“Spiritual Gifts: The Nuts and Bolts of the Holy Spirit’s Work”

Before the typical sermon time, this is what happened in worship:

1Corinthians 12 from The Message was read.

Introduction of the Spiritual Strengths Finder Today we're going to take some time to take this Spiritual Strengthsfinder in worship. There are no right or wrong answers. The point is for us to be able to have a common language as a church to talk about our strengths and how they fit together with others'. So take out the folded Strengthsfinder that you were given when you came in today. All you have to do is read through the statements and pick up to 10 that you think describe you. Don't pick the statement if you just want it to describe you! Don't pick it if it's something someone else would say about you but you don't feel is true of yourself. Pick up to 10 that you think fit you. And then add up the ones you picked and see what your top 1-2 gifts are. There are only four categories. Most people will score higher in 1 or 2 than the rest. We're going to take 5-7 minutes to do this. If you're someone who needs to take this home and do it, just take time now to read through it and see if you can start it at least.

We're going to move ahead since most of you look like you're done. There are brief descriptions of each strength or gift in the booklet that you will also see on the screen, and I have asked four people who each have a different strength to help us out by telling us a bit about what it's like to have that strength.

Let's start with the Doers, also known as Task Orienters. Doers know how to make things happen. They work tirelessly to implement a solution. They have the ability to “catch” an idea and make it a reality. Michelle Hedgren, help us out. How do you function as a Doer. How is it helpful to you to have this gift?

Please stand if your first or second highest gift was as a Doer.

Now we'll move on to the Relators or Shepherds. Relators are the glue that holds a group together. Without them, the group or organization is a collection of individuals. Adam Whitten, help us out. How do you function as a Relator? How is it helpful to you to have this gift?

Please stand if your first or second highest gift was as a Relator.

Influencers or Evangelists are next. Influencers help the group reach a broader audience. They take charge, speak up, and make sure the message is heard inside and outside of the group or organization. Chris LeDuc, help us out. How do you function as an Influencer? How is it helpful to you to have this gift?

Please stand if your first or second highest gift was as an Influencer.

Last but not least, there are Thinkers or Prophets. Thinkers are focused on what could be. They absorb and analyze information, and help make better decisions. They stretch our thinking for the future. Rod , help us out. How do you function as a Thinker? How is it helpful to you to have this gift?

Please stand if your first or second highest gift was as a Thinker.

Now you're going to have a chance to meet some people in the congregation. Take 2 minutes and find someone who has one of your top strengths and share how you use it in your daily life and linen to how they use it. If you don't get it yet or don't know how you use it, then listen well and hopefully hearing someone else share will help you realize it for yourself.

Now take some time and find someone who has a gift you didn't score high in (have them stand again?) list to how they use it and ask them any questions you have about that gift. Then share yours.

We often think of the Holy Spirit as swooshing in to change hearts and minds-- and I've experienced that spirit. But what we often don't think about is that the nuts and bolts of the spirits' work is already within us. The spirit gave us spiritual gifts as part of who we are-- and when we become mature Christians, we can use them fully for the work the spirit has for us now. These gifts have been a part of us since we were born— and they are maturing in is as we rely on Christ and the Holy Spirit to bring them out in us.

That's why I love this image of the body. Each part has its role. You can see, without looking any further than your own body that you need all the parts to be themselves and yet function well together. You wouldn’t want your kidney cells to start acting like an eyeball; or your blood cells to decide to be something else and clog up your veins! Do you know what we call it when a cell stops functioning like its supposed to and begins to replicate? We call that cancer. If we are the body of Christ, then when we choose not to live into our gifts, when we choose not to be what we are created to be, then at best we are not very effective as the body; at worst, we become like a cancer-- replicating ourselves rapidly, encouraging people to hide their Strengths or diminishing some gifts.

