Lately, I’ve been thinking about the beginning of Paul’s teaching about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7 ESV)
In this passage, Paul says that there are different kinds of gifts, different kinds of services (the word is plural), and different kinds of workings (activities). My gifting may be different from yours. Even if we have the same gifting, the way God desires for us to serve may be different. Even if we have the same gifting and even if we should serve in the same way, God may work differently through each of us.
If we keep reading, we find that each of us is important – even necessary – for the church. No one is more important and no one is less important. (Except, of course, for those who seem less important. God actually considers them more important, probably because humans tend to ignore or de-emphasize them.)
Thus, it is important and necessary for the church (according to Ephesians, for the growth and maturity of the church) for each of us to work according to the way that God has gifted us, according to the opportunities and abilities he has given us to serve, and according to the way that he works through us. Our differences are important and necessary.
As an elder (and this is true for other leaders and mature believers in the church as well), I must be very careful not to expect others to have the same giftings, services, or workings as me. When someone seeks my advice about how they should serve others, it is easy for me to point them in the direction that God is pointing me. Why? Because that is natural for me (or super-natural, depending on how you look at it). But, natural (super-natural) for me is not necessarily (and probably isn’t) natural (super-natural) for them.
I think that as I help people serve others within the opportunities that God has given them, they will find that they are serving in their gifting, service, and working. If, instead, I try to find a “job” for them, they may (and will probably) end up doing something for which they are not gifted, in a way in which they are not supposed to serve, and in a manner that God is not working through them.
As we recognize the differences in giftings, services, and workings, we can also recognize the commonality involved. While we are different, our differences come from a common source – God. And while we are different, our differences are given for a common purpose – the benefit of one another. (While our giftings can benefit us individually – see 1 Cor 14:4,28 – the main purpose of our giftings is building up others – see 1 Cor 14:26.) In a way, carrying out the purpose reveals the source. Our serving one another (and the world) demonstrates our connection to God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (In fact, Peter says that our serving one another brings glory to God – see 1 Peter 4:10-11.)
Putting this all together, as we serve in different ways through our different gifts in the different ways that God works through us but for the common good, we demonstrate our connection to God through his Son empowered by the Holy Spirit, and we bring glory to him.
Differences in giftings, services, and workings should be welcome, expected, and encouraged in the church.