Summary: Every disciple of Jesus needs to know the gifts and ministry they have in the body of Christ. So many Christians never find out what their gifts are. But God intended for us to know how to minister to each other.
In my last post, I taught about what it means to have unity in the body of Christ. In this post, we continue our miniseries on being Formed in the Body of Christ with discovering your Ministry and gifts.
I used to put puzzles together with my dad when I was a kid. The more pieces on the board, the more I would try to fit a piece where it didn’t belong just to say I was getting somewhere in the puzzle. Sometimes, I didn’t pay attention to the shape of the piece and where it could fit in the puzzle because of that shape. You can give me some slack. Being legally blind does not help.
Just like every puzzle piece has a place in the puzzle, every Christian has a place to fit within the local church and the body of Christ. You are not meant to be a pew-sitter for the rest of your life. Jesus expects you to do something for others. He gave you the gifts and perfect make up to feel like you’re at home in the body of Christ.
The problem is that many Christians don’t even look to find out what their ministry and gifts are to serve their church. They come to be ministered to but they do not want to learn how to minister to others. I’ll be straight up with you. People who just warm a pew are lazy Christians. Don’t waste God’s gifts and ministry. With that swift kick in the pants, let’s get started.
What Is Ministry Anyway?
Some Christians aspire to some kind of ministry, usually full-time ministry. I wanted to be a pastor since I was seven years old. That’s when God called me into ministry. I didn’t wait around until I can go to Bible college and learn how to do it then. I took every opportunity to minister in some way in my church.
Ministry is a wonderful thing to want to do. But ministry may not be what you think it means. It isn’t the person on stage in the spotlight. It’s not a position you hold on staff or the board. It comes in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps the best ministry is the one that is needed most but filled the least.
The word “ministry” in the Bible refers to serving others. Even a deacon means waiting on tables, and the first deacons did exactly that. Like Stephen, many of them served in other ways besides that, but the first deacon board was about making sure everyone was fairly treated among the widows of the church in Acts 6.
Keeping that in mind, that ministry is serving others, you might wonder what kind of service you can offer. The Bible does not cover every possible service there is in the church. Jesus taught the disciples, and us, to serve before He served us in the greatest way on the Cross. In John 13, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet to teach them to serve one another.
Ministering to others is not a one time thing. We are servants of Jesus all day every day. Serving others should be reciprocal. It should be a give and take relationship between you and others around you. There are times you will need service from others because you need help in ways you cannot provide for yourself.
Ministry has a giving aspect to it, and this is the first way you minister to others. God has given you gifts, talents, and abilities that other people do not have. Even before you receive ministry from someone else, you should be serving others. You don’t have to “give to get,” but you should not even have that attitude.
The true serving as the person who sees the need and fulfills it before anyone else. Serving people should be your way of life. You should want to serve others because of what Jesus has done for you. It’s not about the people you serve but about the Lord who watches you serve. Everything is done for Him.
The Thing about Ministry
You’d never be able to tell in my Bible College that most people don’t want to be ministers. Practically everyone who was there was in training for ministry. Then again, there weren’t a ton of us, and the body of Christ is certainly much larger than any Bible school.
Most people don’t want to be full-time ministers. I’ll let you off the hook. You don’t have to be a full-time minister to be a servant in the body of Christ. In fact, most Christians should not be in full-time ministry, but are much more effective in the place God has placed them in.
Think of ministry as what you do every day for your family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers. Your ministry is different than mine. As varied as the numbers of Jesus’s body are the ministers and ministries of those ministers throughout the world each day.
Until we stop thinking of ministry is something that happens within the four walls of the church, we will misunderstand every one of our callings from the Lord. The Lord doesn’t just call you into service, He gives you a ministry field. If you don’t know what yours is, you’re standing in it.
Ministry to others is not glorious. If you’re doing it right, you may never get noticed by anyone. Like everything else I talk about in this discipleship series on being Conformed to Christ, ministry is not about you. The service you do for others and the way you serve them should point to Jesus.
