Our recent preaching series has been all about how we worship together and how we use our gifts to encourage one another, glorify God and help each other to hear what God is saying. I wanted to round off with some thoughts about what can stop us using our gifts.
I dealt recently with good reasons for not using a gift for a period of time these include
– Needing to take time and space to hear God without distraction
– Allowing others the opportunity to develop and use their gifts
– That other, necessary and complementary gifts are not currently available within our church family
– The opportunity to learn to use other gifts for God’s service.
In those cases, it may be that we are not able to use one or two gifts but we should still be using some gifts.
Here I’m thinking more about what stops me from using my gifts at all or from using them consistently and effectively. This can arise because
– I don’t know what my gifts are. Maybe I’m not aware of an ability that the Holy Spirit has given to me or I don’t realise that this is in fact a gift to be shared with the church.
– I don’t think that my gift is up to much. I compare myself against others who I perceive as having a more important gift or being more gifted in that area. It is right for us to be humble but there can be a type of humility that disables us from service.
– I have been discouraged from using my gift by the put down comments and reactions of others. This may include harsh criticism of my failings or cynicism about those who willing take part.
This is why 1 Corinthians 12 sets gifts in the context of the body reminding us that we are all connected to each other and all the gifts God gives to the church are needed ad to be used. In fact one of the greatest killers to gifting is when we become disconnected from the body. If I’m not regularly gathering with God’s people or if I become emotionally disconnected simply attending but not participating, then I will not be able to see where and when I can share my gift nor will I learn to enjoy the gifts of others.
Church is meant to be family and there should be a sense of the family opening and sharing gifts together. We help each other discern and learn. That means we should be encouraging others when we see the potential gift. We should be giving constructive feedback -yes helping people to know their limitations and where they need to grow but also building them up when there’s a clear sign that God is using them.
We may also fail to use our gifts effectively when we don’t spend time learning, training and preparing. This is one of the reasons why I think a division between “spiritual” and “natural gifts” is unhelpful. The preacher needs to work hard at studying Scripture, learning to prepare sermons, practicing and getting feedback. This does not take away from the deeply spiritual nature of the work. They should not say “I am speaking prophetically and that’s a gift so I don’t need to prepare. I’ll just wait for the Holy Spirit to give me the words.” This is true for other gifts. Take time to work on them and grow in them. Seek out helpful feedback, learn from observing others, hone your skills so that when we meet together all will benefit.
Keep seeking to discover, develop and use your gifts. As we do this:
God will be glorified
The Church will be encouraged
We will hear God speak.