Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Variety is the Spice of Life

If a given month has 5 Sundays in it, our church has what we call a “combined equipping hour” on that 5th Sunday, where everyone from 1st grade through adult meets together for the “Sunday school” time and has corporate prayer. This tends to happen about once per quarter. Last week was one of those Sundays and we met and prayed specifically for our upcoming summer youth mission trips. One thing that struck me during this prayer time is how God has faithfully brought just the right people with the right gifts and abilities to our church over the years for these trips. For example, one of the groups is going to Mexico. One of the adults going on this trip is a native of Belize, speaks fluent Spanish, and will be doing much of the teaching since he does not need an interpreter. Coincidence? I think not. Another adult (attending the trip to Broken Arrow Bible Ranch in New Mexico), is a mechanic and owns an auto shop. In past years, he has been able to repair vans that broke down on the way to the ranch; repair go carts and other things at the ranch itself; and was even able to minister to strangers that had a broken-down vehicle at a convenient store where the group stopped for a rest break on the way home. I ask again: coincidence? I think not.

The chapter I read today from "The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment" was about discernment as a spiritual gift. As you would imagine, the focus was on discernment, but Challies also launched into a mini discussion of the variety of gifts given to the church. One thing I found helpful in this discussion of gifts was the point brought out that the spiritual gifts lists we have in Scripture are not intended to be an exhaustive list. The variety of spiritual gifts is as wide as the variety of people in the church. This variety of gifts is meant to build a stronger church, unifying it through diversity, and providing for the needs of the church. This was a new idea to me. Here are some other tidbits gleamed from this chapter that I found helpful:

Where God has given a gift, we can expect that he will also give passion. A good place to begin when considering spiritual gifts is to see where God has given desire and passion.

There is a danger in doing only those things that we are comfortable with or serving only in the ways we think we are most talented. Think of Moses, a frightened and timid man being called to lead a nation, or the apostle Paul with a thorn in his flesh being called to take the gospel to all the nations. God does not always gift us in ways we are comfortable with or in ways we might expect.

The Bible does not tell us that all spiritual gifts are given at the time of conversion or that, once given, they are given permanently. We may be surprised to find that our gifting changes along with the needs of our local church. We may find that God wishes us to emphasize different gifts now from those we emphasized in the past.

Many people would make a distinction between “gifts” and “abilities.” While I understand the argument there, I find it more helpful to think of spiritual gifts as God equipping us for a special task or ministry. This may be an ability (like speaking another language) that we have had since childhood and God leads us to where that ability is needed for ministry; or it can be a special endowment of an ability that is needed for a particular ministry or calling (like with Moses). If it makes more sense to you to differentiate gifts and abilities, then that’s fine. The point is to be good stewards of the gifts (and abilities) we’ve been given and to use them for God’s glory and the benefit of the church.


Renee said...

I enjoyed this post. I like to read Tim Challie's blog and I would love to read that book...adding it to my list.

Jennifer said...

Thanks, Renee. I finished the book yesterday and (obviously) I highly recommend it.

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