Spiritual Gifts: Diversity and Unity
Working on group projects normally stink. College has taught me that. How do you get everyone to work together and do their part, or at least show up at the same time to meet? It can be almost impossible. It’s normally those one or two really type A person that does all the work and the other people just get by. But, if you think about it, the church of God has a group project: advancing the kingdom of God. But, the church is made up of a diverse group of people who don’t always show up or even want to work together. How should we work together so that each person contributes and those really type A people (the church staff) don’t all the work?
I argue that this starts with realizing that all Christians are called to ministering to the body through their spiritual gifts. Let me explain.
First, let’s get a clear understanding of what spiritual gifts are. Dr. Benny Aker, a professor of New Testament Exegesis says, “The gifts of the Spirit should more appropriately be thought of as ministries that flow out of one’s being part of the temple of God. This happens at salvation when one receives the regeneration of the Spirit”. The gifts of the spirit that are discussed in the Bible are not primarily special empowerments (although God could grant those, as he wills) but areas you have been given to serve. And so there is clear distinction between what a person is simply talented, and a role that someone is called to fill by God.
Aker goes on to state, “‘Ministry’ is not some far off mystical thing performed by some super spiritual person in a certain state of mind out of the flesh. The whole person, including the human expression in the body, is the dwelling place of God and the vessel of service.” Thus, this ministry available to each person instead of being reserved for the super saintly people. 1 Co 12:7 also says, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good”. Nobody is without a role, even though a person may feel that they don’t have a definitive ‘talent’.
The fact that God can and does use us in many different capacities doesn’t mean that our talents and abilities are meaningless. Instead, the beauty of diversity is that our differences unite us: unite us because where I am weak in a certain talent, my fellow member is strong. Where I am strong, my fellow member may be weak. That’s the beauty of it. We can help support each other. And, as we are a body we support each other in success and failure. As 1 Corinthians 12:26 says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together”.
And our mutual calling and diversity called us turn our focus to serving other people. John Piper says, “…The problem of not knowing our spiritual gifts is not a basic problem. More basic is the problem of not desiring very much to strengthen other people’s faith”. Ouch. Then, it is clear that our purpose as parts of the body of Christ are not so much to find where we can shine, but to find where we can serve.
It is especially tempting to think one’s spiritual gifts are all about you at college. At this point, most of us college students live in the dorms, have few expenses, are focused preparing for a career, and are trying to figure out who we are. There’s a lot of pressure put upon being at college to “get the most out of the experience”. But, perhaps God is calling us to serve even when it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable?
We are given the job to bring God’s will to earth. Maybe then, God could use us in places that are not natural to us? Places where we feel like we are not as useful as we should be? Places where the gifts we circled on our spiritual gifts sheet don’t line up? I think the answer is yes. We can serve with our talents, but not limit God by our talents. This doesn’t mean that we should just go out and pick something we are horrible at to serve God with; but we should not put God in a box of “what I am good at”. Who knows: maybe God will develop different talents in us than the ones we think we have?
Through we are diverse, we all have a part to play in the church. But, because we all are called to serve, does not mean we can be prideful about what places of service we have been given. 1 Corinthians 4:7 asks “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (ESV). We must be thankful: for the roles and talents God has given us is not based on our own goodness, but upon His grace. So, how are you going to be used in this grand body of Christ?