“Each man has his own vocation; his talent is his call.
There is one direction in which all space is open to him.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
This month and next, I am engaged with twenty-two persons on Wednesday evenings exploring together the question: “What is God’s call in my life?” Some have gathered simply because the subject material presented an interesting curiosity. Others are present because they authentically desire to understand with greater clarity how they might be useful to God. What I have made clear each time we gather is that we are all invited to a purpose that is bigger than ourselves. Naturally, the purpose I speak of is the Missio Dei, the mission of God.
Each Wednesday night, I remind those gathered of four critical principals – critical because God has so stressed them in the scriptures, particularly in I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. The first principal is that each person has been included in God’s distribution of spiritual gifts. No one has been overlooked, no one excluded. What the Bible makes abundantly clear is that some have received a greater distribution of gifts than others. There is no explanation for this apparent inequity. Yet, what is additionally clear is that everyone has received some distribution, some spiritual gift. It is the responsibility of each person to correctly identify their gift. The Wednesday night group is one of the most helpful ways of doing this.
The second principal is that every gift has been distributed for the common good of the church, God’s community of faith. Whatever our spiritual gift may be it has been given by God for the purpose of placing it into the service of the local church. This is how the church not only survives but thrives. Uncommon power is released through the local church into the community as increasing numbers of members put into service their unique spiritual gifts.
The third principal is that the local church is God’s primary tool for advancing God’s purposes in the world. As each baptized person steps forward, identifies their God-given spiritual gift and deploy that gift in service, the church is strengthen for God’s use. The strength of any local church is directly proportionate to the percentage of its membership who faithful answers God’s call to provide ministry according to their gifts.
The fourth and last critical principal is that God has purposed our spiritual maturity through the process of discovery, development and deployment of our spiritual gifts. Ephesians 4:11-13 could not be clearer that God’s plan for spiritual growth and ultimate maturity in the faith is through the exercise of spiritual gifts. There are simply no shortcuts to spiritual growth. God intends that each of us continually be contributors to the work of the church. Each person is to be doing something.
It is certainly true that someone can be a good person without belonging to a church. There is simply too much evidence to dispute that. What is not true – but frequently claimed – is that someone can be a good Christian without belonging, and participating in a local church. That is because God has clearly defined what makes a good Christian: someone who identifies how God has gifted them and places into the service of the church that spiritual gift. It is not an overstatement that God simply frowns upon spectators – everyone is called to contribute in such a way that the power of the church in the local community is unmistakable. That is the church I long for.