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 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, as a community of faith, is to affirm in our own contexts the word that described the experience of the Corinthian church, which, 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, 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 our 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, of the people of God discovering their spiritual gifts are incredibly significant, for if the people of God will claim the sense of empowerment that comes with this discovery will be transformative.
The reticence that some may have in adopting such a quest is understandable, because it runs counter to the long held belief that ministry is something that ordained clergy do, while the laity benefit from such ministry. But the potential benefits to churches who embrace the possibility of their people discovering their spiritual gifts present are 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 fragmented and broken world. Jim Wallis made the statement: “Religion is personal, but not private.” Wallis was speaking about the political implications of faith – of religion’s place in the public square. 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 gifted by the Spirit we are one body, with one purpose, to share the love of God with all people.
What are the possibilities? To what ministries might God be calling us to take up? Jürgen Moltmann speaks to the wondrous possibilities that lie before us as people of faith.
The person who believes becomes a person full of possibilities. People like this do not restrict themselves to the social roles laid down for them, and do not allow themselves to be tied to these roles. They believe they are capable of more. And they do not tie other people down to their own preconceived ideas. They do not imprison others in what they are at present. They see them together with their future, and keep their potentialities open for them. [Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation, Margaret Kohl, trans., (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 187.]
As we trust God, ourselves, and our neighbors, our “charismatic potentialities are awakened” and we begin to join in a ministry that makes a difference.
[Excerpt from Gifts of Love, unpub. mss.]