Thursday, November 27, 2008

Practical Ecclesiology 4 - Gifts

Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
So says the Apostle Paul regarding spritual gifts. In our evangelical, american subculture we read this and we automatically assume this applies only to individuals. A spiritual gift is my gift, given to ME by the Holy Spirit. But what if the application of this idea is much much wider? In other words, when Paul says, " each one.." might he also be taken to mean each church? Cannot churches be gifted in the same way that a person might be?

I have been to way too many seminars and workshops that intended to help me determine what is my spiritual gift. As a rule, they have not been particularly helpful. But if I can borrow from them here, I will recall that they all agree that just because we have a particular gift, does not excuse us from practicing the other spiritual disciplines that are the specific domain of the gifted. For instance, just because I may not have a special gift for giving, I am not excused from dropping a check in the offering plate, or giving a dollar to the homeless guy who needs a meal. In the same way, do not churches -- who obviously have many people with a variety of gifts -- have a certain gift or emphasis? This does not excuse us from the other disciplines, but it recognizes that we have certain areas where God gives us special desires, talents, and abilities. 
One church may be all about reaping the harvest of evangelism. Another may stand strongly for justice in society. Another may be about teaching and training disciples, or donating time and money to the poor and needy. If this is true, then what does it say about how we should gauge and measure what we are doing? If this is true, then how should I feel if my church does not measure up to some other churches definition of what a church should do? If we are faithful to our gifts, but not to some other gift that is considered by some to be more important, what should I do with that?

1 comment:

Boethius said...

It is an interesting thought that a church community could have a gift of the Spirit. You have given me something to think about. Thank you.