Ephesians 4:7-11 affirms each believer receives a gift for the purpose of building the church. I do not believe every gift is mentioned in Ephesians 4 but do believe every believer is gifted for the purpose of helping the church mature. All believers have a gift. (We can discuss what gifts are still in effect later, but for now, let’s assume at some level each of us have a gift: teaching, serving, evangelism . . . ). We use our gifts because we love Jesus and for the church.
In my last post I defined a servant as someone who habitually serves and loves other people. All believers are called to be a part of the church through relationships with others. Others is defined by other people IN THE CHURCH, not just family. You cannot say you live out the “one another’s” only on your spouse! Your family needs to be others driven.
This naturally raises the question, what about a person’s gift? What about the guy who says the Lord gifted him in such a way to serve the church and it requires no personal interaction? What about Bill, or is it Bob–later we discover it’s Vernon who shows up every week and sits in the same spot? He comes in, sings, nods his head in agreement, and gives a lot of money to the church, but no one knows him. Is he serving the church?
The Lord uses people like “Vernon” and blesses the ministry financially. But I have a hard time saying either one is a servant. Your spiritual gift is not an excuse to avoid relationships! Being a part of the church is simple conceptually: have and maintain relationships! Doing it is difficult because it means being exposed. You become exposed to others like they become exposed to you. Then we see the dirty, human side of people. But this is where we need to be. We need to be in a position to love and serve others while fully being aware of their dirty sinful hearts. As we learn to love and serve, despite others sinfulness, we learn what it means to be Christlike.
Every day Jesus served and loved others with full awareness of their sinfulness. He loved a traitor, two men were ready to rain fire and judgment down and kill people (Sons of Thunder), and the prideful Peter. Then He died for us! He died for us who deserve our penalty (death) so that we don’t have the penalty. But our relationship isn’t over! He serves as our High Priest, daily, hourly, moment by moment lavishing us with grace, coming to our aid, and interceding on our behalf!
So we too must serve! We must learn to develop and sustain relationships with othes regardless of our giftedness. Could you imagine a pastor who knows no one in the church and his excuse, “I am only gifted to teach”? We think it crazy! This is a “both/and” issue. You are called to exercise your gift AND be involved in other people (beyond your spouse and kids) lives!
The concept is simple. Doing it can be hard at times and rewarding too. But we do it because we love Jesus!!
Mike Mcmurray said:
I love your dedication to the readily available teachable parts of the flock. Have you considered the other parts of the flock though? What about a deeper look at Vernon? It takes alot for a man of this world to separate himself from his money… Maybe there is more to Vernon after all. Maybe Vernon is unmoved or unreached? Or perhaps Vernon has missed the narrow gate? As he travels the broad road he thinks to himself there must be more to this than Sunday services, believing he is missing what was implied about the difficulty in traveling along the narrow path.
As a shepherd, even more concerning to me is the outwardly committed souls in the local body. Observation tells me there plenty of Carls, possibly even more than there are Vernons. Carl never misses an event, fist to arrive, last to leave, serves on every committee, and “knows” everyone. On the surface it appears that Carl has it together, maybe Carl should lead a discipleship group, or start an accountability group…. We need to put his gifts to work. However through carful unbiased and prayerful observation, we can notice there is something missing. Carl is serving…. But as Carl’s tank begins to empty it is easier to see why he serves. Is Carl committed to serving and sharing the same love that has been given to him through Grace? Or is he complelled, is he trying to earn what his wages can never pay?
In a fallen world there are going to be those who are lost in the fold. The lost among the fold are easy to pick out when they are the source of conflict and frustration, but far less so when they are trying to earn what has been freely given. Evangelism has its roles within the walls of the church as well as the ends of the earth… Jesus mentioned Jeruselam first. In it’s original context of course he was speaking of the birth of the early church. But ther are subsurface implications as well.
Shawn mentioned the distant and the apathetic… Perhaps Vernon is in fellowship with God but falls into one of these two categories, but maybe he is lost. I think it is the role of the shepherd to press him as well as Carl, to know the flock well enough to find out, to go beyond the Sunday morning hand shake! Maybe they just need simple encouragement but maybe more. If so there is no such thing as wasted time when it involves eternal fellowship with God. Each Vernon and every Carl are just as important as the multitudes that the local church is set up as a platform to save.
I enjoyed reading your post, as always your dedication to shepherding is both inspiring and encouraging. I just wanted to add some food for thought.
Thanks Mike! I appreciate your insight and definitely think you observe a group of people in our churches!!! I think these are the tensions that keep us up at night on our knees praying to the Lord for both wisdom and discernment and His Spirit to move. You reminded me tonight to never lose hope, but keep persevering with others regardless of his or her Faithful, available, teachable hearts! Thanks brother for the well-timed reminder 🙂
Sorry for the delay, SC wrapped up for me on Friday! I think our goal is to equip them all but mainly focus on the faithful and teachable. By faithful I mean habitually committed to the people. Not just someone who shows up, sits, and leaves. I’m referencing the person who shows up and wants to be involved because he or she loves the people and is committed, they’re available and ready! This person is also teachable and therefore easier to mold and equip!
I believe we have to have hope for all three groups and continue to encourage them. But I’m going to spend my time focusing on the FAT (faithful, available, teachable) group. If any person from your group 2) or 3) are teachable then you teach them how they should be involved. It’s amazing how often I find they’re not teachable though.
The man you’re talking about is really describing himself. It’s possible NO ONE really loves others, or it’s possible he doesn’t think they love like he thinks they should love. What is his definition of love? Or is it that others don’t love him they way he thinks they should love him. No matter what, his perspective (and mine too) should be, “I am called to love these people like Jesus loves! How often do we hear people indict others for no love when our focus should be on my love. This man is disciplining others and he says there is no love? That’s a problem. Isn’t he teaching guys how to love?
I’m still not sure about determining gidftedness, but I know it when I see it. I keep my eyes on people to try and find their strengths. If i see passion behind his/ her strength then i assume that is his/her gift. But I also assume he/she could have multiple gifts!