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  • Writer's picturesonnyholmes

Aptitude or strength.


For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Psalm 139: 13-14

The Lord has made everything for its purpose...

Proverbs 16:4


He has given us personal strengths to fulfill our life purpose.

It's a world of synonyms---strength, aptitude, bent, knack, skill, capability, faculty, genius, flair, capacity, giftedness, instinct, groove, or even feng shui, when life is in harmony. They all depict the foundational belief that every human possesses unique traits that gear us toward our life purpose. They're mostly visible in the high-profile people we honor for their contributions to life---J.S. Bach was writing great Christian musical masterpieces in his teens. Tiger Woods played scratch golf as a child. Einstein mastered numbers and the way things worked early in life. And the list dominos right on down to me and you, humans with talent wired into us before birth.

Today one entire school of personal development---psychology, sociology, education, and even theology---is committed to the thesis that our greatest possibility to maximize purpose in life in when we are operating in our areas of greatest strength. What a momentous reversal from just several decades ago when most systems were geared to improving weaknesses rather than optimizing areas of personal strength. Almost every report card I ever received said I spent too much time staring out the window, talked too much in class, and was usually the first student to complete a test. Shoot, they were recognizing three of my personal strengths long before I took a strength inventory of any kind---ideation, relator, and achiever. When I first took the Clifton Strength Finder Inventory in 2001, I asked my mother to read the top five and the paragraph descriptions of them. She said, "I knew that about you when you were two years old". Well, duh?

Of course, my passion for pastors, ministers, and making disciples brings the strength discussion into a kingdom context. It is motivated by the deep belief that God has wired everyone of us for life and that these personal aptitudes are our third level of preparation for kingdom mission. There's an angle for people not involved in fulfilling a kingdom assignment as well. It is simply that personal strengths can be utilized in virtually every area of human experience. My strengths inform my marriage, how I make decisions, where I spend my personal resources, and are the best arena for my career.

These strengths also form a structural foundation for my kingdom service too. More and more, I'm convicted that people in the kingdom service should be (1) very familiar with the entire concept of strength development, (2) know their own personal strengths and those of their colleagues, and (3) pursue human resource kingdom assignments that are strength based.

My term as Director of Pastoral Ministries for the South Carolina Baptist Convention provided my first training and use of personal strength systems in a local church setting. After a week at The Gallup Leadership Institute, and several additional training sessions, I became a strength coach under their strength system. It was then the Gallup Strength Finder Inventory and has since been changed to the Clifton Strength Finder Inventory, after Donald Clifton, Ph.D., the founder of the system. In my opinion it is the most faith-friendly system of strength measurement and most accurately defines the entire gamut of personal strength possibilities. Their inventory is available at

How does s strength based system affect our kingdom work? There's a couple of ways---

(1) I am convinced that many people drop out of kingdom work because they are in the wrong place. Yes, kids, we all have to do some of the mundane things outside of our skill or interest set. When we are utilizing our strengths, however, our interests are piqued and we will fulfill the assignment with great passion.

(2) Doing what comes naturally shortens our learning curve and puts people on mission in a more efficient manner.

(3) With "Christ in you" as the lead, and spiritual giftedness in place, our personal strengths complement what we bring to mission. They will not conflict. The one who orchestrated them in us brings harmony.

(4) Strength positioning creates good teams, and marriages. Since 2001 I have used the Clifton Strength Finder and StrengthFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath in pre-marital counseling and in staff administration. Certain functions of group work need to be filled.

(5) A strength system of resource deployment creates a positive environment based on personal assets rather than negatives.

A couple of years ago I met a new believer whose strength set challenged us. His signature themes (top five strengths) included analytical, deliberative, competitive, arranger, and connectedness. He felt no desire or compulsion to teach, lead groups, train others, work with youth or children, or many of the other places of service in the church. We were all frustrated to find his right fit. Then we landed on it. His particular strengths gave him the ability to schedule all the games in our Upward Basketball Program. He could slot teams, draw charts, develop rosters, keep records, and handle all the detail of information for the basketball league. Everyone else was relieved because it was hard work for most. But, not for him. It was a snap. He became our church statistician, record keeper, and scheduler. The rest of us brought him goodies in appreciation.

"Christ in you" moved him to serve. His spiritual gifts---administration, helps, and encouragement---convicted him to use them for the common good, and his strengths made him love what he was doing on the team.

It was certification of his package, how God had prepared him to serve. And, you know what? He has prepared you as well. Rejoice and be glad!

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