Are You Stealing From Your Church? You Might Be Surprised...

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I am creative.

I am good at reading out loud.

When I tell Bible stories to elementary-aged children they listen.

I can create curriculum from thin air and smile while I do it.

I write well.

These are my gifts, and while, more often than not, I lead with my weaknesses, these strengths are as much “me” as any other of my parts. In fact, according to the book of Romans, they may be the most definitive elements of my unique self.

Paul writes in Romans 12:

"For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

There are a few things to notice in this passage. I want to notice two:

#1 You are your gift.

#2 Your gift does not belong to you.

If you’ve been in church world for any time at all, you’re familiar with the imagery of church as body. Each of us is a part. All parts are different. We need each other.

Paul writes in I Corinthians 12, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’”

We’ve heard that before.

What I never noticed in these passages (before this moment) was how tightly each member’s identity is tied to his function.

Paul calls the one who sees clearly an eye. He calls another a foot.

Paul seems to be saying, you are your function. You are your gift.

While you are also your weakness and while you can train to acquire skills and while we’re not only called to work out of our giftedness, we cannot ignore the truth that the most helpful thing you have to offer the body is the gift God gave you.

Beyond your adoption as a child of God, no one thing is more you than the gift or gifts God wired into you.

And that can be a problem if you’re unwilling to own your gift.

As I was first writing my list of gifts, the one at the top of this post, I didn’t include writing. I didn’t include it because I’m not the best writer I know. Because all the writers I read regularly are so much better than I’ll ever be. Because I want to be a much better writer than I am. And because I was nervous to say (on the internet of all places) “I’m good at writing,” nervous someone would say, “No, you’re not.”

I was nervous to write the list at all, if we’re being honest, because I’ve been trained to think that an acknowledgement of gifting and pride go hand in hand.

Maybe you feel that way—that to say “I’m good at this” is arrogant.

That’s ridiculous.

It’s ridiculous because you are not responsible for your gifts. They are gifts, given to you not because of your inherent worth but because your Father, Giver of gifts, is gracious. And because He has something to accomplish with those gifts.

When we recognize the gifts God gives, we enable ourselves to step into the role God has prepared.

Which takes us to #2…

Your gifts aren’t for you.

I love that line in Romans 12, “each member belongs to all the others.”

Whether or not we realize it, we’ve been gifted for the benefit of the body, and every gift we have finds its proper use in the context of the church family.

Which means, hoarding your gifts for personal gain or hiding your gifts out of false modesty is, to be blunt, theft.

You are crippling God’s people and stunting the growth of the Kingdom.

Your gifts must—absolutely, positively MUST—be used, and not just used, shared.

Which means when my church decides to adopt a sermon-based small group curriculum, and I happen to be adept at writing curriculum and married to the guy who gives the sermons, I volunteer for the job. Not because I like sitting up late on a Saturday night writing questions. Not because I couldn’t use that time to write the novel I’ve been dreaming up. I volunteer for the job because I can do it. Because I can do it well and far more quickly than most other people. I do it because my church needs me to do it.

I do it because God made me to do it.

I feel that way about blogging, too. I don’t like blogging much of the time. I don’t love the vulnerability of it. I don’t like vying for people’s attention on Facebook. I hate the difficulty of communicating sprawling, complex truth in such a small space. I could stop tomorrow.

But for all I can tell, this is the way I’m being asked to use my gift right now. And to stop blogging would be selfish. I’d be taking something away from the people to whom it rightfully belongs.

I think God made me to write for you.

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God made you to do all kinds of stuff. And to figure out what that stuff is, you’ll need to be sure of your gifts.

So do some self-evaluation.

Ask your friends.

Ask your kids.

Ask your parents.

Ask your boss or co-worker.

What am I good at?

And then make a list.

And once you’ve made your list, type it up, and print two copies.

Keep one for yourself. My husband Justin keeps his in the top drawer of his desk at work. I keep mine in a journal. We use our lists as a filter, to help us know which opportunities to grab and which to let pass, to know when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” It’s not that we never do anything outside our abilities. Rather, we’re constantly evaluating the ways we use our time, making sure that most of our energy is spent in the current of God’s gifting.

We need our copy of the list. It reminds us where we’re gifted, and it reminds us to use our gifts.

The other copy is just as important. That’s the copy you give your church. Maybe you’ll want to give it to your elders. Maybe the involvement minister. Maybe the church secretary (Probably you should make copies for all those folks). The point is to commit yourself to using your gifts in the context of the body and to enable your church to use you as fully and powerfully as they can.

Because I’m a preacher’s wife I have an up close view of the inner workings of church life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself sitting around a table trying to figure out who would be a good fit for a committee, who would make for a good Bible class teacher, who would be a good small group leader, who would read scripture well, who might be the best person to organize the work room. Or I’ve found myself looking for someone to mentor a new christian in prayer or Bible study or generosity.

There are always opportunities to serve in the local church. Always. And there are never enough people to fill the holes.

Your church and your Father are waiting for you to step up and say,

God made me good at this.

Put me to work.

To summarize…

You are your gifts; they are an essential and defining part of your identity.

Your gifts don’t belong to you; your identity only makes sense in the context of the Kingdom of God.

Know who you are. Do what you were made to do.

Share your gifts.