The Spirit’s gifts have been poured out over every gathering and every one of God’s people, if we can but faithfully look for and celebrate them!
In Chapter 4 of Ephesians, we are told:
4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift… 11The gifts Christ gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
Before we look more closely at these gifts, let’s note a couple very important points.
Firstly, the intention behind Christ giving these gifts and Paul encouraging us to exercise them is unity, that we all may be one. One Body, with many members, built up in love and growing into an expression of the living God in this world. The gifts are not for self-aggrandizement but for other-enrichment and communal empowerment.
Secondly, we note that Christ gave these gifts. Past tense. It has already happened. We can trust that Christ has already poured out gifts into each person, and indeed continues to do so as communities of faith grow and are built up in love. Our spiritual work is to discern the gifts given to each person and to equip and encourage each other to practice, hone, and share these gifts for the sake of building more beloved, liberated, and life-filled communities.
What are these gifts? Read prayerfully through these notes and then consider the questions that follow, ideally with others in your faith community:
- Apostles – the dream awakeners, innovators, visioners, adventurers
- Prophets – the heart revealers, askers of good or perspective-shifting questions, people who keep the church true to the heart of God
- Evangelists – the storytellers, recruiters, people who can pull people into a collective project by awakening their desires and yearning
- Shepherds – the soul-healers, care givers, social “glue,” the defenders of the community and peace-makers
- Teachers – the light givers, philosophers, readers, translators for this time
How do we go beyond the stereotypes of these roles (either positive or negative) that have built up over time in our particular church tradition?
As you read through this list, what names come to mind for each one? Where do you see yourself? Where are you surprised?
And finally, as you pray about your community and mission context, which of these gifts seem to be less present or cultivated? This may be where your group can focus more attention and spiritual energies discerning God’s work that’s been harder for you to see!
When all these gifts are needed for a well-equipped and faithfully functioning Body, it also means that all have value. No one person has all of what’s needed. Leadership is not centered on one person, or one gift, but is shared and celebrated as Christ’s gift of life for the sake of the world.