Spiritual Gifts and Designer Churches – By Mike Augsburger

In last week’s blog post, I stated the following: “Remember…not everyone has the same God-given passions. Don’t think that just because you are so passionate about ____________ (you fill in the blank), everyone else is going to be passionate about that too. We are all different. God made us different on purpose. Calling someone “unspiritual” or “immature” just because they don’t have the same God-given passions as you is wrong. That would be like me saying, ‘You must not be a patriot because you didn’t serve in the military like I did.’ That’s simply an unfair, inaccurate statement. When it comes to your God-given passion, use it in service to others, and allow God to bring others alongside of you. Realize that not everyone will come alongside of you…it doesn’t mean they’re wrong…it just means they have a different God-given passion than you.”

Well, in a recent blog post entitled, “Spiritual Gifts and Designer Churches”, Dr. Mike Augsburger (Lead Pastor at Willow Creek Baptist Church in West Des Moines, Iowa) summarizes this issue well by stating:

In I Corinthians 12:15-21 the apostle Paul compares using our spiritual gifts in the church body to the function of body parts in the human body. For a human body to function properly and optimally, all parts need to be present and healthy!

Similarly, God has so composed the church body with differing gifts, each contributing to the function and the health of the body. What happens when someone loses an eye, ear, hand, or leg? These injuries are not fatal, but they do impair a person to some degree.

Paul’s point in this text isn’t so much missing parts. Instead, he focuses on distortion. What happens if a body only has an ear or an eye? Obviously, he is being satirical because we all know there could never be such thing has a body composed of a giant ear or an eye! What is he trying to point out?

I think he’s pointing out an insidious attitude that often clothes itself in spiritual-sounding language.

Someone in a church might say, “We need to do more to care for the poor. We’re the only family from our church that spends time at the homeless shelter. Doesn’t anybody else care for the poor?” You’ve noticed a theme with this family. That’s ALL they ever talk about.

Another person says, “Why am I the only one who ever goes to the college campus to share the gospel? I think all of our deacons should be required to come with me. After all, shouldn’t the deacons care about unsaved people?”

I hope you’re seeing the danger in these statements. Essentially, these people are unwittingly the embodiment of Paul’s example in these verses.

The person interested in caring for the poor are the “hands” of the body. The person eager to share the gospel is the “mouth” of the body. The problem is that the hands want everybody to be hands, and the mouth wants everybody to be the mouth. However, if the whole body were hands or a mouth, where would the body be (1 Cor 12:17ff)?

Unfortunately, these attitudes have led to what I would call “designer churches.” These days, it’s not enough for a church to simply be committed to fulfilling the Great Commission.

Instead, it seems that if a church is going to be “successful” it needs to have some kind of niche or specialization. So, some churches advertise themselves as the church that cares for the poor. Another church touts their ministry of prayer. Another church brags about its teaching ministry. Other niches might be evangelism, miraculous gifts, music, battling human trafficking, world missions, etc, etc. By identifying as such, the obvious intent is to attract people who are also passionate about these ministries.

Are you seeing the danger in this? If a church becomes inordinately tipped in one of these directions, then that particular church becomes a giant basket full of the same body part! The church who cares for poor is one giant hand. The church focusing on evangelism is one giant mouth. You get the point.

What’s the solution? The solution is for a church to fulfill the Great Commission evenly and in balance. The solution is for body parts to realize that they have a unique gift and a needed contribution to the function of the body. The solution is for body parts to stop wishing that everybody else was just like them. Instead of churches being collections of the same body part, wouldn’t it make more sense to spread it out? A church full of noses desperately needs eyes, ears, and mouths. A church full of hands needs the brain of teaching and the mouth of evangelism.

What’s the problem in your local church? What do you wish your church would focus on? Most likely that is the area in which you are gifted.

You are the body part God designed to contribute that function of the body. Instead of wishing everybody had your function, and instead of trying to find a church full of your clones, get busy and serve the body by doing what only you are designed to do!

We don’t need designer churches, we need churches with all of their body parts working together in smooth efficiency!

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