I think it was the most beautiful shot I had ever hit; the ball sailed for what seemed like a mile and landed squarely in the middle of the fairway. And for a (very) brief moment I believed the lie. “I can do this; I’m good at this game,” I thought. The next several holes quickly vaporized my vain imaginations as a sense of reality grew in my mind—I would need to practice and play almost daily if I were to approach even being average at the game of golf. The layer of dust on my golf bag is now quite thick, but my fishing rod has seen extensive use.
The vast majority of us tend to avoid areas of life in which we tend to do poorly, all the while seeking to capitalize on any type of activity in which we feel we excel. It’s just human nature and one of the primary reasons that many professing Christians are not more actively involved with their faith. All too often we simply don’t feel as though we are any good at doing Christianity.
We pray and see only a few (if any) of our requests answered. We pick up the Bible and feel lost in the thees and thous. We step out to serve, only to have some sort of conflict blow up in our faces. And sometimes subtly, but ever so firmly, the conviction begins to grow in our hearts that life is much safer when we allow others to actively seek and serve God. Of course, we still profess our faith in Christ, recognizing the value of its eternal promises, but for all intents and purposes, our Christian lives become dormant.
This perspective, among other things, has led to the professionalization of clergy. This mindset—that only the select few can effectively know and serve God, continues to do immeasurable damage to the church, and to our society at large.
Our retreat into the shadows of Christian activity finds its roots in two glaring misunderstandings of the Scriptures:
- We fail to recognize the role of the five-fold ministry.
- We fail to understand the role (and power) of the Holy Spirit, The Great Equalizer.
The Apostle Paul tells us through Ephesians 4 that the role of the five-fold ministry is to equip those involved in the church for “the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” In other words, the primary job of full-time ministers is not to do all of the ministry, but to train others to effectively use their God-given gifts to reach out and build up the body of Christ.
Of course, we can easily excuse ourselves if we consider natural gifts and talents to be the sum total of our God-given gifts, but they aren’t; or at least, they shouldn’t be.
“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” John 20:21-22 (NASB)
Jesus breathed on them: at this moment they were born from above. But Jesus told them to wait and seek for something more—an empowerment from the Holy Spirit.
“He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.’” Acts 1:7-8 (NASB)
One of the most beautiful aspects of the Christian faith is that no matter how hard humans work to the contrary, Christianity is not elitist. God’s utilization of people does not depend upon genetic superiority or innate charisma. The Holy Spirit is our Great Equalizer. It was He who empowered a group of uneducated fishermen to change the world, and it is He who desires to empower the average person to make a huge impact in the lives of others. This is what the spiritual gifts are all about. They aren’t about identity or status, or anything along those lines. They are intended to revolve around a faith empowered love for God and others.
I can’t help but think that we can do better than we are. It’s not about becoming super-spiritual, but about more effectively cultivating the essence of the Gospel—faith working through love. God knows how desperately we all need The Great Equalizer to have His way in our lives and in our world!