Spiritual gifts go further when we share them with those around us who need our help...
What God Has Joined Together (Number 23)
By Gaspar F. Colón
Jesus is talking to Nicodemus by lamplight one dark night. Jesus explains that the mark of citizenship in His kingdom is a new birth. This new birth is not a birth of the flesh, but a birth of the Spirit. This Spirit (or wind) blows those who are born of the Spirit wherever He chooses (John 3:3-8).
Later, toward the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus spends time with His disciples to prepare them for the next phase of their ministry, when they will no longer have His physical presence with them. He promises them that they will have another Comforter. This Comforter, the Holy Spirit, will teach them all things. He will remind Jesus’ followers of everything Jesus has said, and give them peace (John 14:15-27).
In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul shares his desire that the members of the body of Christ should not be ignorant of spiritual gifts. He emphasizes, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (verses 4-7, NIV). Simply stated, the Holy Spirit is the administrator of the spiritual gifts in the body of Christ, and each gift is given for the good of that body.
Unwrap the Gifts
Now, what does this mean in practical, everyday life? First, we need to recognize that every Christian is given spiritual gifts. Each of us has a cluster of gifts, with one primary gift and one or two secondary gifts. But although the gifts are given to us as individuals, our spiritual gifts are really given for the church. The Holy Spirit is the administrator of the spiritual gifts, but the local church leadership has a responsibility to match the spiritual gifts of its members to the ministry plan of the church. Each church has the responsibility to depend on the leading of the Holy Spirit in the development of the ministry plan.
Second, regardless of whether our gift is faith, healing, proclamation, teaching, administration, reconciliation, compassion, communication, or self-sacrificing service; or whether we are called by God and recognized by the church for pastoral, evangelistic, or teaching ministries; our primary motivation for service must be tied to our commitment to Christ and the love that He seeks to pour out through us to others in ministry through our church. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13 that regardless of the gifts we are given by God, those gifts are useless if the execution of them is not rooted in love.
Third, part of our stewardship responsibility as members of the body of Christ is to cultivate a passion for the discovery and nurture of the spiritual gift granted to us. We should prayerfully reflect on what occupies our thinking most when it comes to the ministry of our church. What issues or needs do we perceive and feel most passionate about? When thinking about our passions for that particular issue or need, how might our spiritual gift(s) be used in the ministry of our church? Some pastors provide a spiritual gifts inventory that you can use to narrow down your spiritual gifts. Fellow members of the church who know you best can share with you what spiritual gifts they perceive as they observe your involvement in the church.
Think back on the most memorable “ministry” experiences of your Christian life. What inspired and excited you most? What was happening in your walk with God at the time? What was happening in your church during the time? The result of these reflections will help you to understand better what motivates you and what kind of environment you shine best in.
Fourth, pastors or members of the leadership team of a church must focus on developing a ministry plan that is comprehensive enough to draw out and employ the spiritual gifts of the members of the church. This plan should take into consideration the community the church is called to serve. Assess your community to discover what is already happening. The leadership team needs to discover specific needs in the neighborhood that can focus the church in ministries that make a difference and help to reflect Christ’s method of ministry. Ellen White’s famous quote captures Christ’s ministry method wonderfully: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’?”*
Share the Gifts
Pastor Frank attended a spiritual gifts seminar early in his ministry. He got so excited about the concept and the process that he immediately went back to his church and preached a series of sermons on spiritual gifts. He followed this with an invitation to the members of his church to fill out a spiritual gifts inventory, and followed that up with small group sessions in which the members could verify and experiment with the gifts they had discovered. Members of Pastor Frank’s church got so excited that they came to him, eager to put their spiritual gifts to work. Alas, Pastor Frank was at a loss to employ the gifts of his church members because he hadn’t led his church in the development of a contextualized plan for ministry in the community around the church. Planning for ministry is also a spiritual gift.
Commitment to the Spirit through the Word of God will protect us from many a spiritual peril. It will produce results from God in us, our churches, and our communities. It will transform us into agents in this kingdom of grace used by God to change the world through faith and love. It will allow us to be part of a global effort, administered by the Holy Spirit, to prepare those around us for the kingdom of glory to be ushered in at the second coming of Christ.
*Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 143.