It Takes a Team: 4 Foundational Truths About Spiritual Gifts


Introduction

If you have attended our Creekstone 101 seminar, then you are familiar with the distinction between a traditional ministry model and a biblical ministry model.

In the traditional model, pastors and staff are hired to do the ministry for the members. But in the biblical model, the role of pastors and staff is to equip the members to do the ministry by using what we call “spiritual gifts.”

In 1 Corinthians 12:1-27, Paul lays the groundwork for team ministry. Your task today will be to determine what position on the team God has called you to play.

1 Corinthians 12:1-27

1 Corinthians 12:1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. 12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Since each one of us has a position to play, our objective is to discover our roles on the team.

In view of that objective, I’ve titled this post, “It Takes a Team: 4 Fundamental Truths About Spiritual Gifts.”

The first fundamental truth is found in verses 1-7, where Paul shows us that…

1) The Holy Spirit, as the Source of All Spiritual Life, Endows Each Believer with a Spiritual Gift.

Just as the Holy is the source of someone’s spiritual life, as evidenced by their profession of faith in Jesus as Lord, the Spirit also is the source of a believer’s gifting for ministry as evidenced by their use of that gift in ministry.  

The Greek word for spiritual gift is charismata, which is the combination of two words meaning grace and gift. Therefore, a spiritual gift is literally a “grace gift” that is given by God for us to open and use as our special contribution to the mission of team.

This “gifting for ministry” is not something that is reserved for only a special class of Christian or for those who serve in “vocational” roles within the church.

It is for every one of us.

For those uncomfortable with the terminology of gifting, it may help to realize that a gift is something that is received, not earned nor deserved.

A reward is deserved. But not a gift.

This leads to the second fundamental truth, which is that...

2) There is a Vast Diversity of Gifts Among Believers.

Paul lists a number of these gifts in verses 8-11, which is not a comprehensive list.

For example, in Romans 12:6-8, Paul writes, 

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

The apostle Peter also mentions a diversity of gifts. Diving the gifts between speaking and serving, in 1 Peter 4:10-11, he says, 

10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”

What we have seen so far is that God gives us each a unique role to play on the team. In verses 12-21, Paul shows us our third truth about spiritual gifts, which is that…

3) Just like Parts of the Human Body Function Interdependently, Spiritual Gifts Function Interdependently (for the accomplishment of a common purpose).

To illustrate this, Paul shows how a foot, ear, eye, and nose, while different parts of the body, function interdependently, moving, hearing, seeing, and smelling.

He could have used the image of a clock with it’s many moving parts.

The fact that the parts of a clock work interdependently means that they need each other. If one part is missing, the whole will suffer.

When we apply this to the church, we realize how much we need each other---how much the church needs every one of us playing our role on the team.

I mentioned our Creekstone 101 membership seminar. In each of those seminars, I tell a story about basketball great, Shaquille O’Neal. Over seven feet tall and weighing 300 plus pounds, he was a beast of a man and a force on a basketball court. But there was a season when he missed multiple games due to an injury. Not a back injury. He had not “pulled a hammie.” His hands were fine.

The injury was to one of his big toes. While Shaq’s big toes are really big, proportionally to the rest of his body, they were a small, and unseen, seemingly insignificant part. But without the use of one toe, the rest of his body was sidelined.

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Shaq’s injury sets up our fourth truth, which is that…

4) Each Gift is Necessary, Valuable, and Indispensable for the Healthy Function of the Body.

Verses 22-27 highlight this hard to overstate principle, where Paul declares in verse 22, “Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”

Consider our Sunday mornings together. It takes a team of people with various gifts to turn a high school into a place of worship, where there is childcare, a children’s teaching ministry during the service, a staffed and stocked welcome table, quality music, sound and lighting, visual aids during the sermon, road signage, and most critically, freshly brewed coffee.

There are also K-Group hosts and leaders, not to mention folks who minister to others through Creekstone SERVES.

During the week, men’s and women’s discipleship groups meet, youth ministry takes place, there is campus ministry at UNG, and folks participate in numerous outlets for service to the broader Dahlonega community.

Most of these people serving use ​​​​their gifts behind the scenes. You never see them do what they do. But without every role being filled, ministry suffers, requiring some to fulfill multiple roles and eventually burn out.

We don’t want that.

So how can you determine your particular gift?

How can you discover your position on the team? 

It is a simple 4-part process.

  1. Review the gift lists, particularly 1 Corinthians 12, and Romans 12.
  2. Determine which gift most resonates with you.
  3. Identity which ministries in the church match that gift.
  4. Volunteer in that area.

Here is a Pro Tip: Don’t just volunteer to meet a need. Volunteer to use your gift.

Then, you will not view serving in ministry as an obligation but an opportunity.

I’m convinced that if we all served along the lines of our gifting, there would not be a need left unfilled.

Don’t just volunteer to meet a need. Volunteer to use your gift.

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Apollo 11 and Team Ministry

In her book, Team Moon, Catherine Thimmesh shares stories about the hidden heroes behind the Apollo 11 moon landing in June of 1969.

The Command Module pilot for Apollo 11 was Astronaut Michael Collins, who said, "All this [was] possible only through the blood, sweat, and tears of thousands of people… All you see are the three of us, but underneath the surface are thousands and thousands of others."

Collins was right. According to Thimmesh there were about 400,000 people who contributed to the success of the Apollo 11 mission.

At Kennedy Space Center, it took 17,000 engineers, mechanics, soldiers, contractors and other workers to prepare the enormous rocket for the launch.

The computer code that ran all the systems was developed by a team of software engineers at MIT led by Margaret Hamilton.

It took 500 people to create the astronaut’s space suits, including one seamstress who commented, "We didn't worry too much until the guys on the moon started jumping up and down."

The mission of the church is like the Apollo 11 mission.

It takes a team.

But why do we do it?

Why give time, energy, financial resources?

Because we have been given a part to play in the greatest mission in the history of the world that began with that one small step.

Not a step on the moon but upon a cross---a step that  was the giant leap that secured our forgiveness, reconciling us to God and giving each of us a part to play, not in a space mission, but a grace mission—a mission that involves helping other people like us come alive to the wonder of God’s immeasurable grace to sinners like us through the cross of Christ.

Can you imagine standing on the moon and looking at the earth, covered with continents, clouds, and seas. Seeing our world from that perspective inspire a deep sense of awe and wonder.

To see ourselves from the perspective of the cross should evoke a similar reaction. To see yourself as fully forgiven—as the beloved of the Father. Perfectly righteous in his sight. Without any moral blemish remaining. Clean. Holy.

When I begin to see myself that way—the way the Father sees me—then I will understand the urgency of the mission and delight in the part I get to play on the team.

If this post helped you, maybe it will help someone else, too. 

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