Marginalizing Spiritual Gifts – #Write31Days

MBA

We’ve been taught that good things come in small packages.   If your husband presents you with a small box on your birthday, instinctively you know that it contains a piece of jewelry.   We’ve learned that often the big boxes hold things like new bed sheets or a set of pots and pans.  Or, your favorite candy bar that has been repackaged into umpteen dozen boxes because someone believes he has a sense of humor.  Nonetheless, it is a conditioning that tells us that we can’t assume how good the gift is based on the size of the box.  A gift that looks professionally wrapped may contain your one hundredth neck tie.  The one still packaged in the shopping bag with the store logo on it, could be exactly what you’ve been wanting.

This is also how I see our spiritual gifts.  You can’t necessarily look at a person and determine what their spiritual gift is, or where they are destined to use it within the context of the church.

A man who looks raggedly dressed may actually have a gift of stewardship.  I think of a man who dressed modestly, people assumed he was poor, but upon his death it turned out he had several million dollars that were donated to organizations close to his heart.

The stoic looking man, who sits in the back of the church, may not say much.  Yet, when he prays the words are like a sweet offering to the Lord.  Full of sincerity and compassion, and a love of the Lord.  My Father in Law was like this.  He had a sense of humor, don’t get me wrong… but sometimes, he could be incredibly hard to have a conversation with.   Yet, when he would pray… he would weep through most of it.

That woman in the long flowing dress, you may not realize it but she has a degree in advertising design.  She is responsible for all of the materials the church mails out to the community, the signage in the church, etc.  She joyfully works on her off days on church campaigns.

As you walk down the hallways of your church building, beautiful paintings fill up the what would otherwise be blank walls.  There is an eighty year old woman, who has painted her entire life.  She blesses the church with her talent.

You just never know what the spiritual gifts are that lie under the surface of the people we see before us.  Yet, quite often… when it comes to areas of service like finances, construction, pastor searches, technology, et’al our church leaders look to the men in the body.   When they need more volunteers in the nursery, Sunday School teachers, meal ministry, holiday decorators, greeters, and VBS volunteers… they look to the women.  We have allowed ourselves to marginalize spiritual gifts by gender.  We assume based on what the package looks like, what type of gift is inside.

A friend of mine shared a scenario where a group of men and women from her church were invited to a dinner to kick off that years ministry work.  When they arrived they found the tables themed to different areas of services.  Name cards were placed at each table.  Someone in the leadership of the church had assigned all of these individuals to a ministry job in the church, without even discussing it with their volunteers.

This leader felt they could discern the individuals gifts and assign them tasks based on that discernment.  No spiritual gifts tests were administered.  No conversations happened between the leader and these various people to determine what gifts or interests they had for serving.  Even still, the people were just assigned the task without even being given an opportunity to say yes or no to the position.

When we make these assumptions we are really marginalizing the spiritual gifts based on our human perception or need.  We are too focused on filling holes in our volunteer needs than we are looking at the individual person’s gift and figuring out how to connect them to serving in the church.

Another way we can marginalize the gifts is when we allow ourselves to become hyper focused on our ministry goal.  It is almost as if we put on blinders and the only way we can see that goal being achieved is through the methods we are comfortable with, what fits in our box.  We can’t think outside of that box and any ideas that differ are cast aside.  We may even get defensive and think that anything outside of that box will take away from our vision or goal.  It too is cast aside.

If we are a body, made up of many parts, and each part having a job or purpose…

If we are all one in Christ, not Jew or Gentile, master or slave, man or woman…

If we all receive different gifts to be used for different purposes…

Then why do we hear of statistics that suggest that 80-90% of church needs are met by 10-15% of the body?  Why are more people not serving?  Why do we not have 100% of the needs being met by 100% of the body?

Because we are failing somewhere.

We are failing to recognize that spiritual gifts are not based on our genders.  We fail to see our men as capable nursery workers and children’s teachers.  We fail to see our women as capable administrative leaders, teachers, and staff members.  We fail to see past the specifics of our own vision to value the gifts and vision of others who are serving along with us.  It is almost as if we think the Lord is only capable of doing ONE thing, in ONE way, within our church or ministry walls.  As if multiple ministries can’t coexist and support each other.  We put all of our eggs into one basket.

We fail to put effort into connect with each of our members, helping them figure out what their spiritual gift is, and develop those gifts. We fail to give them a place to serve with their gift in our body or ministry.  Then, we wonder why our gifted people leave our church or move to another ministry to serve.

When we marginalize the people in our church, we are taking control of something instead of surrendering it to the Lord.

Sometimes we need the reminder that just because a ministry isn’t something we understand… or something that we personally need; doesn’t mean it is not valuable.

Sometimes we need the reminder that just because a person doesn’t show up in the exact package we expect… or doesn’t fit our defined roles; doesn’t mean they don’t have value to add.

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The Theatre Runs Deep- #Write31Days

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Be still my heart.

