Monday, July 02, 2007

nice gifts, lots of em'

What is your role in the church? Be specific.

As part of my ministry with the Salvation Army, I have the opportunity of visiting churches all over the city of London. The same was true in my last division. Officially my responsibilities cover only Salvation Army churches, but I tend to look in on other churches as well, just to get a general feel of the health of the church as a whole. I’m sorry to say that, in the majority of cases, many of the churches I visit aren’t doing so well. Old, tired, and uninspiring services mixed together with irrelevant programmes don’t tend to be a good formula for vibrancy. It’s easy to blame the dullness on any number of factors but, as an old pastor (Officer) reminded me this weekend, homelessness isn’t the problem, it’s a result of the problem. And I agree.

I’m often guilty of pointing out the obvious; that churches are often very uninspiring these days. What I, and often others, sometimes miss is the “why?” Why is this the case? Why, in a world full of creative people, aren’t we able to put some of those ideas into action? Now some might suggest politics, and certainly that can be a problem, but can I suggest that the biggest reason might simply be that congregations aren’t aware of their spiritual gifts anymore and are therefore, not putting them into practice?

Think about it. How many of you attend a church where the pastor is basically in charge of everything? From preaching, to teaching, to leading worship (even if he simply puts the Sunday morning programme together while somebody else leads the music, he’s the one who’s directing/leading the worship experience), to administration, to maintenance, to pastoring, to leading, to encouraging, to discerning (who does the hiring?), you get the idea. Think about the absurdity of this. 1 Corinthians 12 makes it pretty clear that each of us receives only a handful of the gifts, making it necessary for all of us to work together (as one body) if we want the full New Testament experience. Yet many of us appear to believe that, once somebody is ordained, he or she is bestowed with all of the spiritual gifts. This just isn’t the case. Upon my own ordination, I walked out of the service with only three new gifts; a Bible, an ordination certificate, and a new computer (thanks grandma). Sadly I wasn’t anymore organized, or merciful, nor did I have the gifts of tongues or interpretation (to the dismay of all of my charismatic friends). Seems that ordained ministers are limited to only a handful of gifts as well. No wonder then that, in churches where all of the paperwork is in perfect order, and the bills are paid on time, we often encounter worship services that are less than engaging, or in churches where there seems to be a limitless supply of creativity, the office is a disaster area. Creativity and administration are two gifts that rarely go together (which explains why all of my artist friends are often so flaky). We could also mention here that, in the cases where a creative pastor seems to be leading less than creative services, it’s often a case of having to spend all their time trying to take care of the areas of the church where they’re simply not gifted and, therefore, have to spend extra time accomplishing (like the finances).

Meanwhile there’s the congregation, full of spiritually gifted people who are unaware of their gifts and/or whose gifts are not being engaged. It’s sad what this will do to a person. A person unneeded and unengaged is a person who is unhappy and unfulfilled. I once heard somebody say that, in 80% of the cases of depression that they counsel, the problem is spiritual rather than physical. And can I suggest that the spiritual problem is often one where their spirit is simply in a vegetative state?

Now please don’t sound any alarm bells here. Many of us have been in churches where the opposite has seemingly been true for us personally. Anytime anything needs being done, we’re the ones who are asked to do it. Still, the argument above remains true only with us taking on the role of the one believed to have been bestowed with all of the gifts while the rest of the congregation remains in the vegetative state. It’s just not a healthy way to work or to live.

So what do we do about it? The seemingly easy solution would be for our church leaders (pastors or otherwise) to lead our congregations in discovering what their spiritual gifts are and then to begin a journey of putting all of those spiritual gifts into practice. Sadly though, even many of our church leaders have never really discovered their own spiritual gifts. It seems that in many churches, this basic understanding of how to live our lives and keep the church affective has all but been forgotten. And so I propose an alternative plan; that each of us begins to discover this for ourselves.

On the right side column of this blog is a new section entitled “Spiritual Gifts” and in that section rests two files for downloading. One is a spiritual gifts inventory (the best I’ve ever seen), and the other is a document that will help to explain, encourage, and even give some warning on each of those gifts and their use. I would really encourage you to complete the inventory questionnaire before even looking over the second document as it might influence your answers.

What happens when your pastor is away on a Sunday morning? I can tell you what often happens. I and others in similar positions get called in to cover your Sunday morning service. And please don’t get me wrong. I enjoy doing this because it just happens to fit (often) neatly into one of my own spiritual gifts. Still, I do find it alarming and concerning that there is no one present locally who can lead a simple time of worship. Could it simply be that those gifts have been lying dormant? I think so.

Begin today to discover, not who others think you are, nor what circumstances have limited you to be, but who God actually created you to be. I promise that it will absolutely begin a journey towards fulfilment and will also begin a new growth in our churches to boot!

Comments on "nice gifts, lots of em'"


Blogger Cari said ... (4:37 AM) : 

I took the assessment. Very cool. I'm also doing a study by People Management International based on Max Lucado's "Cure for the Common Life," and I'm finding that I've been wasting a good portion of my time doing things I think I ought to be doing. I've got no business being a nurse. I don't really have a compassionate bone in my body! The PMI study makes you assess your life, and what you enjoy, what you're good at, what brings great satisfaction, and what affect it has on you and others, from childhood on to the present. It gets very specific if you make an honest inventory of your life. My head hurts.

Your gifts assessment kinda kicked me in the lack of compassion is oh, so evident. Giving, I got a big fat zero! I scored equally on teaching, wisdom, (chuckle, snort) and prophecy!! You are a church planter and a prophet, I'm guessing??

Thanks, I'm going to use this inventory in the PMI class I'm teaching.


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