A few days ago, in a post called “The church meets here…“, I discussed some interested places that the church could meet in order to serve people. But, after thinking through this even more, I realize that the problem is deeper than the church’s meeting location. I think we need to go back to our understanding of spiritual gifts and their use during the meeting of the church.
There are several lists of spiritual gifts in Scripture. Each list includes both speaking gifts and serving gifts. In fact, Peter seems to categorize all spiritual gifts as either speaking gifts or serving gifts:
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles [sayings] of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies-in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 4:10-11 ESV)
Interestingly, to Peter, the category of the gift is not as important as the source of the gift. Thus, it is possible both to speak and also to serve in ways that exercise the gifts of God. However, it is also possible both to speak and also to serve in ways that do not exercise the gifts of God. The source is important.
In each list of spiritual gifts, it might be possible to separate those gifts into the two categories of speaking and serving – although some gifts may span the two categories. If we agree with Peter and Paul that all spiritual gifts are important and necessary to the proper functioning and edification of the church, then we should desire to see people exercising both speaking and serving gifts.
So, when did the meeting of the church become a time for only exercising speaking gifts? (Yes, I know what you may be thinking: what about playing the piano, or handing out bulletins, or ushering people to their seats. But, do you really think this is what Peter had in mind when he said we should serve by the strength that God supplies?) What of those who are gifted to serve or help or other physical activities that benefit the church? All spiritual gifts are given by the Spirit for the benefit of others – this is certainly true of serving gifts. Plus, any spiritual gift that builds up the church can be exercised during the meeting of the church according to 1 Corinthians 14 – this also can be true of serving gifts. So, where do we see these gifts exercised?
When the church only allows believers to exercise speaking gifts during the meeting of the church, what are we telling (intentionally or unintentionally) those brothers and sisters who are gifted with serving gifts? I know the answer to this, because I have asked some of them. Many believe that they are second rate believers because they are not “gifted” speakers like others.
What would happen if the church met in ways and in places that allowed those with serving gifts to function as well as those with speaking gifts? What if the church met in places where people were hurting or needed help? What would happen if we found out that people appreciated our working hands and that led them to listen to our words?
Could it be that we have “silenced” many gifted people in the church, and that in doing so, we have kept some from doing their share (Eph. 4:16) and stunted the growth of the church? Could it be that our whole idea of church meetings is not conducive to all believers using their Spirit-endowed gifts?