We all have a tenWe all have a tendency to look at what is most celebrated and to aspire after it. This is sometimes seen in men who do not have the gifts for preaching or teaching striving endlessly to get into pastoral ministry. How many young men I have seen come and go, or do great harm to the church, because they were not gifted by God for the task. I have seen others desiring to serve as elders in a church when they were clearly more gifted to serve as a faithful deacon. Still, I have seen those who had strong gifts of hospitality, service, and administration not using them for the building up of the body. No matter where a failure to exercise the gifts God has evidently given the members of a local church may manifest itself, of this much we can be sure, the church is the worse for lacking those who would willingly play their part in seeking to put their gifts to use for the building up of the body. Conversely, the church is all the better when each members willingly and joyfully plays his or her part.
I have a mentor in ministry who, many years ago, was talking about the importance of every member of a local congregation using the gifts God had given them for the wellbeing of the body of Christ–no matter how menial the act of service may seem to be. He said,
“The local church is like a fishing boat. The pastor and elders are those God has called to cast the nets. In order for them to be most free to do so, the other members on the boat need to carry out the tasks needed to keep the ship afloat. Often, those tasks seems less noteworthy. Shoveling water off the deck of a boat with a bucket often goes uncelebrated. However, without that particular congregant doing what God has called him to do, those casting the nets cannot give their utmost attention to what they are called to do.”
It’s not a perfect illustration (since there is no such thing), but it compliments what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 about each member of the body doing his part. There is a great need in our day for the saints to be equipped to carry. out the role God has called them to carry out in the local congregation to which they have bound themselves. There is perhaps no better short passage of Scripture that captures the essence of this principle than that of Romans 12:6-8. There, the Apostle Paul writes,
“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Rom. 12:6-8).
Regarding verse 3, John Calvin wrote,
“Paul. . .reminds us that according to the wise counsel of God every one has his own portion given to him; for it is necessary to the common benefit of the body that no one should be furnished with fulness of gifts, lest he should heedlessly despise his brethren. Here then we have the main design which the Apostle had in view, that. . .the gifts of God are so distributed that each has a limited portion, and that each ought to be so attentive in imparting his own gifts to the edification of the Church, that no one, by leaving his own function, may trespass on that of another.
By this most beautiful order, and as it were symmetry, is the safety of the Church indeed preserved; that is, when every one imparts to all in common what he has received from the Lord, in such a way as not to impede others. He who inverts this order fights with God, by whose ordinance it is appointed; for the difference of gifts proceeds not from the will of man, but because it has pleased the Lord to distribute his grace in this manner.”
There is a “beautiful order” and a “symmetry” in the use of the diverse gifts God has given His people. How glorious when the saints are desirous of using their gifts to the full. When the member of a congregation does what he or she is gifted to do, and each member compliments the others in bringing their gifts to use in the life of the congregation, all the members collectively benefit. No gift is elevated high above the others so as to make the others unnecessary or inconsequential. Rather, those gifts that may appear less significant than others are often most necessary for the carrying out of those that may appear more significant.
As we think about these things, as assess our own gifts and the use of them in the local church to which we have bound ourselves, may the Lord give us grace to think soberly about the need we have to exercise them to the full for the good of the whole body. We all need one another and the gifts God has given us, and we all need to play our part for the good of the church on the whole and the advancement of the kingdom of God.