Serving God Through The Church      

In his book Revolutionizing Christian Stewardship for the 21st Century, the author, Dan Dick from the General Board of Discipleship, does an excellent job in clarifying the meaning of stewardship and the spiritual gifts we are given to serve God. The following are excerpts from his book on stewardship, discipleship, and serving God through the church.

Most all local church Finance Committees have at one time or another heard some member remind the committee that the church is a business and needs to run like one. Yet, think of the complications of such a statement. Any secular business that forgets its mission is in deep trouble. Businesses need to make a profit to stay in business but the profit is not the mission. Businesses and churches do not exist to exist; their legitimacy comes from knowing why they exist and from marshalling their spiritual, human, and temporal resources to fulfill their primary task. The church is a steward when it is faithful to its mission. SUMC's mission is "To help people know Christ and to fulfill the gospel in our church, community and the world."

Stewardship supports a process of growth for Christian disciples: it is not about funding the needs of the church. Stewardship is servanthood to God through the church, not to the church. Stewardship in the church is composed of diverse and gifted people who are growing in their discipleship and sharing their faith through the community and the world. Rather than the church being served by the members, the church serves the members by enabling gifted and called members to honor and glorify God in their daily living using their God given gifts.

The apostle Paul describes twenty spiritual gifts in his letters to the churches at Corinth, Rome, and Ephesus. We are all blessed with one or more of these spiritual gifts. Knowing our gifts and using them to serve God through the church, in the community and in the world is at the heart of stewardship. Listed below, from the Dan Dick's book, is a brief description of the twenty gifts of the Spirit proposed by the apostle Paul. As you read this list see if you can discover your own gifts and then reflect on how you might use those to better serve God and help in fulfilling the mission of the church.

Administration

The gift of organizing human and material resources for the work of Christ, including the ability to plan and work with people to delegate responsibilities, track progress, and evaluate the effectiveness of procedures. Administrators attend to details, communicate effectively, and take as much pleasure in working behind the scenes as they do in standing in the spotlight.

Apostleship

The gift of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to other cultures and foreign lands. This is the missionary zeal that movers us from the familiar into uncharted territory to share the good news.

Compassion

This gift is exceptional empathy with those in need that moves us to action. More than just concern, compassion demands that we share the suffering of others in order to connect the gospel truth with other realities of life. Compassion moves us beyond our comfort zones to offer practical, tangible aid to all God's children regardless of the worthiness of the recipients or the response we receive for our service.

Discernment

This is the ability to separate truth from erroneous teachings and to rely on spiritual intuition to know what God is calling us to do. Discernment allows us to focus on what is truly important and to ignore that which deflects us from faithful obedience to God. Discernment aids us in knowing whom to listen to and whom to avoid.

Exhortation

This is the gift of exceptional encouragement. Exhorters see the silver lining in every cloud, offer a deep and inspiring hope to persons, and look for and commend the best in everyone. Exhorters empower the community of faith to feel good about itself and to feel hopeful for the future. Exhorters are not concerned by appearances; they hold fast to what they know to be true and right and good.

Faith

More than just belief, faith is a gift that empowers an individual or a group to hold fast to its identity in Christ in the face of any challenge. The gift of faith enables believers to rise above pressures and problems that might otherwise cripple them. Faith is characterized by an unshakable trust in God to deliver on God's promises, no matter what. The gift of faith inspires those who might be tempted to give up, to hold on.

Giving

Beyond the regular response of gratitude to God that all believers make, giving as a gift is the ability to use the resource of money to support the work of the body of Christ. Giving is the ability to manage money to the honor and glory of God. Givers can discern the best ways to put money to work, can understand the validity and practicality of appeals for funds, and can guide church leaders in the most faithful methods for managing the congregation's finances.

Healing

This is the gift of channeling God's healing powers into the lives of God's people. Physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological healing are all ways that healers manifest this gift. Healers are prayerful, and they help people understand that healing is in the hands of God, that healing is often more than just erasing negative symptoms. Some of the most powerful healers display some of the most heartbreaking afflictions.

