“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” said Jesus of himself. Service is a core aspect of the life of Christ and the life of anyone who would follow him. When a person comes to faith there is a lot of taking at first, and rightly so. Learning and being served are how baby followers of Christ develop. At a certain point, however, the tables have to be turned in order for growth to continue. Just as an adolescent needs increasing responsibility to develop into a mature adult, so a maturing Christian needs some way to give back in order to become all he or she is meant to be. When we serve, we identify ourselves more deeply with Christ, we grow in humility and other godly character traits, and, as we link arms with our brothers and sisters, we contribute to the overall progress of the Gospel.
As the head of the Church, Christ leads the serving effort. He modeled it in his earthly life and he now directs the effort from his seat in heaven. “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men” (Eph. 4:8). The gift that each follower has been given is his or her assignment in the ongoing development of the body of Christ. For example, some have the gift of hospitality, some mercy, some knowledge, some helps, some administration, some teaching, etc. As each person accepts his or her assignment and carries it out, the work that Christ wants done in the Church gets done. If someone withholds his or her gift, things don’t happen that need to happen (or at least someone else gets really tired carrying a double load!). One of the greatest blessings is to watch a well functioning local congregation as each person joyfully serves in the unique role that he or she has been given. It is nothing short of miraculous.
So how does one discover the gift? This too is a spiritual process involving prayer, Scripture study and community. The Spirit gives us insight into our giftedness as we seek him in prayer. Scripture teaches us about the various kinds of spiritual gifts and how they are to be exercised in the body of Christ. The community around as can confirm or not whether the particular gift we think we have is evident to them as well. Sometimes taking a spiritual gifts inventory like the one below can be a helpful way to jump start the process (although such inventories shouldn’t be used in isolation from the above methods of discerning the gifts).
1 Corinthians 12
1 Peter 4:7-11
Note: the lists of gifts in the Scripture are generally not taken to be exhaustive.
Spiritual Gifts Inventory (forthcoming)
S.H.A.P.E Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life, by Erik Rees
1. Take the inventory and isolate your top three gifts
2. Discuss the gifts with your Home Group members and with other Christians who’ve known you for a long time. Ask them if the findings of the inventory fit their experience with you.
3. Consider your past serving experiences and your ministry interests. Do these help narrow down where you think you could serve best? An example would be someone who has the gift of hospitality, has experience working with kids and loves junior highers. This person might decide to host a junior high youth group at his house (any takers?).