If God is the giver of every good and perfect gift, then it would be unwise to keep the gifts of God hidden. Having been gifted and called to ministries that are as diverse as the persons who have received these gifts, it is incumbent upon us to discern the nature and purpose of these gifts in our lives.
The place to start this process of discernment is to first remember that we belong to a community of faith. We're not lone rangers in this work of ministry. From there we can begin to affirm in our own contexts the word that described the experience of the Corinthian church. That community, according to Paul, was enriched in every way through gifts of "speech and knowledge of every kind." They didn’t lack any “spiritual gift as [they waited] for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 1:4-7). If the church grasps this message, that they do not lack any of the gifts, then the next step is for God’s people to discern and discover the nature and use of their own gifts, so that they might join together as one body in service to God.
Embracing our spiritual potentialities, our giftedness, is to affirm that we are created in God’s likeness, with a mandate to love and serve God. The implications for churches, especially Mainline Protestant churches, that the people who make up this church would discover their spiritual gifts are incredibly significant. If the people of God would claim the sense of empowerment that comes with this discovery it would be transformative for the life and mission of the church.
The reticence that some may have in adopting such a quest is understandable. That is because it runs against the long held belief that ministry is something that ordained clergy do, while the laity should see themselves as the recipients of such ministry. But the potential benefits to churches who embrace the possibility that their people might discover the spiritual gifts that are present within the body is too great to ignore. Not only might the people who inhabit our churches grow spiritually, but churches might grow in their ability to engage in community transforming ministry that brings hope and healing to a fragmented and broken world. I have heard Jim Wallis make the statement: “Religion is personal, but not private.” In making that statement Wallis was speaking about the political implications of faith – of religion’s place in the public square, but that statement covers the entirety of the life of the Spirit.
Gifted people are people who engage the world where they find it. Ministry in churches that embrace their gifts will touch not only the people within the church it will touch the world outside. The faith of the gifted will touch political, social, environmental, issues. There is no area of life that the church’s ministry does not touch, for the people of God are gifted by the Spirit so that they might be one body, with one purpose, to share the love of God with all people.
Excerpted from Gifts of Love (unpublished mss. alt.)