought, “Yes, wouldn't it be cool if our listeners right now said ‘Let's do this as a family.’”
Don: Absolutely, absolutely.
Dave: Mom, Dad, you're going to learn something about your kids. I'm guessing because you learned about, you're not using your leadership gift, you are thriving in your life. That's what I'm guessing. I'm not saying everything wonderful but you're doing something you're good at so that's when—I mean, often we do things we're not good at and we just hate our lives.
Ann: It changed your whole course of life.
Don: I had an aha moment, “I need to be back in the church, and I need to be using my leadership gifts.” But God shapes us, gives us gifts so that we will use those in our vocations.
Shelby: Stick around because Dave Wilson is going to share with us one of the best pieces of advice he got when he was first starting out in ministry.
I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Don Everts on FamilyLife Today.
One of the best things that I've learned recently and try to communicate to specifically college students when I speak on campuses is that all that's been given to you doesn't belong to you. Your athletic ability, your sense of humor, maybe your great personality, your pretty face, your specific talent; it doesn't belong to you. And I ask the students frankly, “Do you think that belongs to you? It's been given to you as a way to invest for the glory of God and the good of his Kingdom.” And what a great reminder that has been today.
Don has written a book called Discover Your Gifts: Celebrating How God Made You and Everyone You Know. This book explores the gifts God has given to everybody in the world and what new research reveals about the difference those gifts can make for us, our churches and our communities.
Discover Your Gifts is our gift to you when you partner with us financially. See what I did there. You can go online to FamilyLifeToday.com or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” And feel free to drop us something in the mail if you'd like. Our address is FamilyLife, 100 Lake Hart Dr, Orlando, FL 32832.
Alright, here's Dave Wilson to share one of the best pieces of advice he got. When he was first starting out in ministry.
Dave: One of the best pieces of advice I was given as a young man just starting off in a vocation—it was a ministry—was “Do what you're good at; find others to do what you're bad at.” Now, that doesn't mean you don't develop your weaknesses.
Don: That's right.
Dave: But I thought at that moment, “No, no, no. You do stuff, you do everything because you shouldn't like everything you do. And if you're bad at it, well, you just have to do it.” No, he said, “You're good at something. God's given you a gift. You will love life and you'll love your job if you're doing that every day. And there's other people are really good at what you're bad at.”
Don: That's right.
Dave: “Partner with them and let them do what they're good at that you're bad at.”
Shelby: Now, coming up tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are in the studio again with Don Everts. Collectively, they're going to talk about how every couple struggles to see their partners gifts over time. In fact, Dave is going to talk about how Ann didn’t notice some of his giftings in their marriage. We hope you'll join us for that tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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