Limited views, limited use

Remember spiritual gifts inventories? I remember taking a few over the years…always scoring fairly high in areas like leadership but really low in areas like mercy and hospitality (anyone who knows me is not shocked by this). The goal of these assessments was to help people find their place in the church. Churches who were on their game would do their best to place people in volunteer positions based on their spiritual gift makeup. For years, I believed this was the best way to help people get involved in the local church. Recently, a question has emerged in my head: are spiritual gifts only to be used in the church?

I doubt any pastor or leader would ever say that spiritual gifts could not be used outside of the Church. But I do think it is at least secretly believed by many that our greatest use of spiritual gifts will only happen in the context of the local church. This secret belief has led to large churches with a massive amount of volunteers…which is a great thing. But I do not think it has moved the mission of the Church forward. Consequently, it has limited the use of people’s abilities to a few hours on Sunday and a secondary ministry, if it exists, at that local church. Eventually, we find ourselves busy in the building, but lacking the missional excitement that the Spirit gifted us for.

Obviously, my thinking is shifting on this subject. I am starting to reject the notion that people are given spiritual gifts so that they can volunteer in the local church. I am now gravitating towards an idea that we have been gifted by the Spirit to do good works so that we can BE the local church. I am starting to think that the best location for the use of these gifts is not within the church building, but out in the world…where everyone else is who needs to see our lights shine.

Imagine Tim Tebow limiting himself to being the coach of a local church’s junior high football team. Being a coach for kids is admirable and Tim will probably do that one day, but right now he is doing a great job of making Jesus famous on the football field. Or what if Truett Cathy spent the last 50 years running a local church’s meal ministry instead of leading Chik-fil-a? Meal ministry is a good thing and extremely helpful for those in our congregations who need the assistance. And it would not surprise me if Mr. Cathy delivered Chik-fil-a sandwiches to the doors of fellow church-members. But it would be preposterous to think that his leadership abilities and vision should somehow be contained to the four walls.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the local church and I so appreciate the smiling faces at the door, the singers in the choir, and the folks in the nursery. But honestly, we need smiling faces reflecting Jesus’ love at Walmart and in law offices. We need great singers with godly character in assisted living facilities and in the music industry. The world is desperate for more childcare workers and teachers who bring a sense of spiritual calling to their jobs. The local church can be the training ground for this kind of thing (and probably should be). But it cannot be the final stop for your spiritual gift. Otherwise, we will always be too busy to bring hope (the message of Jesus) to the world.

The most optimum time to use your spiritual gift might be on Monday morning at 9:30am.

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