031 Discover Your Purpose by Uncovering Your SHAPE

Some years ago Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren came up with a neat acrostic to help people understand who they are. Since then Eric Rees has taught thousands of people the acrostic and even written a book about it. According to him, discovering your purpose is all about uncovering your SHAPE: your Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality type and Experiences. Get your pen and notepad ready – in this podcast and post Eric will coach you through the process of discovering your own unique shape and purpose.

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Uncovering Your SHAPE

After Os Guinness’s suggestion last episode in our Discover Your Calling series, that to discover our calling we should discover our gifts, this practical interview covers the how, the why, and the what next of doing just that and more. The SHAPE tool isn’t the only way of understanding our calling of course (we’ll explore other approaches in time), but it certainly is a helpful one. Here are the key ideas and some questions to get you exploring.

1. Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual gifts are not talents, virtues or character traits. They’re special abilities given to us by God when we become Christians.

  • Explore the gifts mentioned in Scripture (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4)
  • Which are you drawn to or excited about?
  • Which have you, or could you, experiment with?
  • Which have you been most effective with? (Tip: ask others!)

2. Heart

Call it heart, passion or interest, but you probably find yourself drawn to a particular group of people or societal need. Don’t ignore this.

  • What motivates you?
  • What change in the world do you long to see?
  • What needs and causes do you care about?
  • What people group do you most care about (artists, children, the homeless)?
  • What are your dreams?

3. Abilities

Can you cook, design, fix cars, paint walls? You may be astounded how many skills you have without realising it. God has been part of you developing these too.

  • What am I good at? Why have I learned these skills instead of others?
  • What do I enjoy doing most?
  • Who can I most help with these abilities?

4. Personality

Your personality guides how you will express your calling, and in what environments you’ll best flourish in.

  • How do I relate to others? (Am I shy or outgoing? Expressive? Competitive?)
  • How do I respond to opportunities? (Am I drawn to high risk or safety? Routine or variety?)
  • Am I people or task oriented?
  • How do I respond to people? (Am I a follower or leader? Team or solo player? )

5. Experiences

You have a unique mix of experiences and these add to your shape (an therefore your purpose) too. Think about:

  • Personal achievements
  • Career experiences
  • Relationship experiences
  • Educational experiences
  • Spiritual experiences

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  • February 19, 2014
    Amy Robinson

    We used to do spiritual gifts tests in Christian groups at university. I remember always joking about getting the ‘gift of encouragement’ which seemed to be a sort of consolation prize when the test couldn’t discern any other gifts! I always came up with ‘mercy’, and despite reading the little blurb that comes at the end of the tests, I still don’t really know what that means.

    I was particularly struck by the part of this interview about fighting the lie that “you can be whatever you want to be”. As the mother of an amazing autistic child, I was encouraged to hear that this oft-repeated aim is actually not possible for anybody! Whereas becoming the best version of the person God designed us to be is achievable, not just despite disability and circumstance, but actually *through* experience and character, even the negative bits.

    Looking forward to meeting you in May!


    • February 20, 2014

      Well, from someone who also scores highly in ‘encouragement’ in those same tests, let me encourage you not to despise the gift :). Seriously, encouragement and mercy together are pretty powerful gifts for those around you.

      Yes, that ‘you can be anything you want to be’ message may be popular in an options age, but it can do more harm than good.

      Looking forward to meeting you at the Scargill Writer’s retreat too!

  • March 26, 2014
    Diane Belz

    What a great article and I passed the test. Waiting on the Lord, being patient as He refines you, trusting Him when you are scared to death is all worth it to get to His place for you. I call it MORE – My Outstanding Reason for Existing. My MORE is to encourage, inspire and motivate seekers to find, live and love their MORE.

    I love my encouragement gift. I don’t leave home with out it!


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