I do love to review books, and nine of ten times I pick Christian non-fiction, bible studies, et’al.  When I saw this book on the list of prospective titles… I squealed a bit.

While I did just complete my Bachelors in Divinity, my original degree many years ago was in Theatre Arts.  I’m a theatre nerd, geek… whatever you call us in your neck of the woods.  I once went to London for two weeks.  I saw 21 productions.  One afternoon I bought a last minute ticket to “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged.”  When the show was over, they mentioned another production… “The Complete History of the United States”.    As I walked out of the theatre, got back in cue, and went right back in to catch it.

I’ve been cast in more Shakespeare (and parody) shows than I can count.

So… yes, this book had my name written all over it.   Turns out it isn’t a typical book, but rather a collection of quotes from Shakespeare and the scripture that it references.  Which is great, because it makes a great coffee table/conversation book.  Also, it would be a great gift to someone heading off to college or who just graduated with a theatre degree (be kind, and slip a $50 bill in there too).

It’s a fun book, and I was surprised how much scriptural references I have missed over the years.

Because, It IS Important – #Write31Days

 

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I requested a copy of The Gospel for Life Series:  The Gospel & Racial Reconciliation for review on this blog, from B&H Publishing Group.  I requested it, because this is an important issue.  In the New Year, the Women’s Ministry Council will be discussing this issue in regards to how we build up diversity and unity within our local Women’s Ministries.  I requested this book to help us prepare for this important conversation.

In 2016, the topic of race has been a hot button topic.   Deep generational woulds have been festering as the bandaids put in place are no longer working.  We are faced with truths that things are not that much better, at least not as much as we have convinced ourselves they had gotten.

I’ve listened to men and women recount their stories.  My eyes are opened to realize that something I perceived as a small percentage problem is much greater than that.  I’ve also witnessed people, who I have great respect and love for, say things that shocked me and made me question how well I know the hearts of those I include in my circle of friends.

When put on the spot, it is very interesting how our hearts will often be betrayed by our mouths.  We will say things that reveal who we are on a deeper level.  We also seem to allow a few bad apples to spoil the bunch, and use that excuse to dismiss that there is a real problem.  We accuse the media of creating something, I would challenge the media is simply exposing the festering wound that has been there all along.

As Christians, if we believe that we are all made in the image of God… if we believe the scriptures that in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, man or women, servant or master but that we are all ONE… then how can we turn a blind eye to racial injustice in our world?  How can we not demand better for our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Lord take these scales from our eyes!  Let us see, truly see, what is happening and compel us to action!

In the book, The Gospel Life Series: The Gospel & Racial Reconciliation, the editors and contributing authors, begin at the beginning.

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The truth is beautiful.  Man and woman created in God’s image.  Not some men, or some women.  All of us.  Crafted in the likeness of our God.  Then man fell and we were distorted, but through Christ the old self died and we were a new creation.  A new creation in God, in His image.  All of us, regardless of the country we come from… the tint to our skin… the sound of our voice… the language we speak… the texture of our hair… the traditions of our culture… the food we eat… etc.   One people, united in the family of God. Sons and daughter of the Most High.

These first chapters explore the biblical truths of who we are, what we were created for, how ethnic and cultural differences were viewed in the scriptures, and how Christ would have us respond.  The latter chapters walk us through our personal response, in how we live out our lives, as well as how the church should respond.  Chapter 5 caps us off by looking at our modern culture and how racism exists today and what we can do about it.

This book is an excellent read, at five chapters it is one you could get through on a weekend.  I would challenge you to pray as you read through this book that the Lord would open your eyes, convict your heart if needed, and guide you to reconciliation when needed.  However, I would also challenge you to share this with your Pastors and ministry leaders.  As the church needs to be willing to stand up, united, to bring it’s family back together.

#Write31Days – Post 11 – Waiting on the Lord

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A little bit of truth here, I am NOT the world’s most patient person.  I really hate to wait for anything.  It’s not from a space of instant gratification either, it is actually everything else.  I don’t like to wait because I feel like time is being wasted.  There are other things I could be doing in that time, that are important and need to be accomplished.  Or,  on the other side of the coin, I don’t want to waste another minute not doing the thing I have been called to do.

When my daughter went to the DMV to get her learners permit, it was tortuous.  I couldn’t help but think of the hundreds of things I could be doing instead of sitting.  Just sitting.  Her number gets called, but it is just to prepare her paperwork.  Then we have to sit again.  Then she takes the written exam, and we have to sit again.  She is then called back up for the eye exam, to answer a few questions for her license and take her photo.  We sit again, waiting for the license to be printed.

SO. MUCH. WAITING.

There have been times that I could see where God was moving me, long before I actually got there.  Waiting would be so hard, because I knew that we were just wasting time.  If I could get there NOW, so much more could be accomplished.

GOD SAYS WAIT.

