This PowerPoint presentation looks at the seven gifts listed in Romans 12, and the motivations and ways that different people use those differing gifts. More significantly, what is the resulting fruit when your church allows those seven gifts to be fully expressed in its structure, ministries, leadership, meetings and day-to-day fellowship?
In nature, there’s a word for a place with inflow but no outflow: It’s called a swamp. God’s people are not called to be dead, stagnant swamps, but to offer living water: Cool, fresh, flowing and life giving.
Unfortunately, too many church gatherings are about inflow and not outflow. Churches today are focused on meetings and programs where people receive ministry, rather than places where we can minister one to another — as Scripture commands — according to our differing gifts. Getting people out of the familiar, traditional swamp of going to church to receive ministry, rather than the Biblical mandate to be the church where everyone ministers, is very daunting!
This dichotomy is amply illustrated by two ministries I’m involved with in the local jail. One is a highly structured, thirteen week program that provides intense teaching and scripted study materials to about thirty men who live together in a low-security, faith-based dorm. In that program, some of the strongest pulpit ministries in the county come to teach and minister to the men. With two meetings each weekday, they receive the best preaching and teaching imaginable. It’s like “podium church” on steroids.
So when we get together, what should our meetings look like as we use our differing motivational gift?
As a preliminary matter, this example assumes that there is a commitment by all to actively participate, and that everyone in fact has a vibrant walk with the Lord so that they have something to contribute.
Those are BIG, but indispensable, assumptions (but that’s a topic for another blog!).
When we meet together, 1 Corinthians 12-14, Romans 12 and Ephesians 4 say that we are to each contribute something. In fact, Paul repeatedly uses the imperative – a command – in telling us this.
Time and again Scripture exhorts us to avoid passivity. As such, God intends for our meetings to be incubators where we identify, develop and learn to use our gifts for our mutual growth and edification.
That’s because God’s gifts are not given for purely personal or individualistic purposes. Rather, when we meet we should be ministering to each other, each according to our unique gifts. Using our gifts within the church, in turn, allows us to become a gift – to each other, the world and, most importantly, to Jesus.
It’s one thing to embrace Paul’s metaphor of being the Body of Christ, where everyone is a different part as we participate and minister one to another according to our unique spiritual gifts.
It’s quite another thing to figure out how to do that in practical terms, especially when we meet together and abstract principles hit cold, hard reality.
Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride! In this PowerPoint presentation, all that you think of as “church” is about to be challenged so God can woo us back to being, once more, the multi-faceted, wonderful, exciting Body of Christ.
“So here’s what I want you to do. When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight… Take your turn, no one person taking over. Then each speaker gets a chance to say something special from God, and you all learn from each other… This goes for all the churches — no exceptions.” The Message, 1 Cor. 14:28-33.
God seems to be laying a foundation for yet another of His periodic, history-changing interventions in the affairs of man. Over the last two thousand years there have been many such paradigm shifts, and it’s naive to think that our current, settled status quo will somehow be exempt from the unsettling but progressive advance of His Kingdom.
This newest paradigm shift is starting with pioneers who realize that God’s primary goal in history is to change not only individuals but also whole cultures and nations — as per the Great Commission.
Likewise, as with all prior interventions in history, His will is being applied to more and more aspects of His creation here on earth, just as it is in heaven — as per the Lord’s Prayer.
We also are coming to realize that the Kingdom of God — His will being done on earth (including all spheres of human endeavor) as it is in heaven — is bigger than the church. Nonetheless, we are beginning to understand that His Kingdom is not going to advance much further unless the church re-discovers her New Testament roots.
Admittedly, there is comfort in the familiar status quo of “church” as we’ve all come to know it. Some, however, are so hungry for God’s Kingdom — as it continues to progressively advance through history — that they’re willing hit to the reboot button and look afresh at God’ s purposes.
Last night, we had one of our best times of “participatory church” as we seamlessly shared a meal, partook of communion, fellowshipped and ministered one with another — and none of it depended on me!
The last several weeks have been very emotionally and physically exhausting for me. On top of my best friend dying, I’ve been struggling to keep up with my various professional and counseling commitments while concurrently experiencing a particularly bad bout of chronic fatigue from my autoimmune condition.