Helping

This is the gift of making sure that everything is ready for the work of Christ to occur. Helpers assist others to accomplish the mission and ministry of the church. These "unsung heroes" work behind the scenes and attend to details. Helpers function faithfully, regardless of the credit or attention they receive. Helpers provide the framework upon which the ministry of the church is built.

Interpretation of tongues

This gift has two very different understandings: (1) The ability to interpret foreign languages without the necessity of formal study to communicate with those who have not heard the Christian message or (2) the ability to interpret the gift of tongues as a secret prayer language that communicates with God at a deep spiritual level. Both understandings are communal in nature: the first extends the good news into the world; the second strengthens the faith within the fellowship.

Knowledge

This is the gift of knowing the truth through faithful study of the Scripture and the human situation. Knowledge provides the information necessary for the transformation of the world and formation of the body of Christ. Those possessing this gift challenge the fellowship to improve itself through study, reading of the Scripture, discussion, and prayer.

Leadership

This is the gift of orchestrating the gifts and resources of others to achieve the mission and ministry of the church. Leaders move the community of faith toward a God-given vision of service, and they enable others to use their gifts to the very best of their abilities. Leaders are capable of creating synergy, whereby the community of faith accomplishes much more than its individual members could achieve on their own.

Miracle working

This gift enables the church to operate at a spiritual level that recognizes the miraculous work of God in the world. Miracle workers invoke God's power to accomplish that which appears impossible by worldly standards. Miracle workers remind the fellowship of the extraordinary nature of the ordinary world, pray for God to work in the lives of others, and they feel no sense of surprise when their prayers are answered.

Prophecy

This is the gift of speaking the Word of God clearly and faithfully. Prophets allow God to speak through them to communicate the message that people most need to hear. While often unpopular, prophets are able to say what needs to be said because of the spiritual empowerment they receive. Prophets do not foretell the future, but proclaim God's future by revealing God's perspective on our current reality.

Service

This is the gift of serving the spiritual and material needs of other people within and beyond the local church. Servants understand their place in the body of Christ as giving comfort and aid to all who are in need. Servants look to the needs of others rather than focus on their own needs. To serve is to put faith into action; it is to treat others as if they were indeed Jesus Christ himself. The gift of service extends our Christian love into the world.

Shepherding

This is the gift of guidance. Shepherds nurture other Christians in the faith and provide a mentoring relationship to those who are new to the faith. Displaying an unusual spiritual maturity, shepherds share from their experience and learning to facilitate the spiritual growth and development of others. Shepherds take individuals under their care and walk with them on their spiritual journeys. Many shepherds provide spiritual direction and guidance to a wide variety of believers.

Teaching

This is the gift of bringing scriptural and spiritual truths to others. More than just teaching church school, teachers witness to the truth of Jesus Christ in a variety of ways, and they help others to understand the complex realities of the Christian faith. Teachers are revealers. They shine the light of understanding into the darkness of doubt and ignorance. They open people to new truths, and they challenge people to be more than they have been in the past.

Tongues

This gift has two popular interpretations (1) The ability to communicate the gospel to other people in a foreign language or (2) the ability to speak to God in a secret, unknown prayer language that can only be understood by a person possessing the gift of interpretation. The gift of speaking in the language of another culture makes the gift of tongues valuable for spreading the gospel throughout the world; while the gift of speaking a secret prayer language offers the opportunity to build faithfulness within a community of faith.

Wisdom

This is the gift of translating life experience into spiritual truth and seeing the application of scriptural truth to daily living. The wise in our fellowships offer balance and understanding that transcend reason. Wisdom applies a God-given common sense to our understanding of God's plan for the church. Wisdom helps the community of faith remain focused on the important work of the church, and it enables younger, less mature Christians to benefit from those who have been blessed by God to share deep truths.

The gifts given by God are for us to use through the church to take the will of God into our church, community and the world. Please reflect on these gifts to see where you might apply your own to further God's work.

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