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Archive for the ‘Mentoring’ Category

Many Christians spend a good part of their early years wrestling with the question of their unique gifting. This is especially the case where the church has overemphasized the place of gifts more than the place of character and service. I remember sharing with a friend that I was thinking about Christian ministry back in college and the first thing they asked was what’s my gifting. According to them, Gospel ministry was for those who knew their specific ministry gifts.

But I think this question isn’t just important to those considering full-time Christian ministry but one that explains service in our local churches. You see if people wait to discover their specific gifts so they can serve then you are going to have a lot of people on the waiting list. Someone will argue I cannot teach so I can’t join children or youth ministry. Another will say I’m not good with people so I can’t do welcoming and hospitality. Or I’m not as good as the song leader so the music team isn’t for me.

This inward-looking question will in the end keep you away from service and you’ll not actually discover what you can do for the body of Christ. But here I want to suggest you avail yourself first and let your specific gift if you only have one be discovered later. Because the gift is from the Spirit and for his church then begin by rolling your sleeves to do anything that your hands find to do for the church family. I’ll give 3 reasons as we reflect on this.

Jesus is calling Disciples not Gifted Professionals
When Jesus called his first disciples he didn’t sit them through an interview process to know how good they would serve him. He called anyone who would come to him. Coming to follow him, being with him, and obeying his calling was more important than what they could do for him later, see Mark 3:14. It wasn’t until later that he would send them out in the great commission yet they did serve him by being there with him. They were with him from the beginning, they walked with him and served alongside him without titles. You can say they were his errand boys but who wouldn’t want to be Christ’s errand boy.

What I’m saying here is that the body of Christ needs people who are willing and ready to roll their sleeves and do the work. It needs those available to serve in any and every way not just those with specific gifting and experience. The church needs people to be available in what is called the ministry of presence and to fill in the gaps as they notice them. And it’s only when you are available and ready to serve that the church can then discover your specific gifts not when you sit and wait.

When I did my first apprenticeship I didn’t know what was my specific gift but that meant I was available for anything. I was given an admin job which I wouldn’t have availed myself for before but it was the best ministry I have ever done. That’s where I actually learned how to write as I prepared weekly briefs. Then I tried youth ministry which was at first scary and then it became something I cherish today. I went on to welcoming which I always thought wasn’t for me only to realize how strategic it is. In the end, I wasn’t concerned about my specific ministry gift but was looking for where there was a need. I realized if you are willing to serve then you can have all the gifts to choose from.

Service is the end of Gifting
We can all agree that if the most gifted pastor doesn’t use their gift to serve the body of Christ then it’s a useless gift. They may talk about how good they are with the microphone but that benefits no one. Jesus didn’t call his disciples to display their abilities but to roll their sleeves and work for his church. It’s not our unique abilities that matter but our preparedness to serve and to do it wholeheartedly. It’s actually as we give ourselves fully to whichever area of ministry that is available that we discover what we can do best for King Jesus.

I find people who label themselves with a particular gift early on close the door for service too early. They are content with being evangelists when they haven’t tried hospitality. They pride themselves on their preaching skills without ever discovering the beauty of children’s ministry. They walk around with empty titles when their local church needs them to be available and do whatever is needed. It’s good to clarify that I’m not against discovering our unique gifts early on but I think service is bigger than us and our specific gifts. Because the gift belongs to the church then our availability to serve God’s people is what matters not what we do specifically. In time we may realize a unique need and our ability and decide to concentrate on one or two areas of service but we should always be ready for whatever the master calls us to do.

The Kingdom is bigger than my Gifting
It’s not a surprise that there are countless ministries built around a specific person and their unique gifting. It’s actually very human to rally people behind what we believe and are good at. And it’s not always wrong or premeditated that it happens like that. But we need to be careful if our churches and ministries draw and produce people who are just like us. We may be the most charismatic preacher or the most organized administrator and the most welcoming guy but we must be ready to have and grow many who are unlike us and yet fit for the kingdom of God. Let them come and discover the endless opportunities there are to serve the Lord.

God’s church needs all kinds of servants for all kinds of ministry for the benefit of the whole body. I think it’s a tragedy if everyone in a team thinks and serves like everyone else. Worse if we only think there are only 5 ways or so one can serve the church family. In time this would bring competition and complacency if there are only a few areas that all can do. But the way God has constituted his church is that we find all kinds of people with all kinds of abilities and opportunities to serve in the kingdom of God. The better way to view the church isn’t checking everyone’s gift in order of priority but seeing everyone as a unique gift to the local church. I think if we all set aside titles and abilities we would realize just how much we are needed in the kingdom. We would see beyond us and the vast harvest all around us. We wouldn’t shy from service on account of specific gifting instead we would discover just how gifted we are as a church.

Conclusion
In this article, I have argued that being available is better than being gifted. Yes, I would rather you try to service and fail if anyone ever can fail at service instead of waiting to be good to serve. More than that I think we need to realize that Christian gifts are not qualifications for a CV but opportunities to serve. They are actually not your gift but they belong to the church. In the end, service is what matters not how well we score in a certain area of ministry.

Many people live and die without knowing their unique gifts yet toil so hard for Jesus. And when we come to him the words welcome good and faithful servants is what will matter, see Matthew 25:23. I believe that in heaven we’ll find people who were totally unknown and unappreciated in their diligent service yet are regarded highly by the one who knew their good works without a title. Friends, it’s better to be an errand boy for King Jesus than wait to be recognized by your gifting here on earth.

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return christ

What really struck me from the last few days of the ministry training course last week was the emphasis that came out on the future, eternity, our great Hope.

I’d never noticed what Fidel brought home so powerfully from 2 Tim. 4:1-2 that the number one reason to preach the word is the return of Christ. We are preaching in the last days a gospel of eternal life in view of the coming Day (cf. 2 Tim. 1:1, 10, 18; 2:10; 3:1; 4:8).

We found that the reason to put to death our ungodly desires (Col. 3:5) is because Christ, who is our life, is about to appear and we will be glorified with him (Col. 3:4).

Sammy reminded us from Job that the end comes at the end, and in the same session one of the apprentices very movingly shared how she had been through times when she desired to depart and be with Christ more than cling to this life. This in turn resonated very strongly with the account we read from John Paton’s autobiography:

At last the child literally longed to be away, not for rest, or freedom from pain — for of that he had very little — but, as he himself always put it, “to see Jesus.”

How badly do we need this powerful injection of eternity into our Christian lives and churches?

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Notes and resources:

Intro to Expository Preaching – Context

Christ-centred youth ministry

Being pro-active in mentoring

Preaching Christ from the Gospels (esp Matt)

How to manage email with filters and folders

2nd year programme:

The church as mission agency

Lessons from the life of John Paton

Doctrine of Salvation (2) – Predestination, Justification and the glory of God

Preaching from OT narratives

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