Church Resurrection Sunday

 

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the Body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:26-27                                                                                                                             

I recently came across a book called Autopsy of a Deceased Church. The title gives you the shivers, doesn’t it? It brings to mind pictures from one of the many forensic shows on these days. A naked cadaver is brightly lit in the middle of a cold examining room. The coroner makes a huge incision down the middle of his chest. He looks at pieces of it under the microscope. Meanwhile, family members are in a waiting room not far away grieving the loss of their loved one.

An autopsy is a sad picture for a church as well: a church consultant sitting in a café casually talking with the last remaining church members one after the other. “So what were the last few years like at… what was the name of your church again?” Each one has a far away look in their eyes as they reflect on the many years that lead to its demise.

  • “I think we forgot why we existed. We didn’t talk much about the Great Commission,” one says.
  • “All I remember is fights over some decision or another the elders made,” another reflects.
  • “We talked a lot but only prayed a little.”
  • “It became all about making the few of us still going, happy. It was all about ‘what I want in a church.’ “

Well, let’s get that image out of our head, and replace it with another… Church Resurrection Sunday. A church on the brink suddenly turns around. God is at work.

As people come in to the service, they are happy to see each other, they smile and exchange hugs. “We may be few but at least we have each other,” they say.

In the prayer and sharing time, one person stands up and says, “Please pray for my co-worker, I explained some of the gospel to him and I would love to see him come to the Lord.” A few others make similar requests.

Then another rises to their feet. “I would like to ask for forgiveness for the way I have behaved the last few years,” and after a bit more explanation of their sin of gossip, they close, “Will you forgive me?” A number of people say “yes” right out loud.

“After many years of ignoring each other,” another jumps in, “my sister in the Lord and I have reconciled and put all our differences behind us.” People begin to clap.

Then they go to prayer and it’s not just the pastor who prays; many contribute by praying aloud. He has to shorten his message because the prayer time goes so long, but he doesn’t mind at all.

The church is living out what it is called to be and it’s resurrected from what looked like certain death.

Now that’s a better picture, isn’t it?

Messing Up the Gifts

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

my-ties
My ties

When my oldest daughter, Carissa, was in early grade school, her mother helped her buy me a gift for my birthday. She was beaming as she gave it to me; giving was such a joy for her! It was a tie of course, the first of many, but that didn’t matter. I smiled at her and said thank-you, and then I smiled over at her mom because I knew Diane had done all the work. One day after school she had driven her to JC Penney’s and helped her pick it out. Then she had shown Carissa how to pay for it. Once home, she had wrapped it up and had Carissa put on the bow. Then on my birthday after I had come home from work, she had retrieved it from its hiding place and given it to Carissa, who then gave it to me.

Spiritual gifts operate in a similar way, God does all the work and gives them to us, so we can bless others with them. But we so easily mess it all up, by going in one of two wrong directions. We either forget that it’s from God, or we forget it’s for others. To use another analogy, we are to be the tools God uses for others.

Error #1 – When we forget that it’s from God, then it’s easy to want to take the credit and get a big head, especially if you have a more visible position. The preacher with an oratory gift can become expectant of greater accolades, more money and ever-increasing responsibility. He begins to think that he is the center of the church, everything must be done his way, and he is above being held accountable.

But laypeople can just as easily fall into the same trap, maybe because of leadership gifts that are seen as indispensable to the church. Even the person with the gift of helps can get exasperated when all their behind-the-scenes work seems to be taken for granted. Who is to get the glory, not us … God!

All wrapped up in his gift.

Error #2 – On the other hand, when we forget that it is for others, we begin to luxuriate in this gift we have. We forget that it is to serve and help others; it’s not just for our expressing ourselves. How sad when someone gets so wrapped up in their gift that they lose touch with the people it is for. And as a result sometimes sadly people become ineffective in their gift or worse their use of it hurts other people. The administrator becomes inflexible in his organizing, leaving no room for extra spur-of-the-moment concerns. The teacher is off on topics that aren’t relevant to the needs of their listener. Or the mercy person is unable to confront someone, maybe a counselee, that really needs it. How good is the gift then? Sadly, not much!

Error #3 – But there’s a third error as well. Because we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves instead of God and we don’t want to get too wrapped up in our gifts, we fail to use them at all! We hide away in a corner and aren’t actively serving anywhere in the church. Then we have the same effect anyway; we deny God the glory by not using the gift he has given us and we don’t help those who need our service in the church.

girl-wearing-dads-tie
Girl wearing Dad’s tie

Imagine if my daughter had boasted that she had done all the work for the gift (Error #1)! I would have had to correct her since she was hurting her mom. Or what if she had decided since she liked opening gifts she would open mine instead of me (Error #2)? Then her mother would have had to correct her because the gift was for me. On the other hand, she could have avoided the problem altogether, and refused to go along with her mom in the first place (Error #3). It’s safer, and less risky! But then she would have missed the joy of giving!

Yes, spiritual gifts are given for giving, for you, others and God to benefit!