The church that meets together at my home each Friday evening to share a meal, encounter God and minister one to another is an improbable assembly of believers and even not-yet believers. We cut across races, cultures, nationalities, social status, and so many other lines – producing a rich tapestry of interwoven lives.
It reminds me of Adullam’s cave, where “every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented” went to flee from Saul. While there, God began the process of forging them into leaders who eventually established and became pillars in David’s kingdom. 1 Sam. 22:2.
Likewise, if you saw us you would laugh and wonder, “what can God do with these people?” Yet, isn’t that God’s way: to establish his Kingdom on earth by transforming lives, cultures, nations and history not with the ordained, but with the ordinary?
As I’ve previously ministered in other parts of the world, I’ve been alarmed at the growing influence of the so-called “prosperity gospel”.
The prosperity message is simply the latest incarnation of the historically persistent “gospel of self” that’s been a blight on the Church since the beginning. Going back to Simon the Samaritan in Acts 8, there’s always been those among us – with gifted personalities and beguiling, mesmerizing spirits of seeming sincerity – who pimp the gospel for personal gain.
Such God pimps – including John Hagee, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen and their minions – are all over the airways peddling their seductive gospel of “self”.
I vividly recall leafing through World magazine back in 2006 and reading the unsettling but hardly surprising news that Randall Terry – the firebrand evangelical who formerly headed Operation Rescue and was then financially wiped out following a series of lawsuits by pro-abortionists – had joined the Roman Catholic Church.
“Unsettling,” because it provides further evidence of the growing weariness and disillusionment I’m seeing among spiritual “entrepreneurs” who’ve been laboring within evangelical circles to expand the Kingdom of God in all spheres of life and culture.
“Hardly surprising,” however, as those “on point” for the Kingdom increasingly seek refuge from the prevailing pop-theology (or dare I say lack of theology) and me-focused brand of Christianity that pervades evangelicalism (which includes charismatics and Pentecostals), animates many of our local church and national leaders, and cuts believers off from the great historic doctrines and creeds of our faith.
Recent events forced me to confront the troubling truth that “church” for the last several decades has been a habitually disappointing part of my spiritual journey. This could be saying more about me than about the state of the church, except that I hear the same lament from many other believers.
Of the seven spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12, the last – but, I believe, the greatest yet least appreciated and most abused – is mercy.
As I watch and sense what God is doing with an emerging new spiritual generation, I see that their dominant characteristic is mercy. I also have begun to realize that God wants to use “mercies” (those with the primary spiritual gift of mercy) as catalysts to unleash additional gifts in others. That, in turn, will bring this rising generation to new pastures where God wants to dwell among us.
This doesn’t mean everyone in this new spiritual generation has mercy as their dominant individual spiritual gift. But as a whole, they nonetheless seem to collectively exhibit the main motivations of mercy – which are a deep, personal craving for the presence of God and for genuine intimacy with others.
As a result, this rising generation has little interest or patience with the moral and cultural wars of my generation, or with our prevailing hypocrisy as we tried to fix everyone else but failed to exhibit God’s presence in our own lives. Nor can they understand the focus on programs and institutions – with a resulting lack of authentic community – among older Christians.
Each of us is born with a personality that’s uniquely tailored to what God created us to do with our lives.
Understanding God’s calling, and the associated personality He’s gifted us with, is not difficult: Our calling matches our gifts, and our gifts match our passions.
Furthermore, when we use our gifts and fulfill our calling according to God’s will, we feel His pleasure – in addition to our own.
There’s a problem, however, when our validation comes from using our gifts or pursing our calling, instead of pleasing God. Rather than being content with God saying “well done, thou good and faithful servant,” we seek legitimacy in who we are, what we do, how others react to us, or in the results of our actions.
Such validation comes from and is focused on us, rather than God.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how Jesus fellowshipped with Adam.
It was in the garden, where the two of them walked side by side and talked face to face in the cool of the evening. Jesus met Adam in his full humanity, where life sprang forth both in and around Adam.
It took me a long time to learn that it’s OK to be human and that God wanted to meet me too in my full humanity.