Over the last 20 years, spiritual gifts inventories abound. I cannot help but wonder what drives the desire to want to know our gifts. Hopefully it is a desire to serve out of our strengths. On the slightly darker side is an obsession with the self and our desire to feel uniquely gifted. Oddly enough, gifts inventories do the opposite – the tell you which group you probably fit into best rather than what makes you unique!
I had always struggled to know what to do with Paul’s gifts lists in Ephesians, 1 Corinthians, and in Romans because I was a cessationist – the belief that the Holy Spirit had stopped working. I also believed that there were no more apostles because that was a first century thing that didn’t continue. Reading Ephesians 4 was rough because I really didn’t see how what Paul had to say had any bearing on people of faith in our day. But I believe I was wrong.
Instead, I believe we need to revisit Ephesians 4 with an open mind and see how God has organized his people for maximum effectiveness for kingdom growth and the expansion of the kingdom.
Here is our text,
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” – Eph 4:11-16
Apostles – These are literally the “sent ones” and again, every church needs apostles. They are out front, leading the way into God’s calling of His people.
Prophets – people who discern God’s leading and share it with others. These aren’t future tellers. These are spiritually discerning people. They know how to listen for God and follow God’s lead. Every church needs people with this gift. God did not leave us alone…yes he left us with the Bible and that is a huge part of listening to God. God also left us with the Holy Spirit and the Spirit does communicate if we are willing to listen.
Evangelists – these are the missionaries of the church both foreign and domestic. They keep the church from getting too comfortable. They are natural connectors, people-people…they make disciples who make disciples.
Pastors/Shepherds – They are inward focused – taking care of the flock. They tend to the hurting and build up the body. They encourage, equip, and are present to bring stability so that not all the roles are outward looking.
Teachers – Those who are gifted at teaching the word of God to the flock. They help the flock to go deeper not only in knowledge but also into obedience to the Word of God.
We have obsessed over teachers to the neglect of the other gifts. That has resulted in church that is off balance – the church Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12 that we don’t need to be – not everyone is an eye or an ear. Not every one is a teacher…some are prophets and others are all the rest.
We need each other…we need every role to do what God designed the roles to do,
“to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” – Ephesians 4:12-13
If our churches are lacking maturity, this is probably why. If our churches are tossed by false teaching – this is probably why. If our churches have lost their foundation – well you know what I am going to say.
So let us consider these gifts and consider which ones rings truest for ourselves in the body of Christ and engage in ministry that fits the gifts God has given us! Sometimes you will be called to something outside your giftedness…if it is God calling you can’t make the excuse that that isn’t your gift!