In our church, we're going through a study on the spiritual gifts mentioned in Romans 12:4-8:
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Isn't it wonderful to know that we were each created uniquely and that we each have a special place and way in which we can help the church?
This week, we discussed the gift of prophecy, which is definitely my hubby's leaning and to some degree also mine. "Prophecy" conjures up images of a dude in a camel hair robe calling out doom and destruction. Which is what a lot of the OT prophets were like. But prophecy in the Bible doesn't only refer to foretelling future events, but also means "speaking forth" truth or wisdom.
People have never liked prophets very much. In biblical times because they dressed funny and smelled bad and told you you were going to die. Now because they can be loud-mouthed know-it-alls (the weakness of the prophet leaning). But social awkwardness aside, I would argue that we don't like our prophets within our own local church because we've outsourced that gift. (OK, really Mike would say this, because he's the one who pointed it out to me.)
In this age of mass communication, we are so very connected that we can go to many places to get our needs met. In music, we don't just have to depend on that one goofy banjo player in our town, we can taste from all the musicians of Bogota and New York and London. In writing, we don't just have to read what that moony chick poet who hangs out on the bridge writes in the local college newspaper, we can read all the best writers from Accra to Sydney. Which perhaps shrinks the need for your small town artists. Within the secular realm we can say, "well, that's just how it is; deal with it."
But within the church, I think we have the prerogative to say, "But that's not how it should be."
We are seeing the outsourcing of spiritual gifts that a local church relies on to bigger and perhaps better sources. We see satellite churches, in which there is not a local preacher but some incredible communicator from an urban church piped in. We see worship bands being piped in rather than relying on that one farmer who used to play the harmonica. In Bible study, we see national resources being used, rather than relying on the wisdom within the local church.
I don't necessarily believe any of these things are bad inherently, but I must wonder, what is the effect of this outsourcing of gifting on the people within your local church? What happens when they find no use or value in the particular gifting God gave them? This won't happen to the same degree to all of the gifts. Because you'll always need the servant to set up chairs, regardless of if the preacher is lived or piped in.
But when for women's Bible studies, you rely solely on Beth Moore, where does that leave the little lady prophets in your midst? Beth Moore is really smart and has really wonderful resources and things to say. It would be easy to rely on her more than someone within your own church who isn't, frankly, quite as good as her. Or what if when searching for truth or wisdom on a particular area of their life, someone from your church goes to the web and reads every article by wise men like Tim Keller or John Piper to make their decision, rather than relying on their own church? There's probably not someone quite as gifted as Keller or Piper in your own local church. But what does that do to the wise person in your local church?
What is our highest priority here? Finding the best, most excellent, wise person or prophet? I think that is what is happening, we rely on the super-prophets like Piper and neglect our local talent. In my opinion, the clarion call for "excellence" that has gone out among churches has led us to shun the local church - the Body of Christ - in order to rush to the feet of the hot new act.
What affect does that have when we, in effect, say to the hand, "we don't need you?" because we've replaced you with a bigger and better hand? It's not good. You're left with people without a purpose, feeling unneeded and undervalued in their local church.
I don't think we should all stop reading books by Beth Moore and tweets by John Piper. But I do think we should look around in the community in which God has placed us to truly be a family, part of a body, as it was clearly meant to be in Scripture. Notice the people around you and what unique gifts they bring to the table and affirm them in that. Seek their help, involve them in your lives. Embrace your local body, rather than outsourcing the Body of Christ to the best bidder.