Thursday, August 27, 2015

Building Up

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

What are your spiritual gifts*?

Are you using them?

If so, how can you use them more effectively?

If not, what steps do you need to take to let the Spirit move you?

These are questions we Christians should ask ourselves regularly, prayerfully, and in community. After all, spiritual gifts are those wonderful gifts given by the Holy Spirit specifically for service to the church. When we allow ourselves to engage fully, positively, and productively with our faith community, great things happen.

What happens, however, when there's a misfit between our spiritual gifts and our involvement in the church? Well, nothing good. And often, because we are in community, our personal missteps hurt the community as much as they hurt us.

God did not give me the gift of music, for instance. If I were to force my way into the choir, the director would do all she could to silence me, cover my voice with stronger, better voices that actually stay in tune. The dissonance caused by my caterwauling would disrupt the harmony.

It's a good thing I know and accept my vocal inadequacies and don't torment others with delusions of grandeur! During worship, I sit right behind the choir and sing softly so they drown me out...a lovely solution to my joyful noise.

Interestingly, our spiritual gifts change over time, though admittedly it's unlikely I'll miraculously start singing in tune. An activity that fills us with joy in one season of our lives might gradually become a drain on our energy. As we become empty and negative, our unhappiness infects others around us. We tear down rather than build up, we see only problems where there are solutions, we criticize when we should encourage.

My top two spiritual gifts are nurturing leadership and mercy...which makes my role as a Stephen Leader a good fit. I'm new to the role, though, and bound to make mistakes. In fact, I've already made several. Thankfully, the other leader, Zandra, has been doing this for years and has a way of reining in my puppyish enthusiasm that is gentle, kind, and positive. She builds me up. I always look forward to seeing her, to working with her, to learning from her.

God gives us people in our lives to grow us as Christians, to build us up. I am so grateful for Zandra, my pastor, and the others in my faith community who not only build me up but build others up as well.

Let our words give grace to those who hear them!

*If you are new to the idea of spiritual gifts or aren't quite sure what they are, you can get a nice overview here on the United Methodist Church website.  There's a link on that page to an online assessment to help determine your gifts, but that assessment is really just a start. Different churches and studies list different gifts...there's not really a single definitive list. I strongly encourage people to participate in a formal small-group study of gifts to get a deeper, more refined idea of what your gifts might be and help in deciding how to use them. Christian community is so important, and small groups are an excellent way of growing in faith!  

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