The word behind “servant” is usually the word for slave. We are slaves to Jesus. But be careful not to treat others around you as slaves. That is not what Jesus expects of us. He expects us to serve one another in love.
Getting Too Spiritual about Gifts
One great way to serve one another is through using your gifts given to you by the Spirit. We get too spiritual about these gifts. People think of all kinds of ways to say that we are special because we have this gift or that gift. That’s not how the Holy Spirit wants us to act around the gifts He gives us.
You’ll know fairly quickly if a gift isn’t for you. Sometimes it does with your personality, as we will discuss below. If you’re a quiet, introverted person, it is rare you will be thrust onto center stage with a worship team ministry singing in front of everyone. It’s possible you could, but that gift may not be for you.
A great way to learn about your gifts is to take Spiritual Gifts Assessments. Some of the best ones may be available through a small group or Bible study group in your church. If not, you can ask your pastor about them. They will definitely narrow down the possible gifts you may have.
However, you can cheat on these assessments. You can realize by the way the questions are asked which one refers to which gift. If you do cheat, you’re only cheating yourself. You can find spiritual gifts assessments online for free also. Just search for “spiritual gift assessment” and you’ll see a few free ones there.
One thing I’m surprised most churches do not have is a group of people with the same gift helping set should be helping and mentoring each other. You would think that people with the same gifts would want to learn off of one another and would find benefit in talking about their gifts or teaching one another about these gifts.
In the New Testament, it is clear that people with the same gifts are at least aware of each other. When prophets speak in a service, the other prophets weigh what is said (1 Corinthians 14:29). We should help one another when we have the same giftings. There is nothing unspiritual about that.
Knowing Your SHAPE
A good way to understand your gifting is to know your SHAPE. People who do spiritual gifts assessments mention your SHAPE as an acronym to see kind of where you are in not only your gifts but also the ministry Jesus has given you to be helpful to the body of Christ.
SHAPE stands for:
Spiritual gifts – the gifts the Spirit has given you.
Heart – where your heart is for ministry to others.
Ability – the things you can do to help others.
Personality – what ministries and gifts fit within your personality to do well.
Experience – how your life experiences and wisdom can help you minister to others.
These are some of the factors that help you understand how you can minister to others. Many times people with shared experiences can minister to one another. For instance, having been a quadriplegic for a while makes me uniquely aware of some of the suffering people do. I can understand pain, especially nerve pain, a little more acutely.
Other parts of what makes me who I am (the person God has made me to be) can help others in ways that other people may not. God made you who you are to serve the Church in ways unique to you. We need one another because no two people are completely alike. We need your ministry.
The Sweet Spot
You know you’re in the “sweet spot” of ministry and your gifts when the Holy Spirit ministers through you to others. Sometimes you get the feeling you really minister to someone. Other times, a person tells you how you minister to them in a special moment of their lives.
When you know the ways you minister to others and your giftings, you are in a special place. You expect the slide, and having a place Holy Spirit to minister through you to others. You learn how to use your gifts and the whole of your person in the most effective ways. You become a mature and trustworthy person, and people may seek you out because of your gifting.
Being mature means you don’t get a big head about knowing your place in the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit may surprise you with something you’re not used to doing for others, or a gift you didn’t think you had. Above all, you should be happy to minister to others. Our goal is to serve one another and no we are fulfilling part of our role as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Knowing where you fit in is crucial to your growth as a disciple of Jesus. He did not call you to just be ministered to by others or to be neutral in ministry or your gifts. He gave you gifts for a reason. Just as He has ministered to you, you must minister to others.
You can find a “home” in the body of Christ when you are an effective servant for Jesus to others and you bless others with your gifts. The Holy Spirit can trust you to minister by His leading. It’s good to belong in the body of Christ. You need that as a person, a relational creature whom God has made to be relational. It’s time to step out and serve one another.
Do you know your SHAPE? Have you taken a spiritual gifts assessment to move you in the direction of your gifts? We all need one another in the body of Christ. You can find your place today and serve like you’ve never served before.
Now that you’re on your way to finding your place in your local church, how to minister to others and use your gifts, we will turn next to how we live in a faith community.