Last Sunday I preached about the role of leaders in the church and I focused on Ephesians 4:11 which says:
“ Now, these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.”
We saw that
1. When we think about gifts, we should primarily be thinking in terms of us being given to the church rather than about the individual gifts we receive and how we can personally be fulfilled in them
2. That the focus for leaders is on their responsibilities not their privileges meaning leaders are not to lord it over the church
3. That leaders are there to equip the church not as subcontractors to do the work for the church.
I want to flesh out the first point a little more because I think it is so important to church life. As I suggested above, we tend to fall into the trap of focusing on the gifts we receive from the Holy Spirit such as the gift of preaching. I, then want to know how I can use my gift so that I feel spiritually fulfilled. If I don’t get to use my gift then I feel disgruntled, not valued and want to move on to somewhere that I can use it.
However, the perspective here is very different. I am not the recipient of the gift, I am the gift and the church is the recipient. I would suggest that this applies not just to leaders but to each of us. We are all given in some way to the church.
This means that I am given as I am, with all that comes with that, the stage I am at in sanctification, my personality, knowledge, gifts, age, family context, work etc all are part and parcel of the gift.
This means that my question is no longer “How can I get this or that gift” or “How can I get to use my gift” but “How can I be the best possible gift I can to the local church?” This was the point Mike Ovey made when he argued that we needed to put time, effort and resources into theological training but it applies more widely.
Am I the type of gift that is genuinely useful to the church, or the one that the church feels compelled to use because after all “this was given to us?” Am I one of those gifts that looks great at first but in fact, ends up costing the church in other ways. This does link into the question of financial support. I believe that it is right and Biblical for churches to seek to pay Gospel workers but that should arise naturally because of the other “gifts” present in the church including those who are able to bring their financial resources to the table. However, we also see the example of Paul who determines not to be a burden to the church.
But it works the other way too. The church has a responsibility to those gifts as well. Do we treasure them and look after them. Do we nurture them? Are we quickly attracted to the novel and exciting gifts for a time and then do we get bored with them? You see, when I’m thinking about whether ro not gifts are being used in the church, I’m not merely thinking about whether people get to do what they enjoy or are good at for their fulfilment. Rather, I’m recognising that God has given gifts to the church because he knows what we need. So, if a gift has been given, we do well to make use of it.