Which of these is a correct statement?
God gives ministries to His church and then we must find people to undertake those ministries.
God gives gifts to His people who then engage in service to fulfil their ministries.
From a biblical point of view, and therefore the right perspective, the latter statement is the correct one. Let us investigate this whole issue of gifts in the church! This month we intend to look at the providing of the gifts. Tomorrow we intend to look at the operation of the gifts.
God gives gifts.
In Ephesians 4:7-8 Paul says But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives gave gifts to his people. In fulfilment of Psalm 68:18 our Saviour has conquered all His enemies. Now, in order to further His cause and undertake His work on earth, He gives gifts to His people. As God’s people commit themselves to a church so in that sphere He calls us each to serve Him with the gift(s) He has given to us. This is done in fellowship with brothers and sisters in the church. Most importantly, there are God-given leaders who should be leading to the end that all those in the church are fulfilling their ministries according to the gifts that have been given to them.
We see this theme developed in Ephesians 4 when Paul says So 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 (Eph. 4:11-12). Church leaders are provided so that, under their ministry, all others in the church are equipped to fulfil their ministries according to how God has gifted them.
Are any gifts essential?
Ephesians 4:11 appears to indicate that there are certain ministries which are essential. Without them the church cannot function properly because it is through the gifted servants of v11 that gifts emerge and develop in the church as a whole. Apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers are all Word (Bible) based ministries and that is why they are critical to the life of the church. Let us look at these gifts:
Apostles and prophets: Ephesians 2:20 says that the church was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. The foundation gifts of apostles and prophets are no longer provided, although their ministry has ongoing effectiveness through the New Testament scripture which was given once and for all through them.
Evangelists are those people who are specially gifted to “recruit” people to the faith. If there are no recruits then the church diminishes and fades. They may have a ministry centred on one church or a more global ministry. They are essential for a healthy church. These men bring people to Christ that those newly converted people might be gifted by Christ to serve Him.
Pastor/teachers. The way the term is used indicates one man with the combined pastor/teacher gifting. Their ministry is always based and focussed upon a local individual church. These men shepherd the flock through care and feeding with the Word. Through such ministry, the people of God come to take on service for the LORD.
When a church does not have pastor/teachers what is to be done?
Pray to the LORD for the provision of these men.
Approaching other churches as regards to them supplying those who might fill the gap
If after praying and seeking help from others there is still no provision from the LORD, then consideration must be given to whether or not the LORD wishes that church to continue its testimony.
What other gifts are given?
Lists of gifts given to the church are found in Romans 12:4-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and 27-28. These passages indicate that a variety of gifts are given by the LORD. These lists are certainly not exhaustive, but rather give a flavour of appropriate gifts.
It is important to be aware that certain gifting in the New Testament times were sign gifts associated with the New testament apostles and prophets. We have already seen that these gifts were foundational to the church. And as is indicated from any basic knowledge of building the foundation is only laid once. God gave clear signs that he was establishing a new order by granting miraculous gifts first to His Son and then to His apostles. The new regime is now established so we do not need these gifts. These would include such things as the gifts of prophecy, tongues and healing. For further discussion of these please see booklets by Brian Edwards available at http://www.brianedwards.org.uk/#/free-booklets/4519436980
How do we know what gift God has given to us?
Purpose: If we are looking at our own lives, and the lives of our brothers and sisters, to see what gifts we have it is good to think about what is the purpose of a gift. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church (1 Cor. 14:12) is what Paul says to the gift-seeking church in Corinth. In Corinth there seems to have been a problem with people wanting to parade their gifts. Paul says gifts are not for self-glorying, but for building up the church. In pondering upon what our own gifts are we need to ask the question: “Is there an ability that I have which can build people up the church by helping people to come to faith or to be strengthened in their faith?” It is the role of the leaders in the church to seek to help people discern their gifts and then to be equipped so that they can fulfil their ministry.
Desire: God places certain desires in our hearts. In noting the calling to eldership in 1 Timothy 3:1 Here is a trustworthy saying: whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. The desiring for eldership may well be an indication that there is a gifting. Checks need to be made to make sure that it is a spiritual desire and not a fleshly desire (see 1 Tim. 3:2-7 for eldership qualifications). We gain indication from this that, having an interest in a work may indicate a gifting for that work. Do you have an interest in some work in the church? This may mean this is what God is gifting you for. Speak to elders in the church and other spiritually minded people to gain wisdom on this.
God is in the business of building His church and one of the crucial building blocks is gifts to His people. A final thing we need to remember about the providing of gifts is that they are given; not earned. In Hebrews 2:4 we read concerning the salvation given by the LORD to us that God testified to such a salvation by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. God gives the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will and on that basis alone!
Taken and adapted from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of July 2011