If you’re a believer and you’ve been reading up on the Spiritual Gifts posts, and you’ve even started to identify gifts – you’re ahead of the curve! So you start using your gifts, gifts of teaching, worship, counseling, or something else…in full faith that God is going to do great things, but everything you do seems to fizzle out. Now be honest with yourself here. God doesn’t send the Holy Spirit so that you can get “kinda’ neat” gifts that fizzle out in the real world. The whole idea was that, in some small but powerful ways, you will start to change the world with your God-powered gifts… So what happened? Why isn’t it working? Why can’t I knock this ball out of the park? Maybe you have on one or two occasions, but now it’s not working and you’re wondering why… Here’s why:
If you’re in the U.S., or living someplace where the culture has been influenced by U.S. culture… you are probably what sociologists call an “expressive individualist.” And there’s one key mistake that all expressive individualists make when it comes to the Spiritual Gifts: you think you can do it on your own.
“No man, I trust in Jesus and rely on God for wisdom and to tell me what to do… I’m not doing it on my own.” <— that statement actually says you are doing it on your own. Because you think you will hear everything from God directly and that you are able to use your gifts without coordinating with other Jesus-people.
It’s like teaching a kid to throw a basketball. Anyone who hasn’t thrown a basketball might think it’s all in the arms. So you go workout your right arm and really pump it up right? But it turns out that throwing a basketball is as much about your legs and keeping your back straight, and your hands and the flick of the wrist… Your whole body has to work in conjunction just to do something simple like throw a stupid ball! It’s not enough for an “arm” to be gifted in doing arm-things. You need legs and torso and wrist and hands that are able to do what they do – working together with the arm. It doesn’t matter how gifted the arm is by itself.
Sometimes a group of gifted people decide that they’ll do better without all the “ungifted people” and go off and do their apologetics ministry or worship ministry on their own… It’s like legs and arms and torso running off to do layups without eyes or ears… “Why do we need eyes or ears anyway?” And they wonder why they’re having such a hard time making baskets on the court! It must be the devil…spiritual warfare… No, it’s that you can’t see where you’re shooting, and can’t hear other players coming up to block you.
Anyway, the reason I know this is: it’s in the Bible! But also, this is exactly my experience… I’ve seen people with a teaching gift hit the ball out of the park while doing very little… and I’ve seen some of the best teachers in the world put people to sleep. How could they miss so badly? Each member (the old word for “body part”) needs the body, and the body needs each member to do what it’s uniquely equipped, and gifted, to do.