Gifts, Talents and Calling
A missionary in China in 1912, Roland Allen, writing out of his experience, said,
- Every congregation has within its own membership sufficient gifts to carry out its mission in the world (note: 'sufficient', not 'all')
- The community is responsible for recognising the spiritual gifts and needs of its members, and for calling forth ministries.
Today, many congregations struggle with a apparent lack of gifts to fulfil their mission and they would expect the minister to be responsible for recognising and calling forth ministries.
Is our current experience at odds with Roland Allen, or might there a hidden factor that is being overlooked?
- The church tends to start with a task, and look for the gifts to fulfil it. Allen would start with gifts and look for where they might be called into use.
- In the church, task is frequently 'the thing that we have always done', rather than 'the thing we are being called to be and do today'.
- Among Christians who are growing and learning, one soon discerns the signs of new gifts, previously hidden which, given a supportive environment, can be nurtured into fruition.
- The choice of words can be vital. Ask, "Who might be called to be a Pastoral Visitor?" and few replies can be expected. Ask, "Who has the gift of being a good neighbour?", and far more replies will be heard.
- Similarly, notices in a magazine or on a board asking for volunteers seldom produce much response. A personal request, made to someone whom one has identified as having the gifts, will be more effective.
- Because we all see different aspects of each other's personality and life, recognising and calling out of gifts becomes a community activity - not something to be left to one person, even if that person is a professional.