But, waiting is hard.  Ask any three year old who is waiting on mom to get off the phone and fix the thing that she broke for the hundredth time that day.

WAITING IS HARD.

Our world of increased technology has created in us a spirit that we shouldn’t have to wait, not for long anyway.  We have information available to us at the touch of a button.  An oil change on our car can be done during our lunch break.  Meals are ready and waiting at drive through windows.  We do not have to suffer through life due to infertility we can adopt, we can have medical interventions, and surrogate mothers.  Anything we need, we can just go right out and buy.  We no longer have to wait for things to be constructed or manufactured.  Thanks to flight, I can leave my home and go anywhere in the world in a day’s time.

All of this progress has made waiting all that much harder.

But the Lord, He waits.  Bible account, after Bible account…. He waits.

He waits long enough for Noah to build an Ark.  Israel wanders the desert for forty years while He prepares a place. He waits for Lot to flee. Nehemiah waits four months while God makes provisions for the task ahead.  Even after Christ is crucified, the Lord waited three days for him to rise.

We have all heard and said the cliched response of “In the Lord’s timing….”.  We know the scriptures say that His ways are not our ways.  So we know in our minds that His timing is not our timing…. but the flesh doesn’t like that answer.  Waiting is hard.

This is where we begin to make our biggest mistakes.

As a wife, I may have come to a decision about something I feel God is calling us to.  My husband doesn’t agree.  I rush him to a decision in my favor by manipulating him, as I walk through the home depressed and crying.  I withhold affection from him, yell and demean him, make him feel guilty.

As a ministry worker, I see the direction that God is leading our ministry.  However the things we need to get there are slow in coming.  I take it upon myself to make things move faster.  I work in my own strength and ability.

I feel called to move to another state, but I don’t know the rhyme or reason, I sell everything and pack the family up, and we move.  I have no clue why, or what for.  I am following blindly.

The thing we have to understand is that when it is something God has willed for us, we must be patient and allow him to unfold it in HIS timing, not our own.

When we rush God, we will often shortchange our blessing.   God had a bigger picture in store, but because we were foolish and couldn’t wait… we get something smaller.  The reason this happens is that we are incapable of seeing or knowing all of the things that God is moving around in the background.

In every piece of scripture God’s people waited because God was doing something.  God was giving Noah the time he needed to construct the Ark.  God was PREPARING a place for Israel to call home.  God was PROVIDING the necessities Nehemiah would need for his task.  God was CHANGING the hearts of men.  God was PROTECTING his children.

God goes before us, and he comes behind.

As we sit and wait, we feel like God is doing nothing… but in reality GOD IS DOING EVERYTHING.  Everything that is necessary to get your from point A to point B.  He isn’t being still, ignoring your prayers, nor has he forgotten the calling He put on your heart.  He is making the arrangements for it to happen.  He will move people into place that you will need to learn from or will assist you.  He is making sure the financial provisions are met, or the supplies are provided.  If you are to fill a vacancy, he must first make it vacant and move that person to their new calling.

The good news is that waiting on the Lord is never a waste of time.  There are many things we can be doing, actively, while we wait.  I look at “waiting on the Lord” in the same way as a waitress will serve a customer.  A good waitress (servant) doesn’t just seat her patron (God) and never return to the table.  NO!  She welcomes the patron to her table (life).  She may compliment (praise) him.  She will offer to get a drink while he is making his decision (service, offering).  She will take his order (receive his calling).  She will check in with him to ensure everything is to his liking (prayer life).  She will present His bill & He will pay that price (Christ).  She invites him to come back (willing to continue to serve).

In the time that it takes a customer to place an order the waitress is never WAITING, just wasting time sitting around.  In fact, while He is considering the menu… what is she doing?  Rushing around and serving other people.  No time is wasted.  Her waiting is not passive, but very VERY active.

When God told Noah that He was going to flood the earth, Noah was given the time to construct the Ark. Noah was actively working while God was preparing.  When Moses wandered the desert with Israel, Moses  was actively ordering the nation’s laws, societal structure, and people.   When God called Nehemiah to return to rebuild Jerusalem, there were four months between when God planted the seed and when God called Nehemiah to move.  In the four months, Nehemiah was praying while God was putting things into order.

These men were not sitting under a tree, like lumps, waiting for God to deliver them to their calling on a silver platter.  NO.  They were working, they were building, they were shaping, they were serving and they were praying.

If you are waiting on God,  it is time to get to action.  This doesn’t mean moving mountains to make Him move faster in your desires.  It means that while you are waiting on God to answer your prayers or his provision… you are:

Serving God in the ministries of your church or in your community.

Serving God’s people through hospitality, generosity, use of your gifts and talents.

Praying, faithfully, every day.  Not just for yourself, but for others.

Praise God as you reflect and share with others how He has moved in your life in the past.

Pray for discernment that God will direct your paths for today, and you will not worry about the days to come.