Cookie cutters are great tools for chocolate chip dough. This mentality, however, is a real detriment to volunteer ministry. Trying to fit every member of your church into the same ministry mold will only cause frustration- for the leaders and the volunteers. This is not God’s design for any category of ministry, especially outreach.
Of all the ministry areas, outreach seems to be the most likely to inherit a “one size fits all” mentality. You would not expect this from your music leadership. If a woman wanted to join your orchestra who is a master of the cello, you would not hand her a trumpet and say, “Sorry, all we need right now is a third trumpet player.” While this may seem absurd, many evangelism programs have this exact approach to outreach.
In Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul is emphatic about two teaching points. First, he explains that we can know the will of God, the specific ministry direction that God has planned for our lives. Second, Paul vividly demonstrates that the Body of Christ is richly diverse while at the same time gloriously unified (for example, in 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle speaks of diversity 48 times and unity 24 times!) Our unity comes in the mission, to reach people with the Gospel message in Christ. The diversity comes in the gifts that the Spirit has given each believer in order to effective carry out the task.
Too often I see church leaders attempting to reverse this teaching. The vision of the church and the mission are unclear (heading in a multitude of directions simultaneously) but also trying to get everyone to use the same gift (usually that of the pastor or senior leadership). It is no wonder that the average church has less than 20% of their membership actively involved in ministry. Spiritual gifts are the key to effective outreach. When one uses that which he or she has been given by God to do the task in which God has called he or her to do, God works in miraculous ways.
Over the next few days, we will look at a few examples of how spiritual gifts can be used in the ministry of outreach. Even though I believe in a multitude of spiritual gifts, I will focus on those listed in Romans 12 as an example. If you are looking for a way to transform or rejuvenate your church’s outreach, then take a closer look at spiritual gifts. Otherwise you can expect no better results than your current level of impact on the community and a small base of volunteers. I agree with Alan Hirsch, who said, “The most selfish thing a church can do is not to grow.”
Have you considered using your spiritual gifts for outreach? If so, I would love for you to share a personal story with me. You can leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow One. Lead Others.