Friday, December 16, 2005

Characteristics of Christian Leaders (2)

In Romans 12:6-8 Paul lists several "gifts of grace" (Gk charismata - in 1 Cor 12:7-11; 28-30 he uses the term pneumatika and the list is different). They are (from the NIV):

  • prophesying
  • serving
  • teaching
  • encouraging
  • contributing to the needs of others
  • leadership
  • showing mercy

These almost identify personality types insofar as some people seem to be "born leaders" or naturally good at teaching or encouraging. However, we should be careful to note that Paul says these are gifts from God and while they may relate to "natural" strengths or abilities there is nothing "natural" about God's gifts. We tend to find that people will automatically function best in one or two of these areas. It's unlikely that anyone will be good at all of these, or even more than three. Personally I believe that when we surrender our lives to God and submit to the Lordship of Jesus He enables and empowers us to rise to a higher level for His glory, and His gifts of grace turn our "natural" traits into strengths which will help to achieve His purposes.

Hence, while everyone can serve we will find that some people are particularly gifted in this area and we should encourage them to "specialise" in this area in their work for the Lord. I've seen brethren put onto the platform, for example, who would much rather be mowing the lawns. My own late father used to suffer nervous dyspepsia for days whenever he had to speak because it was not his gift and he should never have been rostered on to do it. I've been a member of ecclesias where all the work is apportioned equally: everyone has an equal number of speaking appointments, and are rostered to mow the lawns an equal number of times. This is not God's way. God gives us teachers so they can teach, and the church will come to maturity by hearing our teachers teach rather than by watching them mow lawns (perhaps badly); and the church will come to maturity by letting the servers serve and the encouragers encourage, and by letting the gardeners tend to the gardens. We should keep the teachers out of the garden (unless gardening is their secondary gift) and keep the gardeners off the platform (unless teaching is their secondary gift).

I have found through my own experiences that the church functions better when we identify our members' gifts or strengths, and get them working for the Lord in areas where these strengths are needed. By pushing people into other areas we only create frustration and unnecessary tension, and no one benefits. But by folllowing God's way the whole church benefits.

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