A church is certainly more than a building, more than carpets or pews or chairs or walls. But there was one time that a church’s wall art so impressed upon me that it has stayed with me right up until the present. I don’t remember much else that happened that Sunday (no offence to the preacher). You could tell when you walked in that the church was having a big building project, that they had outgrown their space. There was a huge, partially shaded thermometer of the building fund, but that wasn’t what stood out to me the most. Rather, it was the long dot-matrix- printed header on the opposite wall that said, “a picture of our new church.”
Incredibly, below the banner wasn’t a schematic or sketch or diagram. It was a list of names. Every single person who was involved. And they all had roles. I was mind-blown. This was not a small congregation. The names took up the entire wall. And underneath there were a pile of blank spaces. When the pastor began talking about building a new church, he was referring to making space for more names and releasing more people for more ministry. It was like an unspoken rule that if you were going to go to that church, you were being invited into something. You were involved. They also eventually built a building to accommodate those invitations.
The sign reminded me immediately of what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:27, “now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” If you’ve read the whole book, you’ll know that this is a loaded sentence. To over-simplify a little, when the Corinthians thought about being involved in the body, they chiefly thought about tongues. They celebrated tongues-speaking and elevated tongues-speakers to the point that the rest of the body was being neglected. So, for three whole chapters, Paul expounds to the Corinthians about these things that we call “gifts,” which really have their etymological root in the word “grace”:
- The Why: For the edification of the believer and the body and as signs to curious people that God is really at work in all of this (chapter 14).
- The Who and What: Given by One Spirit to all believers; both manifestations of the Spirit through believers at particular moments and works of the Spirit in individual lives for equipping the body of Christ for mission (chapter 12).
- The How: To only be motivated by and expressed in love if they are to have any real, eternal importance and impact (chapter 13).
As we continue our 2-year emphasis on Ministry Health as a denomination, our hope is to reignite a healthy conversation about spiritual gifts. We want to see every church moving in the direction of this aforementioned church’s diagram – every believer empowered by the Holy Spirit and equipped and released for ministry – together, making disciples of all nations. We want to move from attendance to ownership of the mission. This is a vital part of ministry health. We are joining you in prayer for miracles, healings, and other manifestations of the Spirit, and for gifts to equip the body for works of service. Ministry Health means being empowered by grace for ministry both on Sundays and every day of the week.
In the next article, I’ll be telling my personal story of discovering the various graces of God in my own life, growing in them, and how God was at work in various manifestations at different points in my discipleship, churches, and ministries. I’d love to hear your thoughts on gifts, and where you have seen God at work historically and lately. How are you living out Paul’s admonition, “You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it?”
 Paul also uses terms like “pneumatikos” (spiritual), “phanerosis” (manifestation) and “energēma” (working) when talking about gifts, but “charisma” (grace) is most widely used and defines their essential nature and character.