By Maurice Painter

There are no happenstance meetings along life’s way. God crosses our paths with people who need to know Him better. This principle is also true in our LIFE Groups: God brings spiritual children into our lives that we can shepherd. Our goal for their spiritual maturity is not just to “know” God, but to “understand” God better; that is, to possess the “knowledge” of Jesus that will lead disciples to live out Hisfaith” in their lives.
Dr. Gene Wilkes helps us understand the uniqueness with which God made us. In his book, Jesus on Leadership, Dr. Wilkes writes that each of us is a combination of God’s “raw materials”: Spiritual gifts, Experiences, Relational styles, Vocational skills, and Enthusiasm (S.E.R.V.E). Let me illustrate, personally: My spiritual gifts include faith and teaching; My experiences include Sozo Class LIFE Group; My relational style is a high D on the DISC profile; My vocational skills include turning around troubled businesses; and my enthusiasm includes playing trumpet as a worship leader in the orchestra. God intends to use these raw materials to mature the faith of His children.
Identifying God’s leadership of my personal experiences has helped me better understand the S.E.R.V.E tool. I did this as part of a Master of Arts course I took and realized that the twists and turns of my seventy-plus years have been the Holy Spirit developing my “raw materials” for service as a group leader and in business.
We gain vision about who God intends our group members to be as we pray for and about them and allow the Holy Spirit to teach them during each class time and during our individual visits. Think about who else you lead in addition to your LIFE group. Praying to understand other’s “raw materials” will help you to develop your children, friends, peers, employees, students, direct-reports, customers, enterprise partners, and clients into who God created them to be.
What about the disciples that God has chosen for us to teach and mentor so that they know God better? God has crossed our paths with them, divinely and intentionally. Each person has “raw materials” that God is developing for His use in their contexts. We are the leaders He entrusts with the opportunity and responsibility of shaping those raw materials. May our prayer be that we faithfully mold these individuals into little Christs with massive faith! God has crossed their paths with yours, too, so they might know Him better. No happenstance!

: The Prophet Jeremiah and the Apostle Paul illustrate these. In Jeremiah 1:5-10, God told Jeremiah, “I combined these ‘raw materials’ while in your mother’s womb and through your life’s experiences to this point in order to prepare you for My assignment… i.e., tear down satan’s strongholds and build up My people.”  Similarly, in Acts 26:16-18, Paul told Israel’s King Agrippa that Jesus called and prepared him “to open [Jewish and Gentile] eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of satan to God.”
While little is known of Jeremiah’s background preparation, we know that Paul grew up in a “university town” (Tarsus, home of one of only three universities in the world), that he was sent as a teenager to study under Rabbi Gamaliel to become a “Pharisee of the Pharisees,” and that his other “raw materials” were developed by Peter, James, John, and mentors.  To paraphrase Wilkes, Paul was birthed with and nurtured into a relational style, learned vocational skills, became enthusiastic therefore, and discovered spiritual gifts through experiences with the Holy Spirit, teachers, and mentors with which God crossed his path at the right time to inspire and focus him for “understanding” God better.