I’ve been chewing on something for a while. Now it’s sharing time.
What do you think of when you hear that phrase? Maybe a hundred images. But its core is easy enough to find. We are each created differently, no two of us alike, and that is a good thing.
4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. 6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. (Romans 12)
Simple enough. And what is the point of all these gifts?
4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. 6 God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.
7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.
(1 Corinthians 12)
Okay, beautiful but easy stuff here. God gifts people, each one uniquely, and this is done “for the common good” (NIV).
So what have I been chewing on?
In a recent read, an author named Lynn Anderson made this comment on the topic…
“The specific work of each part is DETERMINED PRIMARILY by the specific spiritual gift God has given to that part (person). We all have the same spirit, and we all have gifts. But we do not all have the same gift. And God has given these gifts for the ‘common good’ or ‘to serve’.”
Here’s the concern that I’m feeling.
I agree with Anderson’s comment. The Spirit’s gift-providing should primarily determine the works of service that a given individual might give themselves to, the role which he or she might play within a congregation, even within the world.
But I fear that for many the works of God’s people are actually being determined primarily by the current structures and forms of their given congregation. In many churches, if one is not obviously gifted in public speaking, music/singing, or teaching some age group of people, then it’s silently assumed that your gift is to hold down a seat faithfully each week, thus equating your Spirit-of-God-given gift to the gifting of an anvil.
In such a church, frustration may mount because a few are “carrying the load” of the many. Why won’t people get involved? Could it be that they have no idea what their gift is? Or that they have a sense of what their gift might be but they never considered that this would be significant alongside the task of simply fitting into what the congregation is already doing? And they’ve concluded that they don’t really fit.
One clarification: I am familiar with small churches. That’s all I’ve ever been a part of. So I am not suggesting that people need to switch churches to find their niches elsewhere. And I am not saying that churches need to develop more programs so that there are more potential slots for people to fit into. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m no major program fan. Nor is this a plug that we should all attend mega-churches where we can find the longest possible list of options on the church program menu.
So what’s my point?!
I’m just wondering how much Spirit-given creative, redemptive power we might be squandering because of an innocent inability or a stubborn refusal to look outside the box.
I’m simply questioning why it seems like a novel idea that gifts should be looked at first BEFORE programs are set up, as opposed to the opposite, which seems to be a route destined for dryness.
I guess I’m asking how one goes about assessing things like spiritual gifts apart from any open-the-box-then-fill-in-the-blanks-then-add-up-your-score-and-see-how-God-made-you-to-be tests.
I just want to use my imagination. I just want to ask people I know to use theirs too…
If church as we knew it didn’t exist, if you were just a God-loving, Scripture-searching, prayer-offering, “man-I-want-to-follow-Jesus” man or woman who slept in and ate pancakes every Sunday because there was no such thing as church to go to…
- How would you believe that God wanted you to touch your world?
- What would you feel as though you should do to serve?
The way I see it, answering questions like that might serve us well. Our answers might even teach us how to serve our world in a way “primarily determined” by what the Spirit has placed within us, as opposed to being “primarily determined” by any forms or structures (great or otherwise) that just happen to already be in place within a given congregation.
Now I’ve been sharing something for a while.
Who wants to chew this with me?