Church Involvement

Creating a Culture of Involvement in Every Church

Month: March 2016

5 Insights from Teaching Spiritual Gift Development


3d human looking with red binoculars

5 Insights Gained from Teaching

Spiritual Gift Development

There is an old (and true) saying about teachers: they learn more than their students. Simply put: in the process of studying for any class, the well-prepared teacher has to dig deep and do lots of study.   He/she seldom gets to share everything he/she has learned in his/her study.   These same teachers are challenged to change previous held views.  We call this growth.

In the process of preparing for and teaching our spiritual gift development classes, I’ve learned many new things, changed my thinking on some things and have many newly discovered insights that will hopefully motivate you to re-evaluate what you’ve always believed about spiritual gifts and encourage you to start developing the gifts within your congregation.


The definitions of the gifts speak loudly of their importance and purpose.   Teaching is serious business as is pastoring.   Exhortation is a strong usage of biblical principles used in private and public and is greatly needed in the church today.   Prophetic utterances would stop most churches in their tracks.  Each non-miraculous gift meets real needs in and out of the church.   These definitions are ‘heavy’ terms and call for great responsibility. All of this tells me that God is serious about these gifts and He wants them to be used (lovingly) in every church.   This is NOT a matter that is to be taken lightly or be overlooked by church leadership.   I am thoroughly convinced that most churches remain weak and/or small because members and their gifts have not be developed as God originally ordained.   Christians and churches struggle because they are not empowered by these gifts.


Discovering, developing and deploying (using) these gifts should be a part of the maturation process for every member of the church. There is a lot of immaturity in the body of Christ (e.g. our lack of involvement, our lack of love for the lost, our self-centeredness, the division among us, the worldliness in the body, anxiety, bigotry, poor stewardship, covetousness, etc.).  I am convinced that one of our most promising means of maturing Christians is assisting them in discovering how the Lord has uniquely designed them, helping them develop their gifts and then putting them to work.    Mature Christians are serving Christians.


Using gifts requires courage.   We live in a culture that says, “Live and let live” or “I’m OK, You’re OK.”   The fact of the matter is that none of us are OK; we are all sinners in the need of God’s grace.  When we appeal to living lives that have been touched by the grace of God or need to be touched by the grace of God (cf. Titus 2:11-14) we are required to courageously confront folks in and out of the body of Christ.   Most of the gifts involve communicating truth to others—whether in or out of the church.   Even though we follow the instruction to speak the truth in love, many folks are easily offended by such.   When you use your gift (e.g. teaching, prophecy, exhortation, evangelism), you have to be brave.   In the areas of the gifts of giving, compassion and service, courage is required because you are called to serve the disenfranchised or you are called to give to controversial ministries.   In the areas of leadership, and pastoring, you are called, many times, to make unpopular decisions and plans that upset folks.  Using one’s gifts calls for great courage and strength.  As such, we become more dependent upon the Lord for wisdom and strength to serve well.


The church (in general) does not manifest these gifts at all or when they are manifested, they aren’t manifested fully or well.   The churches of Christ, generally, do not believe in present-day spiritual gifts in any shape, form or fashion*.   The result is obvious:  the church suffers greatly and the lost remain lost. We seldom if ever see or hear of true full-blown exhortation.   We seldom hear a prophetic admonition; in fact, it is highly discouraged unless it comes from a pulpit minister or an eldership.   Exhortation has been reduced to saying “Good morning, how are you?” Pastoring is done, in many congregations, exclusively by the preacher.  Any administrative/leadership is seldom recognized or appreciated.   Many churches continue to aim at nothing and hit it with great accuracy.

Much of our lack of spiritual and numerical growth is a result of our ignorance of or a lack of instruction in a practical application of the whole counsel of God in this area.


Relationships and biblical submission are paramount.   Many of our church relationships at best are surface/shallow relationships.     However, exhortation, pastoring, leading, prophecy and teaching can only be done in true in-depth koinonia/fellowship.   I am personally convinced that many fall away simply because we do not practice biblical fellowship and we do not use our gifts to get people saved and keep them saved (by maturing them into true servants).    Our priority (in many local churches) could be summed up by the following: assembling on time, getting started on time and finishing on time. Fellowship and relationships are seldom if ever addressed.   In depth training and teaching are neglected.   Ephesians 5:21 takes on a whole new meaning when we study how to develop our gifts and use them for His purpose.

What if we developed and used non-miraculous gifts as they were designed?   All gifts are designed to edify or strength the church.   Hopefully, the faithfulness and involvement of the membership will rise in number.   People who use their gifts grow and mature and serve.     Those not growing are challenged by those who manifest their gifts.

We are in the soul saving and soul developing business.   Our goal is to get people into Christ and get them to Heaven.   This is not an easy ‘anybody can do it’ effort.   It takes dedication, commitment and serious effort including constant training, and following God’s plan.

My new book Maxing Out Your Spiritual Gifts will hopefully be available at the Church Involvement Conference in January, 2017.

