From the Scriptures:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
1 Corinthians 12.5-11
Of all the ‘gifts of ministry’ the one I would hope to be able to encourage in those whom I work with is the gift of the discernment of spirits.
Well just discernment in general to be honest. That gift which requires an extra pair of ears and an eye for detail. That gift which moves beyond finding someone who can get the job done and instead aims to uncover people’s calling. That gift which enables and celebrates the call of others. And all this, ideally done, whilst spending the weekly ten or fifteen minutes in the pulpit!
Those who stand at the front and teach or preach do have an amazing picture of the people in front of them. I always maintain that the sermon lives somewhere in the space between the preacher and the congregation. I have learnt again and again the body language very often speaks louder than words and it becomes as much part of the message as the spoken word itself. Discernment, however, is about more than being able to read body language. The minister must aim to read ‘soul’ language as well.
It is too easy to misuse the office of a minister or church leader by asking for volunteers and badgering people into ‘ministry’. This does work and often people who reluctantly take up a task because ‘somebody had to do it’ make a success of things. Discerning gifts of ministry, on the other hand, is a much more gentle task driven not by the need of the church but by the purpose of The One Who Loves us Best.
To fit people to vocations (only a few of which require the wearing of a clerical collar) is akin to the long loving task of the sculptor. Aiming to unveil the statue hidden in the block of marble rather than forcing her will onto it, she will deal gently with the raw material and see the future possibility and not the present unfinishedness.
This is, of necessity, hard slow work, and can be frustrating. Sometimes flaws are discovered that need to be covered or worked around. Sometimes, often, the work of discernment reveals other gifts within the person that will need exploring differently. Occasionally, the sculptor has to lay down her tools and pass them on to another. When that happens to me I am left feeling empty and unfulfilled be I the sculptor or the one being sculpted.
The gift of discernment of spirits is useless by itself. For it to be of any help to the Body of Christ others must yield to the working of God’s Spirit within them and offer themselves to become, pastors, teachers, evangelists and yes, the beloved and too often maligned, coffee makers and flower arrangers. Perhaps, please Lord send someone soon, even that person who can heal the rift in the Anglican Communion?
Whatever gift you have, and all of us have at least one; after all ‘To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good,’ allow it to be used. When we do not faithful people get forced into the wrong jobs, we do not grow ourselves in the ways in which we are meant, and the whole church is diminished.
Next time God asks, say ‘yes’.
God our Mother and Father,
be with us as we learn to see one another
with new eyes,
hear one another
with new hearts and treat one another
in a new way.
Corrymeela Community, Ireland
- Find the coffee and flower rota and say a prayer for those whose names are on it.
- If you have ever felt you should be called to do or be more than you are in your church have a word with your minister or a trusted friend about discerning your vocation.
The Church of England has a website which helps people discern their vocation. This is especially for four public areas of ministry but many of the resources are a help for all vocations. Find out more here.
All Cartoons are copyright © Dave Walker. Please visit http://www.cartoonchurch.com if you would like to laugh even more J
Prayers are from the collection ‘Praying with the World Church’ compiled by USPG.
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Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘Did You Hear the One About…’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2017