The Wonder of the Church: Part 6 – Thinking about Leaders
39. Gifts of Ministries – Introduction
Rom 12:6-8 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Eph 4:11,12 Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
1 Cor 12:27,28 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.
A Focus: There are ‘gifts’ and there are ‘ministries’ and sometimes there is confusion between the two. A ‘gift’ is a precursor to a ‘ministry’. I recently came across a quote of some leader saying in accordance with 1 Cor 14, we can all have the ministry of a prophet. Wrong! Paul doesn’t say that; he says, “I would rather have you prophesy,” and the whole context there is gifts not ministries. The difference? The heart the individual contains and the anointing upon them.
Gifts to? Another way of distinguishing is by saying who are these gifts to. Gifts of the Spirit, for example itemised in 1 Cor 12:8-10, are gifts to individuals, for use within the church. Gifts given by Christ seen in Eph 4:11,12 are gifts of people to the church. To take prophecy and prophets as an example here, Paul makes it clear that anyone can prophesy when they are filled with the Spirit. As I have led groups seeking to move in the gift, I have noticed a number of times that, although I may pray over them as a group of usually about ten, and that evening all of them will step out and have a word for another that is pure revelation, in the months that follow I have noted (in a church where the gifts are encouraged) that of that ten, two or three will have words regularly, four or five will have an occasional word, and two or three will never have a word again.
Different people, different gifts: This says nothing about the spirituality of the individual, but more about the heart that God gives the individual. In the Romans verses above, Paul speaks of the grace that God gives in different measure to different people. I have expressed it more in the past as the level of faith that God gives individuals. Thus I see individuals who have great faith for giving financially but not, let’s say, for healing. Then there may be others with great faith to pray for healing but don’t have any feeling for giving. It is a mystery but ultimately it is down to God to find people who will respond in differing ways, and so He gifts them, I believe, accordingly.
Gifts into Ministries: Now I have never carried out surveys on this but I think my general observation through the years is that God gifts many individuals with gifts of the Spirit, but He develops that in only a relatively few to bring about a ministry. A ‘ministry’ is a form of service that captures the heart of an individual and receives the special anointing of the Holy Spirit and is used by God to build the church. The heart for this will grow and develop in an individual and as they step out, so the anointing will likewise grow.
The Example of Saul/Paul: The apostle Paul is a good example of this. it is a fairly lengthy story (taking up chapters 13 & 14 of Acts) but will have bearing in the next study. In it we see the development of his spiritual life and ministry experience.
Earliest days: From the time he was saved and filled with the Spirit (see Acts 9) Saul, as he was originally known, started preaching (see v.20). With the help of Barnabas he was accredited as a Christian believer by the apostles in Jerusalem (v.26-28). Because of opposition from the Jews he was sent off to Caesarea and then to Tarsus (v.30).
In Antioch: Later he was brought by Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 11:25) and he taught for a year alongside Barnabas (v.26) and was then sent as a finance carrier (v.30) to Judea, returning some time later bringing John Mark with them (12:25). Saul and Barnabas were known in the company of “prophets and teachers” (Acts 13:1). In the context of the church there in Antioch, Barnabas and Saul were commissioned to go out to take the Gospel on what we now refer to as their first missionary journey
First Missionary Journey: Initially this was to Jews in the synagogue at Salamis on Cyprus (Acts 13:4,5), where his name is changed from Saul to Paul (13:9) and brings blindness to a sorcerer (a power sign) before moving on. After leaving Cyprus they returned to the mainland (13:13) and then went inland to Pisidian Antioch (13:14) where Paul preached powerfully to the Jews but was ultimately rejected by them (13:45), and so turned to preach to the Gentiles (13:46). Moving on to Iconium, they preached boldly with signs and wonders following (14:3) and it is there that they are first indirectly referred to as apostles (14:4). Moving on to Lystra, Paul healed a cripple (14:8-10) causing many to hail them as ‘gods’. It is at this point that Luke rather pointedly speaks of, “the apostles Barnabas and Paul”. (Acts 14:14). Moving on to Derbe, they had many converts (14:20,21). They then backtracked and appointed elders in each of the churches they had previously formed (14:21-23) and eventually make their way back to Antioch to whom they reported all that had happened (14:26,27). In the next study we will perhaps backtrack and observe the stages of Paul’s development as an apostle, seeing the characteristics that went with it.
Serving to Build: Now we should also note in passing that the Greek word used in the New Testament for ‘ministry’ is ‘diakonia’ (plus other forms of that word) that essentially means ‘to serve’. It is from that word that we get ‘deacon’, one who serves in the church, and we’ll look at them in a later study. I have said it twice already but we should emphasize that, first and foremost, spiritual gifts and gifts of Ministries are to bring about, create, and build the church. In the following studies we will see how this happens in each case. In respect of spiritual gifts Paul taught, “Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.” (1 Cor 14:12) What is true of spiritual gifts is also true of ministries. If there is anyone who appears to exercise one of the Eph 4 ministries and does not have the heart to build the church and thus glorify God, their ministry is suspect.
And So? We find provision in the Church of ‘Gifts of the Spirit’ which are used by individuals to bless and build the church. We also find provision of ‘Ministries’, gifts of people with heart and anointing calling to minister to bring about, create and build the church. I have twice used this language here to emphasise what these ministries do. In their differing ways they bring about or bring into being what we have throughout these studies been calling ‘the Church’; they create it by spreading the Gospel and creating believers who are the Church, and they build up, equip and empower those believers to act as the body of Christ and continue the creating-building process. This we will see in more detail as we move on.