We are living in a culture that places a high premium on what we do. Whether it's our professional occupation, the social issues that we become involved in, the choices that we make as parents (and the activities we put our kids into because, hey, they are what they do, too), the world seems to have one question: what do you do?
And the church has taken on this perspective to some degree, asking her members what it is that they do. Trying to plug new members into doing things in the church. Making sure that everyone is doing something, in addition to sitting in the pews. Some churches even greet new members with spiritual gifts inventories so that they know right where to plug someone in.
Ah, the spiritual gifts inventory.
If you've been a Christian for any amount of time (as referenced above, even one day in some congregations), you've encountered the spiritual gifts inventory. This is a high-stakes, high-pressure questionnaire given to Christians to determine what role they are best suited to serve in the Kingdom, and the results include a number of doing words - evangelizing, preaching, teaching, serving, administering, giving, etc.
But the spiritual gifts inventory also boasts a number of non-doing words as results. These are words like mercy, wisdom, faith. And if you're among the Christians who uncover these things as your spiritual gifts, it probably doesn't take long before you start to think something like, "That's nice. But what am I supposed to do with this?"
Then, rather quickly, "Give me the test again. I can change a few of my answers and get a doing word this time. I know I can!"
I speak from experience here because the last time I took one of these inventories (for seminary), you had to get down to something like my fifth or sixth strongest result before you go to a doing word. I remember the incredible disappointment that I felt, the complete sense of lostness. Here, I had been trying to find my niche in the Kingdom, had been honest about who I was and what I believed, and all I wanted was to know where I fit in. What am I supposed to be doing for God?
And this test, this inventory, this tool used all over the world by the church and by earnest seekers couldn't even tell me.
Or did it?
We put such a high premium on being doers that I couldn't fathom what it meant that none of my gifts lie in doing. I searched earnestly, prayed hard, to figure out what I was supposed to do with my non-doing gifts, where I was supposed to direct my energies, what positions I was supposed to apply for and with what organizations. These things have practical implications, too, you know.
In all that, I missed out on what these gifts truly revealed and what we're missing in the church when we continue to try to funnel them into activities. See, we spend so much of our time as human doings that we forget that we are, first and foremost, human beings. And these non-doing gifts?
They are gifts of being.
And they are gifts that we desperately need in the church.
It's taken me several years to truly understand what my non-doing gifts have to offer to the church. They are not a free pass to just show up on Sundays and sit in the pews; that's not it at all. Far from it. And because I know that there are countless others out there earnestly looking for what they are supposed to be doing, only to find out that they are not gifted as human doings, I want to take a few days to talk about the value of non-doing gifts.
Because we're all human beings first, in the image of God our Creator. No matter what we do. And these gifts help to remind us of that in some of the most beautiful ways.