We’ve looked at the need for you be an active part of your local assembly. We’ve toyed with some ideas, based on your gifts and abilities. Now we could use some help in thinking of things we haven’t thought of yet, and in evaluating the thoroughness of what we’re doing.
I’ll start by passing along an observation I first came across in a book by Charles Ryrie.
Many gifts are commanded of all believers, even those who don’t have that gift. We’re not supposed to confine ourselves to our specialties. You should expand beyond the scope of your spiritual gifts.
We’re all supposed to show mercy (Eph 4.32)—even those of us—like me—who aren’t inclined that way. We’re all supposed to teach one another (Mt 28.19). We’re all supposed to have faith, and to be faithful. And on it goes. I can never say, “That’s not my gift” as an excuse for not doing something.
So run down that list of spiritual gifts again; it’s time to get really creative. For each one, ask yourself, “How can I take a tiny step in that direction, even though it’s outside of my comfort zone?”
Yeah, I know I’ve already said that we don’t know for sure what some of the gifts are. Maybe you’re not sure what “word of wisdom” is. That’s OK; we do know we’re supposed to exercise wisdom, right? What areas of your life in the body show a lack of wisdom? How can you improve in that area? You don’t know? Ask somebody in your church who knows you well. Maybe he can help.
So go down the list. I’ll wait. …
How about another measurement device? This one isn’t original—a lot of people have looked into it, and a former pastor of mine did a whole (really excellent) series on it.
The New Testament mentions a lot of ways that we’re supposed to interact with one another. It starts with Jesus’ “new commandment” in John 13.34 (and often elsewhere), that we “love one another,” as he has loved us. I suppose we could consider that one the umbrella commandment, the one that defines and assimilates all the others. It’s the second great commandment, that we love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
And how do we do that, specifically? Pull out your concordance, or fire up your Bible app, and survey the list—
- Prefer one another in honor (Rom 12.10)
- Receive one another (Rom 15.7)
- Admonish one another (Rom 15.14; Col 3.16)
- Greet one another (Rom 16.16; 1Co 16.20; 2Co 13.12; 1P 5.14)
- Serve one another (Gal 5.13)
- Bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6.2)
- Forbear one another (Eph 4.2; Col 3.13)
- Forgive one another (Eph 4.32; Col 3.13)
- Teach one another (Col 3.16)
- Comfort one another (1Th 4.18)
- Edify one another (1Th 5.11)
- Exhort one another (Heb 3.13; 10.25)
- Consider one another—to provoke one another to love and good works (Heb 10.24)
And there are some prohibitions—
- Don’t judge one another (Rom 14.13)
- Don’t bite and devour one another (Gal 5.15)
- Don’t provoke one another (Gal 5.26)
- Don’t envy one another (Gal 5.26)
- Don’t hate one another (Ti 3.3)
There. That should keep us busy for a day or two.
Do you see how this works? We can spend a lifetime learning how to serve one another in the church, making mistakes and learning from them, getting better at what we do, expanding our horizons, finding new skills and abilities and gifts, ever growing as a body in Christ toward the mature people we need to be—the people that the Spirit himself is patiently molding into the very image of Christ.
What a great way to spend—no, to invest—your life!
A word of caution.
This is an infinite task. You can’t do it in a day, or a week—or even your entire lifetime. Don’t exhaust yourself trying to do everything. Pick an opportunity and devote some time and effort to it. Add others as you have opportunity or as the Spirit directs you down unexpected paths. Slow and steady wins the race.
Maybe you won’t be at church every time the doors are open. Others can fill in those slots. God isn’t impressed by obsessive, detail-oriented frenzy to do everything. He loves you, and he loves your love for him. Live with joy, grow with patience, focus on the goal, do what you can.
In all things, Christ.