*Recommended reading:  Doug Hamilton of Sunset Institute Press has a newer book entitled Spiritual Giftedness.   On pages 39-56 Doug discusses why the gifts of Romans 12 are non-miraculous gifts (he would refer to these as passionate endowments).   The point?   Christians still have gifts today–at least some gifts–and as such, they should be taken seriously.   We can show that we take them seriously by discovering them, developing them and deploying them in every member of the church.

Travis Irwin

March 21, 2016

Christian Love & Exercising One’s Gifts

love4Any of these gifts could be used to divide or strengthen the church—without Christian love, division may occur, with love, growth occurs.

 If you read the book of 1 Corinthians you will learn quickly that the Corinthian church had miraculous spiritual gifts and yet they lacked love (thus the purpose of chapter 13).  Because they lacked Christian love they had major problems.   Just because folks have spiritual gifts does not guarantee they will get along.  Spiritual gifts don’t automatically make a person spiritually mature.  The following gifts are non-miraculous.  However, if not used properly and in a spirit of love, there can be major problems in the church.  We might add that when personalities, without the Spirit’s love (Gal.5:22) are added to the mix, things can really go downhill fast.  When we preach and teach about gifts and personalities, we must add the most important ingredient:  love.

Consider how some gifts could be abused or misused today:

Leadership/Administration – some of the folks (with this gift) may not understand why (other) brethren can’t ‘get it together.’   After all, brethren need goals, structure and direction.  But love is patient and kind.

Pastor/Shepherding – some of these folks may get frustrated with brethren who will not do what is obviously necessary to grow as a Christian; they are always ‘chasing’ after weak/negligent folks and wanting to nurture them. Absenteeism drives them crazy.  But love never fails.

Teaching – these folks may get impatient with brethren who do not attend Bible class, will not study their lessons (before class) and will not make comments or ask questions in class.   But love is not self-centered, does not brag and believes the best.

Exhortation – these brethren may grow tired of always trying to encourage folks that need lots and lots of encouragement and they don’t understand why people just can’t grow spiritually without constant exhortation.   But love bears and hopes all things.

Evangelism – these brethren may not understand why every member of the church isn’t as enthused about lost souls as they are.   People are lost and these folks can tire of the church being self-centered and “unconcerned” for the lost.  Yet love never fails.  Love believes all things.

Compassion – some of these folks may at times be critical of other members who show little or no concern for the hungry, homeless and victimized of their town.   They cannot understand why others don’t spend great chunks of their time and money to help others who are unfortunate.   However, love is not easily angered.  Love is not jealous.

Service – the brothers and sisters with this gift may not always appreciate and or comprehend why some of their church family don’t volunteer to do the things they (those with the gift of service) do.   Why do people have to be asked to do the obvious? Right?   Again, love bears all things.

Giving – these generous souls sometimes do not understand why others don’t have more questions about where their money goes when they give it. They want others to give as generously as they do.    But love must be the motivation for everything.

Prophecy – some of these folks have little patience with worldliness in the church and at times they just want to ‘blast’ the church.    Love does not keep accounts of wrongs, it rejoices in the truth, it does not act unbecomingly, and it hopes all things.

We all understand that love does not compromise the truth.  Love does not enable or excuse poor behavior.   However, the truth must be spoken in love (cf. 2 Tim.2:24-26; Eph.4:15; 4:1-3; et al).    If we love each other in the same manner that Jesus loved us (cf. John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:16-18), the church will be strong, united and she will grow.   We will use our gifts and we will use them properly to the glory of the One who gave them to us.

Travis Irwin, Athens, TN


Services We Render




Services We Render to Churches & Individuals:

RtI is designed for churches and church leaders who are resolved to get every member of their congregations involved in intentional ministry. RtL can be done in a retreat form or a more traditional form. It includes lessons on the uniqueness of each member, how to organize for total involvement, the Biblical basis for total involvement and other related lessons.
The leader for RtL is Travis Irwin Contact him at or 423 920 3060.
TIM – Training Involvement Ministers
It is becoming more apparent that congregations are wanting to get their members involved in intentional ministry. In many cases, a part time person or possibly a deacon may assist in this regard. In other cases, a full time staffer is required. TIM is designed to train men and women in involvement ministry—whether part or full time. This could be deacons, volunteer part timers, Bible majors in our Christian schools and preaching schools, and those transitioning out of preaching, missions, youth or some other full time ministry into involvement. These classes are only offered twice a year, and are taught by Travis Irwin who is the IM at Athens church of Christ.  Contact him at or 423 920 3060.

