I was in the middle of a massive crowd at a sold out U2 concert the first time it hit me. The thousands of fans around me collectively stretched out their arms in a posture of worship. Our hearts swelled with emotion. As we sang and praised together, I realized the atmosphere in the amphitheatre felt similar to what I experience during worship on Sunday morning. I looked around at the faces of my fellow concert goers and realized with a gut punch that, in the words of Bono, “[We] still haven’t found what [we’re] looking for.”
Talent isn’t ultimately meant to sell t-shirts. The creative gifts God has placed inside of us were meant for so much more. After that moment, I couldn’t help but see the travesty of talent all around me—gifted thinkers, artists, musicians, writers, and craftsmen who have God-given gifts but, because of the fall, aren’t using them for his glory.
As someone who loves the church with every God-designed cell of my body and who knows that the harvest is ready and the workers are devastatingly few, I can’t help lament the gifts that have been lost to the causes of fame, wealth, and personal achievement. This grief hasn’t primarily motivated me to look at headline grabbers and judge how they use their gifts. Rather, it has led to a near obsession with making sure my own gifts aren’t wasted and to remind others to do the same. As we turn the page on a brand new year, I’m praying that obsession will be a spark that bursts into wildfire.
For the common good
In my role as a women’s ministry leader in my local church, I see the travesty of talent almost daily. The women I lead often don’t know what their gifts are or don’t feel like they’ve been given a permission slip to use them. And so the gifts of teaching, encouragement, hospitality, prayer, prophecy, exhortation . . . go unwrapped. These women aren’t necessarily using their gifts to bend the spotlight toward themselves. They’re simply not using them at all. The gifts meant to equip the Bride for her mission to seek and save the lost become like a forgotten present, left to collect dust under the Christmas tree. The phenomenon isn’t isolated to my church, and it isn’t isolated to women. God’s people have been given remarkable gifts, and far too often, we’ve buried them in the backyard. I feel the loss of it in my bones.
God’s Word is crystal clear: my gifts belong to you. Your gifts belong to me. As the culture increasingly focuses on the idea that our “calling” is to use our talents and abilities to create our own brand, God’s Word speaks a different truth.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness (Rom. 12:4-8, emphasis added).
Paul gives us two essential tenets of our theology of gifts in this passage. They’re so simple, we might be tempted to rush past them. As we plan and pray about the year ahead, let’s slow down and listen carefully: We have gifts. We should use them!
We don’t have to wait for the perfect opportunity or to be asked to serve by a member of the pastoral team. As I’ve considered my own role in the body, I’ve started to consistently ask this question: “What gifts do I possess uniquely that the church needs desperately?” As you make prayerful resolutions for 2018, I’d like to invite you to ask the same question and then get busy doing the things that you do best for the good of God’s people.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul gave advice we should all hear with urgency, “Do not neglect the gifts you have” (1 Tim. 4:14). We belong to each other. Paul acknowledged that we are all different in our function but united in our purpose to serve Christ and reminded us that we are “individually members of one another.” This was a drum that Paul beat often.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:4-7).
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13).
Peter said it this way: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Pet. 4:10-11).
Your gifts belong to me. My gifts belong to you. We lend our time and talents for the health of the body we are all attached to through Christ. Rather than using my gifts to primarily serve my own needs and pad my personal pet projects, I surrender them for the good of others. It’s a distribution of wealth that works because we’re building something supernatural together.
Treasuring all gifts
As we consider our theology of gifts, it’s worth noting that God has given us “spiritual gifts” but not all of them seem super spiritual. Just ask Bezalel.
The Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you’ (Exo. 31:1-6).
Bezalel wasn’t a pastor. He wasn’t a prophet. He was a craftsman. He worked with his hands, but instead of using his gifts to build a palace for himself, he used them to create a tabernacle so that God’s people had a house for worship. This is a picture of gifts in the body. There aren’t blue collar and white collar gifts here. Just essential gifts to be used to build the church, equip and encourage the saints, and give God glory.
I’m convinced the best of the best in every area of thought, art, industry, and creativity are sitting beside me in the pews on Sunday morning. The travesty happens when those gifts remain unopened, and God’s people have to go without. What are we waiting for, church? Let’s get busy doing the things that we are uniquely gifted to do. Let’s not sacrifice another gift to culture or stand by and let some remain unwrapped. As each of us has gifts (and we do!) let us use them to serve each other.