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How specialization harms the church

Posted by on Nov 28, 2012 in blog links, discipleship, spiritual gifts | 6 comments

How specialization harms the church

“I’m not gifted in that area, so I don’t have to do that.”

“That’s not my ministry, so I’ll leave that for someone else to do.”

“I was called to do something else, so that’s not my responsibility.”

I’ve heard those excuses my whole life, and, for a long time, I bought into it. But, in the last few years, I’ve changed my mind. In fact, I think this kind of specialization harms the church.

The question was raised recently by Miguel at “God Directed Deviations” in his post “Aren’t All Christians Supposed to Make Disciples, Be Witnesses, and Evangelize?

Miguel offers a couple of quotes: one of which supports that specialization based on giftings while the other does not support this kind of specialization. There is some back and forth (but still a good discussion) in the comments as well.

So, what is the discussion about? Well, according to Scripture, we know that some people are gifted at teaching. Others are gifted at encouraging. Still others are gifted at serving. In fact, we find many different spiritual gifts listed in Scripture, and it’s clear that 1) different people have different gifts, 2) no one has every gift, and 3) those with a certain gift should serve in that way.

The question is, then, who is responsible for teaching? For encouraging? For serving? For giving? For pastoring? For administering? For prophesying?

Are those gifted in those areas responsible for serving in those areas? Of course they are. Peter states that emphatically in 1 Peter 4:10. Paul says something similar in 1 Corinthians 12:7.

But, here’s the thing, given that those gifted are responsible for serving in that particular area, it does not follow logically (or scripturally) that others are not responsible for serving in that particular area. In fact, I think that all followers of Jesus Christ are responsible for teaching, serving, giving, encouraging, prophesying, pastoring, showing mercy, and any other type of service toward others.

Why would I conclude that all believers are responsible for these types of service (even when not gifted in that area)? Well, there are several reasons. For one, the results of any kind of service are not dependent upon the one serving, but upon God working through his Spirit in the life of the person serving. Also, the multitude of “one another” passages which are addressed to all believers (at least, all recipients of that particular letter) moves us away from any kind of specialization.

Thus, I believe that ALL Christians are responsible to “teach one another,” even those who are gifted at teaching. I believe that all followers of Jesus are supposed to “serve one another,” even those who are gifted as servants. All believers should “encourage one another,” even those who have been given the gift of encouragement.

So, what happens when only those gifted in teaching teach? What happens when only those who have the spiritual gift of evangelism do the evangelizing? What happens when only the spiritually gifted pastors serve through shepherding others? What happens is that the church is hindered in its growth and maturity, and we began to rely on certain people instead of relying on the Holy Spirit.

The church truly is a relational organism, and we rely on God’s life and power in each and every one of us, in whichever way he chooses to work at any time.

Yes, it is our responsibility, our calling, and our ministry.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 11-28-2012

    You posed the question: “What happens when only the spiritually gifted pastors serve through shepherding others?”

    I cannot see one who is NOT spiritually gifted even trying to shepherd others.

    I think you painted yourself into a corner on this one. I am not even sure what you are trying to say. Maybe that everyone in the church needs to be active but if the gifts are not needed, why are they given?

    If I am missing your point, please explain.

  2. 11-28-2012


    I don’t categorize spiritual gifts, since they don’t seem to be categorized in Scripture. So, when I read “teach one another” along with some have the spiritual gift of teaching, I understand that the two much go together, and that something similar applies to all spiritual gifts.

    Think about Ephesians 4:11-12. Paul lists several spiritually gifted people who are “to equip the saints for works of service.” What kinds of works of service does the “evangelist” equip saints to do? Evangelism. So, lying behind Paul’s description in Ephesians 4:11-12 is the assumption that all saints are to evangelize. And, while the evangelist certainly evangelizes, he also equips others to evangelize. I think this can be applied to all spiritual gifts, including the spiritual gift of shepherding.

    I hope this helps.


  3. 11-28-2012

    I believe our culture has a lot to do with the way we have “specialized”….. the industrial revolution… our lust for fame….. the way we define “success”….. our obsession with popularity/a following.

    We have let the culture influence us too much — vs. the other way around.

    What you’ve explained here does cause a lot of harm to the Churhc.

  4. 11-28-2012


    “…..who is for teaching? For encouraging? For serving? For giving? For pastoring? For administering? For prophesying?”

    The responsibility belongs to ALL followers of Christ. Any evidence of, what some regard as “special gifting”, emerges only after faithful, and often varied, ministry to “one another”.

  5. 11-29-2012


    I think you’re probably right. I don’t know historically which came first, but we definitely see this kind of specialization in our culture.

    Aussie John,

    Yes, exactly! That’s an excellent point about how our spiritual gifting often demonstrates itself as ALL are serving together. It’s only because all are teaching that we can recognize those with the spiritual gift of teaching.


  6. 12-2-2012

    “I cannot see one who is NOT spiritually gifted even trying to shepherd others.”

    Perhaps you are unfamiliar with 1Tim 3:1. ANYONE who ASPIRES to oversight desires a noble task. There is no hint of gifting or unique calling here. The only limits are aspiration and qualification. I left out the word office since that is not in the text – only traditions of men. Alan is on target.


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