Category Archives: Minister’s Message
The Gift of Ministry
by Bud Snowden, Agency Chaplain
Many Christians over the years have embarked on a quest to discover or identify their “spiritual gifts.” Inspired by the teaching that each Christian believer is endowed by the Holy Spirit with a gift or special ability to be used to help nourish and support the church, many believers of every Christian denomination have attended seminars and retreats and even taken “spiritual gifts inventories” all in the hope of learning which of the gifts listed by the Apostle Paul they might have received.
Unfortunately, for many Christians, including me, this quest has been a frustrating one because there have been no clear answers to the question, “What are my gifts?”
In his recent book, “What Are Spiritual Gifts? Rethinking the Conventional View,” Kenneth Berding points out that the source of this frustration may be the result of a misunderstanding of Paul’s use of the word “gifts” in his writings. Instead of thinking of “gifts” to mean a special ability or power (as in “she is a gifted preacher”) Berding contends that, “gifts” should be understood to mean “ministry, role or assignment.” So the question we should be asking ourselves is not “God, how can I discover the special abilities that you have given me?” but instead, “God, where do you want me to serve?”
Dr. Berding’s approach appeals to me for several reasons:
First, the interpretation of gifts as ministries implies that, rather than being a formal role exclusively for specialized clergy, ministry can be understood to be any activity that serves to build up the community of faith.
Second, the idea that “gifts” refer to ministries rather than individual abilities reminds me that while God usually empowers us when He calls us to serve, He sometimes calls us to serve out of our weakness rather than our “strength.” God asks us to serve in areas where we feel less than “gifted” so that He can do something, not just through us, but also in us. As St. Paul told the church in Corinth, God’s power is “perfected in weakness.”
Another reason this view of “spiritual gifts” resonates with me is that it is very consistent with Volunteers of Americas’ view of its ministry of service. We are called in Volunteers of America to “go wherever we are needed and to do whatever comes to hand.” There is no room in that statement to question whether we have the special ability required. Instead, we are to respond in faith, trusting that the Lord will provide. Of course, it is truly a blessing for all concerned when someone with a special gift from God is led to the right place and the right time to put that ability to work–but the lack thereof is no excuse for not doing the Lord’s work, “wherever” and “whatever” that may be.
Lastly, the understanding that “spiritual gifts” refers to ministry assignments affirms for me that ministry, whatever form it takes, is truly a gift from God, for which the proper response is humility and thankfulness. While God certainly does bless some believers with special gifts or abilities, he assuredly blesses all with the gift of ministering to one another in love and humility.
Being 51 and having three children nine and under, I am constantly aware of the affects my actions have on them. I have two children who are high-spirited and one that would prefer to live on a desert island with Elsa from the movie Frozen. I have heard the songs from Frozen incessantly. I’ve heard “Love Is an Open Door” 400 times and “Let It Go” 4,000 times, give or take a few. I try to look at the bright side. My whistling at work repertoire has grown from the Backyardigans and Dora, to songs that I secretly like and that have great messages for all of us.
My children have a morning meeting every day at their school. They spend a few minutes for announcements, but the majority of the time is spent singing songs like “What a Wonderful World,” celebrating their accomplishments and discussing ways they can be better friends, citizens, and human beings. The children are challenged to live up to the core values that their school, Morris Jeff Community School, has adopted:
- Risk taker
These values are written on banners that I see every day; we talk about them at home; and students of the week are chosen from each class according to who exhibits the core value for that week. Yet I still have a hard time remembering all of them.
Imagine (that’s a song by John Lennon) if we lived up to these core values in our professional lives. Imagine if we had a morning meeting to encourage each other to talk about our mission as not only an organization, but as individuals. Imagine if we let the words to “Let It Go” sink in and we really applied that message to our daily lives.
My challenge is to apply these core values at work and at home. Be reflective, a risk taker, a thinker, an inquirer and knowledgeable. Be balanced and principled. Communicate better and be open-minded, but most of all be caring.
As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”