As a young engineer, stories abounded about the head of a rival organisation who said in a newspaper interview, “Teamwork is when everyone does what I say”. Needless to say this individual was not known for leading effective teams where morale was high, or with high staff retention or great commitment to the goals of the organisation. Some of the best church experiences I have had have been where Christians are able to use the gifting God has given them as part of a team working for His glory.
God has given differing abilities to those in his church. The emphasis in Romans 12:4 – 8 is on the congregation using the gifts that God has given them to serve others in the congregation. The key here is that real strength is present when God’s people are free to be what God has made them. Any role in the church will be demanding over time, and what will help keep individuals in that role is the passion and zeal that come from an individual knowing they are fulfilling the role God has made them for in the church, when the proverbial round peg is in its round hole. The problem often comes when churches try and place square pegs in round holes. Over time frustration builds in the individual. The awareness grows that the role is wrong for them. When difficulties come (and they will come) people leave that role. The square peg realises they are in the wrong hole and leaves.
So why do churches place square pegs in round holes? Sometimes it is a rigid view of what church is. The institution comes first and the individual’s role is to maintain the institution, which is the reason for the individual’s existence, and nothing else. The gifting, passions and personality of the individual is irrelevant, the institution come first and the individual must support it. As a result, people who are not gifted for a particular role are placed in that role that it is judged the institution requires. This is especially a danger when there is a perceived pressing need for that role. Worse still, the gifts God has given the individual are not nurtured, developed or used. The church loses the benefit of the individual’s God given gifting, and the individual gets frustrated! It is a lose-lose situation all round.
Sometimes there is a faulty view of what serving the church actually is. In 1 Corinthians 12:4 – 7 Paul talks about “varieties of service” (ESV), as each with their own gifting uses this gifting for the common good. A church can place an over-emphasis on one type of service, e.g. preaching, leading meetings, or cleaning the building, so that this becomes the test of spirituality. Anybody engaged in this “exalted area of service” is viewed as truly spiritual, and conversely anybody who does not engage in these areas is viewed as demonstrating spiritual immaturity. The mistake here is a failure to recognise that there are differing types of service, all equally valid, as individuals use the gifts God has given them. Pressure either from the church to push people towards the “exalted area of service”, or from the individual as they see that the church views this as the exalted area, can mean that people who are not gifted for that area of service end up there. Again, a square peg ends up in a round hole.
What a blessing it is when a church gives God’s people permission to be what God has made them!
The church that does not do this is in reality fighting God. God has given gifts to His people. The danger is that the church, perhaps for what they think are the best of reasons, rejects these gifts. Such a situation cannot be healthy for the church in the long run!