We often think of our spiritual gifting on an individual level—what is my spiritual gifting? But what if we take it to another level—how can our spiritual gifting be used to create community? It seems in scripture that God has a bigger plan than just individual gifting; our gifts are to work together as the Body of Christ.
Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 all describe this. In The Message an excerpt from Romans 12 goes like this…“So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t. If you preach, just preach God’s message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.”
Spiritual gifts are just that, gifts from the Spirit to each of us. God has chosen a gift to give you but he has chosen a gift for the person next to you as well. It is God’s design to partner with us and that we partner with those around us, becoming a fully functioning body. Each of us comes as we are with our gifting; each of us an important part of the larger picture that God intends for us to be as a group.
When we come together as a group we may not know what gifts others around us have. It is important to do the hard work of figuring this out, as each group of people will look and interact differently from another. Discovering and understanding our individual spiritual gifts is a wonderful way to better understand how God speaks to us and through us. Learning the gifts of those around us helps us build community with one another. As we understand each other’s gifting we better understand how to listen to one another, why tension may develop between certain individuals, and how to address it. As we learn how our gifts can complement one another, we can then do ministry together more easily and more successfully.
So, what does this look like? What about the person gifted as a prophet who blurts out her message from God and unintentionally hurts people? The prophet becomes wounded in the backlash and withdraws to never bring another word from God. Wouldn’t it look better if that prophet laid the message out before the group, another individual using his gifting helped clarify and interpret it, and the group moved together in God’s direction?
Or how about the group that is very excited about a new project and someone stops the momentum by bringing up why it won’t work? Maybe, that person is a detail person but gets labeled as a nitpicker. Instead, with an understanding and appreciation for one another’s gifting, together they could sort through the small details and address concerns, bringing everyone to the same level so that the big picture can be accomplished.
Or what about the kind, well-meaning individual who takes on the clerk position because no one else will do it but actually has no discernment gifting? He gets beat up and run over, the meeting cannot move forward, and people go off on rabbit trails doing their own thing. Instead, we should strive to place people in ministry positions where their own gifting can shine, individual confidence grows, and the group becomes healthier.
In other words, when we are working together in community with an awareness of each person’s spiritual gifting, we learn to trust one another and the way God speaks to each of us individually and as a group. We learn how to present our gifts and how to accept others’ gifts with gentleness and grace. With spiritual gifting as a focus, people are placed in positions where their giftedness thrives; we move together and become the group of people that God intended and desires for us to be. We will make mistakes along the way but we accept this as part of the process and offer grace where needed. If we don’t take the steps of finding our own giftedness and that of those around us, we will never know the plans that God has for us. When we use our spiritual gifts together, we can become a witness to those around us that God can take a group of people and make something out of them that no one else can. We become a true community of God.