Community built through spiritual gifts 4



Ephesians 4:11-13

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Coaches who bring out the best

 Reading Hogwood Park

Reading manager Brian McDermott with his team at the Hogwood Park training ground, not far from our former home


THE GIFTS of the Holy Spirit are experienced by us in three ways, as we saw yesterday: personal, situational and organisational. When these are flowing together in all of us, we have the kind of community and unity the world can only wonder at.


So if I am talking about how God has ‘wired’ me, in other words my spiritual ‘DNA’ (do you see me as someone gifted in leading, or in teaching, or encouraging? Are you frustrated because I am not like you, a superb mercy-giver or with a capacity to serve selflessly?) we’ll start the discussion with those personal, foundational gifts mentioned in Romans 12:6-8. The passage starts by saying that we don’t all have the same function, but are gifted differently. There are overlaps, of course, and those of us who have been round the block a couple of times may have strengths, rather than a strength. We may know our personal gift areas. A gift survey or course (we mentioned SHAPE) might make that more clear, but as hinted above, often others see things that we are blind to. Community is how it works!


Churches often expect pastors to be performers who excel in all seven areas! In the context of the passage, this is unreasonable and unscriptural, which is why we need to learn about the five ministry giftings, Christ’s gifts to the church as they are described in Ephesians 4. An acronym for these five emphases used by recent authors such as Mike Breen and Alan Hirsch is APEST, standing for the five emphases of apostolic (entrepreneurial), prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching and – this may make you sit up – they look for and fully expect the church structure ,and especially leadership, to reflect all five. A solo pastor can’t do that and a church where the lead is restricted to just one or two of these will be misshapen and crippled. This is not about performing, but equipping others. So we set up our leadership teams to be made up of people who can model and reproduce their bit of the APEST gifting. The pastor is the lead equipper, identifying and bring out the gifts of the others.                                          


So that’s leadership structure – essential backup. But what actually happens in one of those situations you find yourself in, when you pray “O God help!”. Encouraged by the APEST gifting of the church and especially its leadership, you know to invite the Holy Spirit to step forward and show you what is going on. What is behind that bad meeting at work? Where is the confusion where you can’t see the way forward? What was the real cause of that accident? What is behind another person’s need and how is God intending it will be met? Now watch for three things to happen, either through you, or more usually in concert with others.


He brings revelation. It helps if we ask Him to! That’s why we always ask the Holy Spirit to come – a handing-over from us to Him if you like. Then we ask Him to show us what we need to see. Some people get words and some, Bible references, or the gist of a Bible passage they can find. Some will get a sense of a truth that God is saying. God likes to share His heart with His people. When we ask Him, and put ourselves in a position to hear, we will. We should expect, potentially, all of these ways – and other confirmations, like circumstances, and others ‘hearing’ the same thing. That doesn’t make anyone infallible, far from it, but it is a principle of Scripture that everything is “established by two or three witnesses”.


He raises faith. This comes on the back of that revelation. As we start to sense what God is saying to us, and to let Him lead us and not he other way round, so we find we can follow Him with faith. When you see someone doing something, it is fairly easy to believe that they can do it. Revelation gives us a glimpse of God already at work.

Then there is impartation which brings beneficial change. God’s touch is an impartation of something of Himself and you are the channel of it, whether it is an opportunity to pray openly, or in that bad meeting where you are called to bind strife and release peace.  God is in the business of ‘healing’ (the Greek word sozo is a bigger, broader word) and His healing takes many forms, from a serious illness or bad back to a healing of a financial need, an unravelling of a complex situation or a spiritual rescue. Salvation is God’s nature – and it is Jesus’ name. It is, quite simply, what He does!


That is how God works through you, not alone but representing a community of faith and drawing in gifts brought by others. It’s called being part of a body, and the Christian concept of a connected body with Christ at the head is the best kind of community any of us will ever find.


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