Summary: We must get in the game and stop being spectators when it comes to serving.
Serving According to Your Shape
Rev. Brian Bill
There’s something really big happening today. That’s right. The lovable Green Bay Packers are hosting the loser Chicago Bears. Do I detect some grumbling and groaning? I want you to know that it’s not easy cheering for God’s team and being persecuted as a Packer fan. Someone came into my office this week and wiped her feet on my Packer rug, telling me that she had something nasty on her shoes that she needed to get off.
Stuart Briscoe, who ministers in Wisconsin, makes a great analogy between serving and sitting in a stadium watching football: During a football game there are twenty-two people on the field in desperate need of rest, and sixty thousand people in the stands in desperate need of exercise! It’s our goal at PBC to get everyone in the game. We want to move people from being spectators to become sold-out servants who are exercising what God has already enabled them to do, serving faithfully in their field of giftedness. Using the letters of the word TEAM, it is true that Together Everyone Accomplishes More.
This may be difficult for some of you to believe but there’s something even bigger taking place today. This sermon will be much shorter than usual! Some of you just woke up and others of you are ready to applaud. That reminds me of the answer a student gave to a question asked by a teacher: “What do you call a person who keeps on talking when people are no longer interested?” A young boy raised his hand in the back of the room and replied, “That would be a preacher.” The reason the sermon will be shorter is so we can all move from this room to the Fellowship Hall where all of our ministries have set up tables filled with information. Actually, the service is not really ending early; we’re just changing location. When we’re finished here the service will continue down the hall. Our goal today is that all of us will move from clapping in the stands to a commitment to service so that we’ll hear the applause of Heaven.
Before we jump into our text in 1 Corinthians 12, let’s set the context. The Corinthian church was filled with people who were given over to competitive sports, it was crippled with division, and there were arguments, lawsuits, and immorality. On top of that, there was confusion about marriage, food sacrificed to idols, worship, the Lord’s Supper, the Resurrection, giving, and spiritual gifts. In particular, some people thought they were more important than others because they had some pretty spectacular gifts. When Paul wrote this letter to the church he specifically addressed these issues in an effort to get everyone on the same team. Please turn in you Bible to 1 Corinthians 12:1-7. Our coach has drawn up four plays for us to follow so that we can get in the game and function like a team.
1. Deepen your understanding of spiritual gifts (1). Notice verse 1: “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.” The word “now” indicates that Paul is tackling a new topic because he doesn’t want anyone to be naïve about spiritual matters. This phrase is super-emphatic in the original. The word “ignorant” is where we get the word “agnostic” from as he cautions Christians about being too passive or lethargic or unconcerned on the one hand, or being too set on spectacular spiritual gifts on the other. They not only misunderstood spiritual gifts; they were also misusing their gifts.
In short, a spiritual gift is the supernatural ability to carry out the work of Christ through His church. It’s also important to recognize that a spiritual gift is given by the Holy Spirit at conversion, whereas a natural talent is something we’re born with. While we must yield our talents and abilities to the Lord’s work, we must pay particular attention to unleashing our spiritual gifts for the good of the body of Christ.
The Barna Research Group has reported that while 88% of evangelical Christians have heard about spiritual gifts, more than half have no idea what particular gift they have been given. In his book called, “The Ministry Playbook,” Henry Klopp writes: “Without maximum utilization of spiritual gifts, the church will not fulfill its mission. The church needs to be organized in such a way as to make full use of the spiritual gifts of the congregation. Ministry should not be viewed as a bunch of jobs to be done or positions to be filled but rather as a bunch of opportunities for spiritual gifts to be unleashed.”
If you were to add up all the distinct spiritual gifts, you’d come up with about 20. Since each of the lists does not appear to be exhaustive, there may even be more. Here are some: Teaching, prophecy, helps, knowledge, faith, administration, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, evangelism and serving. These gifts are found in four books of the New Testament: Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4. It’s important to keep in mind that we’re commanded to do much of the things that are also listed as spiritual gifts. For instance, while some people have the gift of giving, all of us are to be givers of our resources to kingdom purposes. Likewise, we aren’t excused from our responsibility to witness just because we might not have the gift of evangelism.