Over the last several months, we have been looking into the 8 Quality Characteristics of a healthy church. It very interesting to see the reality that all of these 8 characteristics are actually inter-dependent on, and affect one another. For example, the level of inspiration in our worship services is going to be connected to the level of passion within our spirituality. When it comes to the area of Gift-based Ministry, the level of health is also going to be in direct correlation with Empowering Leadership, which we will look at next month, as well as Effective Structures. This is because it’s not healthy for people to just know their spiritual gifts. They must also be empowered to walk in them, as well as, have a clear process setup for them exercise and apply their gift.
As a person who is part of a church that believes that spiritual gifts are for today, I can find it tempting to believe that our church is automatically healthy in the entirety of this area. I mean come on, we preach and teach about spiritual gifts, and we even make available opportunities for people from the congregation to express their giftings during our corporate worship times. I have since realized that this temptation to assume can be a big set back if given into. The reason for this is that there are two other very important dynamics that also play into our churches functioning in a healthy level of Gift-Based Ministry. These are gifts of Wisdom and Service. If it were only about the power gifts operating in the lives of believers, we would see people who could heal the sick but not feed and clothe the poor, or people who are devoted to missions work but don’t have healthy relationships in their personal life. It is these three areas working in unity that empowers our people to minister effectively.
What an amazing promise! The fact that God makes wisdom from Him so easily available and without any judgment is a beautiful privilege for us. When we get down to the bare bones definition of wisdom we see it be very practical. However, do not mistake its practicality as a lack of power because wisdom was present during the creation of the world (Prv 8:22-30). Wisdom is simply put as the practical application of knowledge to everyday life situations. For example. knowledge says that a Tomato is a fruit but wisdom knows you don’t put it in a fruit salad. The type of wisdom that is from above is the wisdom that marries together the supernatural power of God’s Spirit and the God given responsibility, of man, to obey. Any “wisdom” that does not marry these two aspects together is what James refers to earthly, fleshly and demonic wisdom (James 3:15). This is the biggest danger in this area today within the church. We have many people, with many letters after their name, that are presenting thoughts perceived as wisdom but are neglecting the Spirit of God’s authoritative voice from the Scriptures. This leads many people into disarray and confusion. We as leaders need to be those who are diligently searching for and asking for wisdom from above and there by encouraging the people we lead to do the same.
Empowered by THE Spirit!
Jesus made a commanding statement to His disciples about waiting in Jerusalem until they had received the power of the Spirit. (Acts 1:8) He didn’t even begin His ministry until the Holy Spirit fell upon Him. (Mt 3:16) Why was this? Well, if we look at Acts 1:8 we see that the purpose of the Spirit’s empowerment was to be a witness for the Lord. We cannot bear any fruit apart from Him. We can have a great idea and a lot of zeal but if the Spirit is not in it there will be no fruit.
Many churches and denominations have positioned themselves apart from any sort of relationship with the power of the Spirit. They may acknowledge the Spirit doctrinally but there is no application in the church or in the lives of the people they lead. They would lean heavy on acts of wisdom or service but don’t want to get close to the Spirit, running the risk of being portrayed as weird and out of control. The truth of the matter is the Spirit of God loves for things to be done in order but we have to allow things to be done. (1Cor 14:40) We can end up quenching a move of the Spirit because it doesn’t fit in our paradigm or our past experiences. We can have great assurance that what is of the Spirit will not contradict the scriptures but He will contradict our own human understanding. When it comes down to it these gifts of the Spirit (1Cor 12, 14) are for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God in the world and the strengthening of the lives of believers. The one thing that keeps these gifts anchored to avoid error is the reality that they must always be operated in out of a reality of God’s love. When we look at 1 Cor 13, sandwiched right between two chapters about spiritual gifts, we see all that love is. Not proud, puffed up, boastful, rejoicing in the truth…etc. If it’s the Spirit then it will always carry the fingerprints of love.
Committed to Serve
As disciples of the Lord, we must be willing to count the cost. What does it mean to really follow and serve Jesus? Contrary to many preachers today, it means dying to yourself. Jesus said that if you wish to follow Him you must deny yourself and take up your cross. (Mt 16:24) This is what it means to follow Him initially, but it is also what it means to follow Him continually. We must be willing to lay our lives down, every day, for the desires of His heart and the people He puts in front of us. We need to remember that self-denial is not an obligation but a joy. I know it can be hard to see it that way in the middle of making that choice but it is the truth. Jesus promised that if we would lay our lives down we would find true life. (Mt 10:39) This area does carry with it a certain level of danger. Just like the other two areas it requires a uniting together of all three. With service though, if you are not also taking time to receive refreshing from Gods Spirit and using wisdom in your life choices you will end up burned out. It doesn’t have to be this way but if you are not purposing to protect yourself from exhaustion you’re not going to be effective in the mission you are so passionate about.