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Helping church members maximize influence by identifying spiritual gifts

by Kevin Kakazu

"If we can identify the abilities and passions of church members, they can minister in ways they find fulfilling."

"If we can identify the abilities and passions of church members, they can minister in ways they find fulfilling."

Kevin with his wife, Amanda, and their son, Quinn.

Kevin with his wife, Amanda, and their son, Quinn.

Kevin Kakazu
1999, bachelor’s degree in theology

I graduated from Walla Walla University—it was still Walla Walla College—in 1999. I did a theology major, even though I never felt some kind of strong calling, and by nature I’m extremely introverted. But positive feedback from my professors made me stick around in the department. I got a job as a pastor right out of school with the Sacramento Japanese Seventh-day Adventist Church (now known as All Nations Church of Elk Grove).

After a few years in Sacramento, I worked as an English teacher and chaplain at San-Iku Gakuin College, the Adventist college in Japan. That’s where I met Amanda Biddle, a missionary from Australia who was at the college also teaching English. Although she was not impressed by my fashion sense at our first meeting, we grew close over the next few months, and she astonishingly agreed to marry me in 2006. Our son, Quinn, was born in 2013. So I guess I am proof that God is gracious, leading even if one does not feel a definite calling or see a hand writing “YOU WILL BE A PASTOR” on a dorm room wall. 

My last pastoral position was in 2007, and I thought for a while that my days of pastoral ministry were done. But then Mission Road Church came calling. My family has been a part of this church family since 2008, and I love this church enough that I accepted the call after a lot of prayer.

Helping the church reach its potential
One thing I wanted to do immediately was to help each member identify their spiritual gifts and put those gifts into practice to serve the church. To be honest, the reason I thought of doing this is simply that I have significant weaknesses and blind spots, and I know that for the church to reach its potential, I’m going to need a lot of help. Just one example: Dealing with a lot of people or rapidly changing situations will have me running on empty very quickly. If we can identify the abilities and passions of church members, they can minister in ways they find fulfilling while helping me not be constantly tired and stressed. I’ll still be involved overseeing and encouraging them and will also “pick my spots” so that I can use my energy well and not burn out.

I’d also like the church to hear from different people on a semi-consistent basis. I enjoy preaching and have enough positive feedback to believe the church likes hearing from me. But the Bible was written by many authors and addressed to multiple situations, so I don’t feel the church is best served by a single voice from the pulpit. I strongly believe that the Adventist church needs more women preaching with power and authority from the Holy Spirit. To this end, I want to encourage our elders, half of whom are women, to speak at least once a year. I’d like to take steps to hire a woman to co-pastor the church, but that’s probably a long-range goal.

Preaching and teaching
Of course, if I’m encouraging elders to speak, the church needs to provide training, and I’ve contacted my colleagues from the H.M.S. Richards Divinity School with the idea of offering preaching seminars for our elders. Then it’s a matter of giving people encouragement, maybe working with them in producing a manuscript they’re happy with, getting them to the point where they are confident the Holy Spirit will flow through them and give them the words. I’ve been working in some ministerial capacity for 20 years, but I still get tense before I speak. Being nervous is normal, but when you get up front and you feel God taking over and people are moved, there’s nothing like that feeling in the world. I want people to experience that, because that could turbocharge the church—both for the ones preaching and for the congregation experiencing this journey with them.

I will still be teaching part-time at La Sierra University for the H.M.S. Richards Divinity School. Every year, my students bring up questions about the Bible that make me stop and think, and I get to pick their brains on the latest trends in biblical scholarship. On the other hand, I feel that working in pastoral ministry will allow me to share real-world experiences with my students, most of whom are preparing to become ministers. Pastoring a congregation can very quickly (and sometimes brutally) snap one back to ask “so what?” of one’s studies. I hope and anticipate that pastoring makes me a better teacher, and teaching makes me a better pastor.

Posted June 13, 2019

Last update on March 21, 2019