Saturday, February 25, 2012

Recently, we've been taking a course on Spiritual Gifts for Sunday School.  This is not the first time either Todd or myself has taken a spiritual gifts inventory, but it's a good subject to revisit from time to time.  We also saw it as a pretty natural next step after taking membership at our new church, because we do want to fit into some ministries while we are here, though it may be for a short time.

It's always sort of funny when we tell people that we really don't want to be around them much longer, and they understand that as a good thing.  Since we feel we're making progress towards leaving the country with the support of many churches, people often ask us when we're leaving and then sort of pause and apologize for wishing that.  It's ironic; we enjoy these people and are so glad to have them join us in our efforts, but at the same time we want to leave on this adventure already!! Likewise, when we visit the sending base people passing through would say "I hope you're not here the next time I come, " and we understand it as the best possible wish for us, even though it sounds so unflattering.

That being said, we do wish to "plug- in" locally while we are here.  So we are working with our class through a book about Spiritual gifts, which includes a tool for taking inventory, and lists of ways a person can use them.  Now, there are about as many ways to interpret spiritual gifts as there are denominations.  A more Pentecostal or charismatic church member likely describes the gifts of knowledge, tongues and interpretation somewhat differently than a member of a mainline denomination.  That's okay; I learned a long time ago that each of these church personalities serves a purpose in the life of the whole Church.  None are better than the other; just as different Christians have different gifts and personalities, different churches have them too.  As long as we're working for the same Christ's Kingdom, it's all good.

But the thing I am enjoying about this time around is the tri-color facet of the instrument we are using.  They have broken down the gifts into three categories, or colors, that roughly line up with types of churches.  I don't know if my pastor and Sunday School teacher reads my blog, but if he did, he would notice I've been reading ahead.  It's just that interesting to me!  (Yes, I took some Sociology courses in college.) So, Blue represents the more charismatic gifts:  deliverance, discernment, faith, healing, etc.  Red represents the gifts commonly found in the evangelical church:  apostle, counselor, helper, teacher, leader, missionary.  Finally, the green area are the liberal church (with my apologies to those who object to that label):  artistic creativity, craftsmanship, organization and wisdom.

A little background on myself to illuminate this topic.  I grew up in the United Methodist Church, which certainly falls under the "liberal" green area.  So did my husband.   In college, I attended InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a decidedly evangelical group in the red category.  Todd was in the college ministry of Chi Alpha, the Assemblies of God, which is more Pentecostal.  As a married couple we have found church homes in all three types by turns.

So guess which categories our gifts fall into?  To be completely honest, I can't remember Todd's right now.  But mine go like this:  2 Red (Service and Missionary, no surprises there), 2 Green (Voluntary Poverty and Craftsmanship, and 1 Blue (Faith).  I had a tied sixth one, suffering, but I'm not going to focus on that one.  It's blue, though.  I think  it's very telling how my church background/experience is mirrored in this instrument.  There's a second set of gifts that the inventory measures, the latent gifts, or areas where a person ought to experiment and see if there's a gifting.  Mine are all green.  Some of Todd's were blue; he's a wannabe Pentecostal.  I'm looking forward to the part of the class where we talk about using our latent gifts.

If you have never done an instrument like this, or it has been a long time and you can't remember what your gifts were, ask your pastor about having a class on it.  Then, apply what you know and get to to work using your gifts. It's much more rewarding than working out of a feeling of obligation or because there was a need.  God didn't give them to you to make you feel good; they're for the whole church to benefit.   It can been very freeing to say "no" to something that's not a good fit so that you can work in your area of giftedness, although that's not a license to be lazy.  It's permission to teach that class you always wanted to try, or to start that ministry or program that appeals to you.  Let me know what you find out.