That is what's happening within the church in Corinth. Paul is writing to the church in Corinth because they are fighting. They are fighting about who has the better gift. Who has the more important role. They are fighting about who is in and who is not. In our church we may not ever say which one is most important, because we’re Minnesotans, but we know which one is most important. And Paul says, cut it out. All gifts are important. They all play a part in witnessing to the Holy Spirit’s work. You can’t choose! You are creating a cancer, a division within the body that is making the whole body sick.

It is only when we encourage each other to use our strengths maturely and offer our strengths that we get to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit-- to see the beauty of the body working together.

So if you’re a doer, you may be thrilled to find out today that there’s a name for your gift— you’re probably used to being behind the scenes and guess what— your work behind the scenes is what makes everything else happen.

And if you’re a thinker, you may be thrilled to know that your gift is important; that we need all of your ideas and how they fit together; we need a vision to keep us moving in the same direction.

And if you’re an influencer, you may excited to find out that shmoosing with all of those people all the time is not just a personality thing, it’s a spiritual gift! We need your ability to influence people, to share what’s happening here out there in the world, and also to bring what’s happening in the world to influence how we do our ministry here.

And if you’re a relator, you may be relieved to know that the way you bring people together is absolutely a spiritual gift— that this talent you have for bringing harmony and balance and building relationships is absolutely vital to what happens in the church.

But you also may feel frustrated because you wanted a different gift. You may feel sad because you don't see your strength as a gift. That’s not an unfamiliar reaction. When the staff took this inventory one of the first responses was, “Well I knew what category I was going to be in. I didn’t even have to take the inventory.” It is true that often we focus on what we don’t do well, wishing we were more like that other thing. We all have that tendency. But here’s the thing— the Spirit doesn’t do that. God doesn’t wish you had different gifts, or God would’ve made you with different ones. The Holy Spirit doesn’t say, “we only need influencers” or “we only need doers,” because without one another, nothing would get done. Without the thinkers to cast a vision, doers would just keep busy doing; without influencers, there would never be anyone new to expand the ministry God is calling us to and help us see other parts of the body; without the relators, none of us would know how to come together because our relationships would be shallow at best; and without the doers, we would just sit around dreaming up great things to do, but never be able to implement them. We need all parties represented whether we are starting a new worship service, going out to do a mission project, or planning and implementing Vacation Bible School— all gifts are needed for the Holy Spirit’s work to be seen and experienced.

This inventory doesn't tell you what your sparks are-- the passions in your life that give you purpose, but it does help you to know how to contribute to those things in your life that spark your interest and fuel your passions, and how to get along with others that are different from you.

And there's also the flip side to that— we all usually hold as most important the thing which we are good at. I don’t mean to say that we see our gift as the most important when we’re using it— oftentimes as Minnesotans we see the opposite gift as more important or valued. What I mean, is that when we come into a church as a doer and see no one doing anything, we probably won’t stay for long because we want to be able to do something alongside others and to know what it is God is calling us to do. If we are an Influencer walking into a church service and we find that we’re the only one ever telling our friends about the amazing things our church is doing, we will get frustrated because we know the importance of sharing the good news and we want others to be doing that as well. If we are a relator and we join a Bible study but all they ever do is share facts and ideas and never spend time building relationships, we will be out of there because we want to relate to others. And if we are Thinkers and we keep looking for a vision and finding no one who can see past their own nose and no one to brainstorm ideas with, then we will move on to a place that has a grand vision.

Imagine what our church can look like when all strengths are recognized as being important, when all of us are able to use our strengths to live into being Christ's body together. When we are able to listen well to one another and to the Holy Spirit. When we recognize each others' gifts, appreciate what others have to contribute, and are willing to share our gifts, there's so much we can do together! God always provides what we need to be Christ's body in this world-- the gifts are here-- it takes all of us to offer our gifts and receive others' gifts as the treasure that they are.

So as you continue to process and discern your strengths today and how they impact what you're passionate about, I'm going to invite Lynda Ellis to come up and lead us in prayer as we ask the Holy Spirit to use these gifts for the glory of God.