Wednesday, January 20, 2016

For the Church

If I am not given the gift of teaching, then I am called, by default, to be a student. Because someone has been given the gift of teaching, and all good teachers need students.

I think this is one of the things that so many of us find frustrating about our spiritual gifts: we simply don't know when or how or where we're supposed to use them. It doesn't always seem like there's a lot of opportunity in the world for people like us. 

There's some argument that maybe we're supposed to use our gift for the "unreached," for all those people in the world who haven't discovered God yet. That's why God has gifted us, some argue. For the unreached. All of the spiritual gifts are gifts of evangelism. And there is, at least, a notion of truth in this. All of the gifts given in the lists in Monday's post would certainly be invaluable in reaching a new people for God. Teaching, of course. Encouragement and serving. Speaking wisdom and knowledge. Leadership. Speaking in languages and interpreting languages. Clearly, these are evangelistic gifts, if ever there were such a thing.

But thinking that God has gifted you simply for the purpose of reaching the unreached is quite a dangerous proposition. If this is true, then what blessing are you to His church?

I mean that.

We've come to this place in our churches where we're pretty sure the entire purpose of the church is to bring more people into it. Some churches even meet on Sunday mornings just to figure out how they can get more people to join them the next Sunday. They charge their members with creating strategies, offering invitations, and the like, because church, to them, is God's way of getting more people to come to His message.

Several weeks ago, I spent some time talking about the church, and if you were here for that series, then you know that I don't buy into the numbers game at all. As a quick argument against the primacy of evangelism in God's church, we need look no further than Acts 2, where the early church met together and devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, to worship, to fellowship, and to breaking bread together. The church came together and did its thing, and others were drawn in by what the church was doing.

And if the church comes together to do its thing, then your thing is meant for the church. And if your thing is meant for the church, then the rest of us have to show up not just looking for our thing or God's thing, but ready to receive your thing, too.

It means those of us who aren't teachers must - must - be students.

We have to give each other every opportunity to use the gift God has given each of us. We have to be willing to receive what someone else has to offer. It means we show up as students to Sunday School classes, Bibles and notebooks open, ready to seriously consider what our teachers have to say. It means we seek out those who have been given the gift of encouragement and share our struggles with them, let them help to raise us back up when life has knocked us down. It means we freely admit our needs to one another. Not because we're such needy people, but because someone near us has been given the gift of serving, and we must let them serve. It means when we are broken, we seek out those who heal. It's their gift. Let them heal.

It means we listen when someone speaks the wisdom of God. It means we open our ears and hear when someone speaks the knowledge of Him. It means we're not afraid to hear God put into another language (whether a lingual tongue or a spiritual language such as worship or prayer or Scripture) because we know that it is someone's gift to speak God this way. (If you didn't catch my series on God languages, check that out.) It means we listen for those who are able to translate from one language to another, to make these utterances even more meaningful for us. It means we come ready to follow because someone is there gifted to lead.

We have to embrace fully all the gifts that are not ours, in order that those who are blessed with those gifts of God have the opportunity to develop their gifts and to share them, to be a blessing to us. To stop wondering where in the world their gifts are meant to make a difference, and rather to know that their gifts are given here, in the church, for the church, for God's church. For God Himself. And not just to draw more people into the building on Sunday mornings, but to bless and to love and to minister to those who are already there. 

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