Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Romans 12:1-8 Gift-based Ministries

KEY TEXT: Romans 12:4-8 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

KEY THOT: Our ministry calling must be defined by our gifts, not by organizational needs. Unfortunately, in many churches, ministries are often pre-determined by organizational needs: members are often encouraged to fill up available ministry "openings" rather than creating new openings based on their gifts. In Romans 12:3-8, Paul describes a body-life ministry in terms of personal giftings, not organizational needs. So, if our gift is prophecy, then there must be room for the prophetic ministry; if our gift is faith, then there must be room for supernatural ministry where faith is needed; if our gift is service, then there must be many service-based ministries to serve all sorts of mental, emotional and material needs; if our gift is teaching, then there must be teaching platforms for adults, young adults, and not just children; etc. In a true body-life church, every gift is identified and encouraged to be expressed and used, even if that means re-structuring the church organization to accommodate such gifts.  

Jesus says we should not pour new wine into old wineskins because the new wine will expand as it ferments and will burst the old hardened wineskins: "no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins" (Luke 5:37-38). So, new wine must have new wineskins. If God gives a church new wine of the Spirit which includes spiritual gifts, there must be platforms for such gift-based ministries. We should not suppress any gift-based ministry simply because there is no room in the church structure for its expression. And as one management guru puts it: "forms must follow functions, not functions follow forms." And Jesus has said the same thing, but differently: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). 

If a church is to accommodate gift-based ministries, it has to structure itself around spiritual gifts, not let the structure determines what gifts can be allowed to operate. Every church organization grew out of a particular social and historical context. To replicate the same structure for all times in all places is really going against a gift-based body life. In fact, church organizations tend to pattern themselves after the worldly power structures of the day. For example, the Roman Catholic Church is patterned after the political and military structure of the Roman Empire. The American churches tend to pattern themselves after their own political democratic institutions. And in modern times, many independent churches are starting to pattern themselves after business corporations, with the senior pastor as the CEO reporting to his Board of Directors (church council).  

The NT structure is patterned after the Jewish society. It is simpler and flatter with a 2-tiered team leadership of elders and deacons overseeing the rest of the flock as saints (Phil. 1:1).  If gift-based ministries are to grow and multiply in a  church, the church structure must remain flexible: the church forms must follow the gift-based functions. 

The worse case scenario for any church is to suppress Spirit-gifted ministries because there is no room in the old wineskins of the church for their expression. 

Abba-Father, You have made Your church a living organism. May it remain flexible like the human body so that it can accommodate Spirit-gifted ministries to serve the Head who is Christ our Lord. Amen.

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