While camping in France this year, we went to the free pass day at the Monaco Formula 1 racing track. My son Elijah got Lewis Hamilton to autograph his cap, but what struck me most was the way the whole Formula 1 system is structured. As you enter that environment you immediately experience the sheer scale of the operation. Drivers, technicians, logistics experts, caterers, volunteers all working together to bring the races to life. Drivers can’t just do it alone. Everyone is needed and everyone is used including the people you see and the people you don’t. Organisational structure is everything, and it’s no different in church.
We haven’t got enough willing workers…
Have you ever heard that statement? I’m sure you have. Perhaps though, we need to look at this question from a different angle. Romans 12:6 says:
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.
If our churches are organised and structured in such a way that only a specific gift set is being used and encouraged, we may well not have enough visible workers. But are there people who could use their gifts differently? Does our church’s organisational structure allow and encourage every available Christian to use their gifts or does it stop people serving by only having a few specific areas of service?
Everyone has a gift
Of course, the church is not a business or a sport like Formula 1. It’s incomparably more. It is God’s family. Christians, adopted into his family through grace, are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:8-10).
Of course, we are all a work in progress and might not be as mature as we can be, but we are what we are by the grace of God. So, in church, everyone should be using their gifts to serve one another (1 Pet. 4:10).
How do we recognise our gifts?
Philippians 2:4 reminds us clearly that being Christlike is to consider the interests of others which means putting Christ and his people above ourselves. In essence, whatever God is doing is far more important than me. So, if God in his wisdom has given gifts to each of his people, how can we recognise what they are?
It is not just the responsibility of the pastors and elders to discover our gifts; rather it’s the responsibility of the whole church. When was the last time you said ‘thank you’ to someone in church for the way they serve whether it is in a formal role or not? Perhaps your regular acknowledgement would mean they start seeing what God has gifted them with. People in churches need love and attention, and they need opportunities to test what gifts God has given them. These opportunities don’t always have to be a formal ministry but rather a chance to facilitate and encourage one another to love and good deeds. Everyone has a gift, but not everyone has the encouragement to recognise what that is.
The way forward
So what do we do? Firstly, take a good look at the Christians in your church looking for their passion and what they can do to benefit others. If we look for a finished article, then we will be waiting a long time. If you want to know what someone is gifted with, you have to spend time with them, for that is the only way you will get to know someone.
Secondly, recognise that a programme of events doesn’t always support getting everyone involved. Often church programmes are so tightly focussed on specific groups of people and skills that they don’t allow for the simple truth that gifts aren’t all the same. Take time to look beyond the four walls of your church’s organisational structure.
We might think one Christian is lazy, another too busy with work, another too critical, another who spends many Sundays away at sporting events, but maybe, they just don’t have the gifts that fit in with the current church programme. Try to think about the kind of people you have rather than what jobs need filling. To do that you have to start thinking outside the box. Very recently I met someone with an unusual talent for being painfully picky. I encouraged them that having an eye for that level of detail is a gift that not everyone has and that it was time to get their gift into action. The role they started meant that they were able to contribute not just to one job but other ministries where elements of detail and communication are vital. Small starts can often lead to greater fruit.
Thirdly, remember that God has prepared his people for works of service and decided what they would be in advance (Eph. 2:10). He didn’t wait to see if we were good enough or smart enough. So, if God trusts his people with his work then maybe we should too.
Isn’t this going to give me more work?
It may sound daunting to consider everyone and their gifts on top of all the other things that we have to do in our churches and our busy lives. You might be thinking that this is just going to give you more work to do, so you might as well just do the job yourself or ignore the issue altogether. But hasn’t God called the church ‘to equip his people for works of service’ (Eph. 4:12)? Imagine what the church would be like if everyone was involved together.
Perhaps then the right question to ask is not, ‘How can we help everyone to use their gifts in the church?’ but, ‘How can we help the church so that everyone can use their gifts?’ Consider the organisation of your church. Is it structured for the many or the few? Could you encourage others to get involved in ways aligned with their gift rather than your need? Could you spend time building people and encouraging them to find and use their gifts rather than building programmes? Then, as gifts are discovered, let’s make sure that everyone can use their gifts in a way that is wise and helpful for the building up of the whole church.