(see a recommendation under “I Serve U” retreats)

S0me of the topics covered in these seminars:

Your Church is Unique & It’s No Accident

Maxing Out the Gifts in Your Church

Coaching Members to Full Throttle Ministry

Mission & Vision: Get Going in the Right Direction

“I Serve U” Ministry

Getting 100% of Your Membership Involved in Ministry9

Contact me at


Cross Overs in Full Time Ministry

crossovercaddy2We’ve heard of cross overs in the music industry.  We are also familiar with people who cross over in the business world, the sports world and the acting world.   And, of course, we know of crossovers in the automotive world.
When it comes to full time ministry staff in the Lord’s church, a similar thing is occurring more and more often. Pulpit men become associates, youth ministers become pulpit men, and some youth guys become worship leaders.  And, now I am seeing more and more men cross over from one type of ministry to involvement. A few years ago I worked with a young man who just returned home from mission work. I don’t know all the details, but the elders of his supporting church decided to make him their involvement minister.  More recently good friend of mine from Ohio has completed eighteen years as a youth minister in the same congregation and he is now transitioning to involvement. One other friend, has been preaching for the same church for over 35 years and he is now crossing over to involvement.
I’ve been blessed to invest in these men as they make their transition. For those of you who may be considering crossing over or possibly you are a group of elders thinking of making this offer to one of your staff, please allow me to share some observations and make a suggestion:
Involvement Ministers are Few and Far Between
Involvement ministers (IM) do exist—there just aren’t many of us. Most churches of Christ have a full time pulpit man and many of them also have a youth minister. If you were to do a search of all the churches looking for full time ministry staff, a good 60% of churches are looking for pulpit ministers and another 40% are looking for youth ministers.
The nature and number of church staff are usually determined by specific congregational needs or perceived needs. Every church needs someone to deliver weekly lessons from the pulpit and most churches see the need for someone to relate to and lead the youth. Seldom do you see any type of staff ministers beyond these two. We are also seeing an increase in the area of child education in many larger churches. Some are hiring staff to do professional counseling, or to work with senior saints, etc.
I am happy to say that more and more elderships see the need for involvement ministers. I am blessed to work with an eldership who saw this need several years ago.    Training and teaching our church members to serve should be paramount because our Lord came to serve and He left us to serve in His name.   One of the most obvious measures of a Christian’s spiritual growth and maturity is service. It is a mark of a true disciple of Jesus.
Job Descriptions for Involvement Ministers Can be Tricky
One brother (that is crossing over) told me that he will be able to write his own job description. That’s pretty convenient, and I think pretty rare.
I’ve seen job descriptions for involvement ministers that would have been challenging even to the Lord (when he lived in the flesh). Some have too many demands and expectations. They sound like they want the IM to do everything.  In some cases, the leadership wants the IM to ‘take up the slack’ or do things that may be too mundane for the pulpit or youth ministers.
In my estimation an IM should be hired to get all the members of his church to serve in some capacity. This will bless the church and the community.
A job description must be meaningful and realistic. Part of an IM’s job description should include his assisting members in discovering how God has designed them for service, to help them develop their gifts and put them to work.
If an eldership hires a man to continue to maintain what has already been put into place, then I don’t think they really need such a guy. Most IM’s are motivated to take church members to different levels of service.  They are highly motivated folks who want the church to grow numerically and spiritually.
Prospective Involvement Ministers Need Training
What kind? Once again, this all depends upon the job description. Other factors are the training and ministry experience the new IM already has. I had 39 years of pulpit experience when I became an IM. I had the speaking ability, the Bible knowledge, the teaching skills, the counseling skills and the organizational skills associated with preaching. IM work is similar but different; it requires another set of skills that our Christian schools and preacher schools do not offer.
It is my opinion that these should be taught and learned over a period of time.
I hope to continue to train men individually for this type of ministry. I also hope to train others through the “Church Involvement Conference.”    May I be of service to you if you are in the process of (or maybe you’re thinking of) crossing over to involvement?   Are you an eldership in need of such services?

Looking for recommendations?

Following are two both from men crossing over:

Travis Irwin has been in touch with me, Tim Lavender, ever since I made plans to step down from the pulpit and begin easing into involvement ministry. This transition has gone smooth, but now without many questions to be answered as to what involvement ministry is all about. I have been a pulpit preacher for the same church for 37 years and so I know everyone here, but deciding what to do in my new roll has been challenging. I spent a day with Travis and he really helped me to think about the possibilities. Travis is energetic, passionate, and very down to earth on his approach to involvement. He has more than a few great ideas that I had never even thought about such as a “Fruit of the Spirit tree,” church -shirts, a big membership picture cut up into a puzzle to show how we connect and work together, posters, banners, newsletters, etc. His leadership class covers what really is practical and helpful in getting your team working on involving all members. I highly recommend his program and approach. He will help you in any way that he can.

Tim Lavender, Smyrna Church of Chris, Smyrna , TN

After spending almost 25 years in Youth Ministry, I believe it was time for the next chapter in my life. Our congregation was ready to move in the direction of Involvement Minister and call people to service for the Lord’s kingdom. I was able to spend a weekend with Travis Irwin in Athens, Tennessee and pick his brain on ideas about Involvement. This time was very valuable in helping me formulate a plan of action and I gained many tools to help us launch into this new ministry

I would recommend Travis to any church and its leadership, because of his passion to see people in the kingdom of God serving and using their talents.

God’s blessing,

Matt Dahm, Richland Road Church of Christ in Marion, Ohio
If I can be of service to you as a cross over minister or to you as an eldership, please contact me at or 423 920 3060. Travis Irwin

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