Looking for a way to gain a bearing for continued personal growth, for you, for your church or ministry. Check out Steve Moore’s Personal Growth Inventory/Assessment, which is free here. Steve is also the president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies.
Here is a helpful interview that effectively summarizes the high points of Rodney Stark’s book, The Rise of Christianity. Stark is agnostic and a darn good socio-historian. The article will be worth your time.
There is no doubt, the spirit-uality of the spiritual gifts God gives to his people has been clipped of its power by the Church. As most churches would have it, you take a test to pinpoint your gifts of mercy, wisdom, knowledge, service, evangelism, prophecy, tongues, hope, faith, love, etc. Certainly, the apostle Paul advocates gift knowledge: “now concerning spiritual gifts brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant,” (1 Cor 12.1) but his solution to ignorance was not multiple choice tests. Instead, he taught, wrote, and modelled the unifying power of spiritual gifts diversely expressed.
We have to wonder with all our so-called spiritual gift knowledge, why the American church and culture is in such gross decline. Perhaps one reason is that test-driven methods of resolving gift ignorance are not sufficient? Perhaps finding a “ministry” in which to serve, once we have identified our gift(s), is too impersonal and, as a result, often unspiritual? Perhaps our individual gifts become opportunities for individualistic religiousity. If we are in a big church, we get to choose from the ministry electives how we will serve and how often. We end up ticking off the active religion box, instead of engaging people and their problems on a personal level.
By programming spiritual gift discovery and expression, are we missing the point? It seems that people who deliberately use their spiritual gifts to strength one another spiritually, socially, and emotionally can be a significant force of cultural change. Where is that vibrancy where people live out mercy in a capitalistic, pay for what you get culture? Where are the Christian landlords that lower rent, not raise it, for struggling families? Where are the middle class Christians in lower class loss of daily needs? In 2006, the burgeoning city of Austin had to turn away 100 children from shelters, shut-down electricity for 500 homes, address 4,000 homeless, 40% of which are families with children. These numbers are only greater in most cities. Where is the mercy, knowledge, wisdom, prophecy, and love in the handsomely gifted church?
The unifying power of spiritual gifts expressed diversely in the church and culture is at a low hum. Dynamic expressions of the Spirit of God seem to have left our shores for the southern continents in places like Latin America and Africa, where conversions and declining social corruption go hand in hand. Where does the power of transformation, spiritual and social, come from?
“…there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit…varities of ministries and the same Lord…varities of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons…for the common good.” 1 Cor 12.4-7
Paul’s focus was not on identifying the gifts, ministries, or in comparing their potency but in knowing the source of their unifying power-the triune God. We have drifted from delighting in the transformative community of the Godhead to delineating our gifts, finding our ministries, and checking off our spiritual gift boxes. For those who thrive in gift knowledge and expression, the temptation is to compare effectivity of gifts expressed instead of delightfully acknowledging that it is God who works all things in all persons.
And what of the common good? Paul moves quickly from addressing the unifying power of gifts diversely expressed in a delightful knowledge of the triune God to the greatest gift of all–love (1 Cor 13). Love for one another in the church, love foremost for God in Christ through the Spirit, love that results in order not confusion (1 Cor 1), love borne of the gospel of Christ that renovates spirit and body and calls the church to work, “being steadfast immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 C0r 15). Love that results in financial generousity, courageous faith, and deep fellowship: “let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor 16.14). Where is the love?