There is a tendency we humans have to only see things from our own point of view. We filter our understanding of the world based on our own experiences, preferences, personality and talents.
Those of us who are part of the body of Christ often bring that tendency into our Christian lives. We interpret God and who He is and the way He moves through our own experiences. We interpret church and what it should or shouldn’t be based on our own preferences.
But that’s now how God set it up to be. We are, in fact, just single parts of the body of Christ. And we need each other. Not only do we need each other’s strengths and talents, but we need each other’s perspectives. Listen, a God that one person could fully comprehend and explain wouldn’t be much of a God.
Now, so far, I bet most of you are with me. What I’m saying may seem obvious, and you probably have more insight into it than I do. But I want to break it down a little bit, because it’s been on my mind.
There’s a verse in Ephesians 4 that says “Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers to equip His people for works of service…” And I feel like whole churches, movements even, have been built around just one part of this formula or another. Whole denominations that may focus on the way the teacher understands God and Scripture, or centred entirely on pastoral (shepherding) leadership.
But I think that God’s strategy is to use all five of these, and, in fact, all of the spiritual gifts, in tandem with each other. Everyone has a gift, and that gift is just a piece of puzzle, but sometimes we treat our pieces as if they’re the only or most important ones! We cannot possibly understand God’s intentions or discern His voice fully unless we do it in the context of a community of people representing all of the gifts! That’s not God’s fault; it’s more that we can’t see beyond our particular bent.
Let me give an example. If I’m placed anywhere in this “five-fold ministry” as it is sometimes called, I am probably first a teacher. There are elements of apostle and pastor in there as well, but teaching is my main gift and I am passionate about clear and powerful communication of Truth.
But what if I looked at that as the only thing? That Truth was just there to be communicated. Then whenever a problem arose in a person’s life or in a church, or whenever some new idea and strategy needed to get out there, all I did was teach it. I passed on information, and the people I led would be filled with knowledge. And maybe not much else. The church would run like a classroom.
Or if I look at being a good shepherd as the only thing? I might forego challenging the people I led; I’d be unwilling to confront sin or lead strategically or giving any sort of big picture vision and challenge to the people around me, all in the name of protecting them, making sure they were safe and comfortable and warm and cared for. The church would run like a hospital.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from that, the apostle who doesn’t see the need for other points of view and gifts ends up running so hard towards a huge vision that he hasn’t noticed that people are stumbling and tripping behind him trying to follow, and he also doesn’t notice in the charge that he’s not entirely sure what steps need to be taken to get everyone there. The important thing to note here is that despite his big vision and good intentions, it actually takes him longer to get where he wants to get everyone to go because he hasn’t incorporated the other gifts and points of view.
Now, here’s where I’m going to be a bit biased, because it was in relationship to the prophetic gifting that I first started thinking about this. I love the prophetic people in our midst, and I have worked with some fantastic people gifted in this way who hear the word of the Lord and bring the powerful Presence, the experiences with God we are desperate for. And these people understand that they are bringing just a piece of the puzzle, that for us to be fully effective in advancing the Kingdom we need to bring those experiences and then pastor them well, teach a foundation to them, and give them a context within a larger vision for why we want them.
The ultimate point of the experiences isn’t to have them. Yes, we want to enjoy God and always be hungry for anything the Holy Spirit wants to do. But sometimes there seems to be a belief that every time we gather, on Sunday or in our homes, it should be to seek out experiences. I’ve been part of some amazing moves of the Holy Spirit–we had a really powerful night in ATS back in June that was unlike any I’d ever experienced. But it would be silly of me to think that this was all God ever wanted to do. Some weeks, people just need to get in the Word, or be prayed for and counselled.
You see, these five things work best together. A new believer coming into the church needs to encounter, and be counselled through the issues of his past, be taught the daily habits of walking with Jesus, learn how to share their faith effectively and be given a big vision for the impact their life could have.
Because God is raising up a church that can carry His hope to the ends of the earth, introducing the lost and broken of the world to His glorious presence. And that amazing communal movement we call the church will be led by apostles and prophets and teachers and evangelists and pastors. Working together in synergy.
So I just want to challenge us all: the next time we feel critical towards how something in the church is going that others seem to be okay with, we should first ask ourselves if we’re only looking at our piece of the puzzle.