In their book How People Change, Tim Lane and Paul Tripp give us a wonderful insight into those in our churches who, as well meaning as they are, tend to point out weaknesses in the church. Granted, some may just enjoy finding weaknesses for weaknesses’ sake. But others may see weaknesses out of love for their church. This will help the pastors and leaders see their strengths.
The corporate nature of our growth in grace is highlighted in many places in Scripture. In Romans 12:1—8, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:7—16, and 1 Peter 4:10—11, Paul and Peter speak of the diversity of gifts. First Corinthians 12 is especially important, because Paul talks about the many different gifts while using the metaphor of the physical body. Each believer receives gifts from the Holy Spirit to be used “for the common good” (7). We are to live as unique and vital parts of Christ’s body, connected to serve, and be served by, the rest of the body (12, 14). No one part should think of itself as useless, especially when compared to more prominent or “glamorous” parts (15—27). Think about the gifts God has given you. How are they meant to serve other members of the body as they seek to honor Christ? What gifts do you need from others to help you do the same thing? When we don’t think about our gifts in this corporate way, the very gifts that are given to bless the community are used to divide it.
I remember a situation where a church was located near a trailer park. Over the years, the church had struggled to reach out to this community. In a congregational meeting, the pastor encouraged the congregation to make a new commitment to serve the people there. One person stood up and said that past efforts had failed because the church lacked organization. Another person said that the church had failed due to a lack of knowledge regarding the people’s practical needs. Still another said that the church lacked evangelistic zeal.
In each case, the person offering the criticism had the gifts to make the effort succeed! The person who saw a lack of organization had the gift of administration. The person who saw the lack of concern for practical needs had the gift of mercy. And the person who thought the church lacked evangelistic zeal had the gift of evangelism.
What should have been a very successful outreach was short-circuited because they had not been using their gifts, the very gifts that were needed most. Instead, they had lapsed into an unhealthy criticism of what others were not doing. About a month later, these three individuals got together and pooled their gifts of evangelism, mercy, and administration to spearhead a successful ministry to the residents of the trailer park.
The lesson is obvious: we are better when we are together. Without a combination of gifts expressing the grace of Christ, that very grace is shrouded in ineptitude and pride. Our gifts are for the common good, not self-aggrandizement. When we fail to see this, we find that our gifts actually create division within the body of Christ, instead of uniting us.
Are there places where your gifts are needed in the body of Christ? A better question is, Where are your gifts needed? One good way to determine your gifts is to ask yourself where you see weaknesses in the body. It is highly likely that you see these weaknesses because you are looking at the church through the lens of your gifts. Where you see weakness is probably the very place where God wants you to serve your brothers and sisters.
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