Disclaimer--I know so little about how to do construction, it's scary. I can't dig a foundation, and even if I could, I would have NO idea where to go from there. So, if you're a builder, a contractor, or just plain smarter than me, just try to ignore it if I say something that displays my ignorance of all things construction.
Habitat for Humanity can build an entire house in a matter of days--so fast that I used to suspect they couldn't possibly be very GOOD houses...they must be pretty shoddy if you can put them up that first, right? But the fact is, these houses are as good as most, better than some. So how do they build in sometimes as little as a week what it often takes months for others to do?
Well, my apologies to Habitat here, because I'm about to really oversimplify this, but essentially what they do is this:
Make a plan
Get willing volunteers
Give their volunteers the necessary tools and supplies
Send the volunteers off to work.
Now, for a moment, I want you to imagine a scene. You're building a house, and everyone's been given their tools. Some have hammers, some screwdrivers, some saws, and so forth. Once everybody has their tool, you send them off to work, but when you come to check on the progress, nothing has happened. NOTHING. There has been NO building done on this house. And so, you start looking around, and what you discover is someone trying to install a window with their hammer (THAT's not gonna be pretty!), someone else trying to cut a piece of wood with their screwdriver. You also notice a few people just wandering around, picking up wood and looking under it, or just looking around dumbfounded. You ask a couple of them what they're doing and they tell you that they don't know where their tools are. And then there's a whole bunch of people sitting in a corner, talking. As you approach this group, you hear the conversation...they are talking about HOW to build a house, what a hammer is for, how to hold a screwdriver, safety precautions when using a power saw.
You look at this group, and notice that all of them still have their tools, but they've stuffed them into their pockets, or set them off against the wall.
There is ONE guy who seems to have been working--sweat is just dripping off the poor guy, there's sawdust all around his work area...but when you ask him where the wood he's cut is, he says every time he cut it, somebody would tell him he was doing it all wrong, and he had to start over.
How long will it take to get this house built? FOREVER...and then some. Because the ONLY way you're going to get the house built is to get these people to start USING these tools...and using them PROPERLY. You've got some with tools who aren't working at all, and others who ARE working but they are completely ineffective because they are using the wrong tool.
Well, it strikes me that the church today is frighteningly like that group of building volunteers.
Look back up at those simple steps Habitat takes:
Make A Plan. Get volunteers. Equip your volunteers. Send them to work.
God has a plan to build His Kingdom. He had this plan since, well, since forever...and ever since He laid the foundation, He planned to use volunteers on this project. The volunteers are those who choose to put their faith in Him. Believers. Christians.
Then He gave each "volunteer" the tools they needed...these are our spiritual gifts. "in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues."
So far, so good...most Christians can agree that God has called them to serve, to be a "volunteer" for His Kingdom, as it were. And most of us agree that God gives us each a spiritual gift when we become a believer.
So, why isn't the Kingdom growing the way (I believe) God desires? Well, first, without gettting WAY off my topic here, let's define Building the Kingdom; I'm talking here, really, about fulfilling the Great Commission. Reaching the lost for Christ, seeing them come INTO the Kingdom, and THEN teaching them how to grow in their relationship with Christ, and equipping them to become "volunteer" builders themselves.
I believe we (the Body of Christ) are not doing our job of fulfilling the Great Commission, and I believe that a big part of the reason can be seen in this house-building example. At the building site I described, everyone there had "volunteered" and said they were willing to help; they are professing Christians, those who have SAID that they have made Christ Lord, and they will obey His will for their lives. The tools are the spiritual gifts that God has given us.
But the building isn't getting done, and there are several reasons for this that I want to point out:
--Some Christians are just wandering around doing nothing, because they have no idea what their spiritual gift IS. They're still trying to FIND their tools. If that describes you, let me give you some suggestions to FIND your tool--first, while Spiritual Gift tests are interesting, and, in my opinion, often quite accurate, they are NOT the best way to find your gift (again, in my opinion). There are TWO good ways to find your gift: First, ask those who know you best what THEY think your gift is. Second, and this is radical, I know--DO SOMETHING!!
Teach, Participate in a Missions project, go on visitation, help organize an event,...just go DO something in your church, and you'll know pretty quickly if God has given you a gift for that particular ministry. I've done lots of different jobs in our church, and I've learned a lot of things that God did NOT give me a gift for; I've also learned a couple of things He did gift me with, and that has become my focus. (that does NOT mean, by the way, that I don't need to practice those other things...but that's a topic for another day, I won't chase that rabbit here).
--Some Christians have their tools; they KNOW what their spiritual gift is--but they aren't using it. They'd rather sit around and talk about the NEED to use these tools, HOW to use the tools, and criticizing how others are using their tools. Sadly, this seems to describe a majority of those in our churches today; they fill our pews, they can certainly talk about what needs to be done, and find fault with what others are doing...but they don't bother to actually pick up their OWN tool/gift and start helping out!!
--Finally, there are a few out there using their tools for the wrong purpose. What am I talking about here? Sometimes, those who are WILLING to do the work take jobs within our churches just because they "need" to be done, NOT because they sense God calling them to do them. I once got a NEGATIVE score in Mercy on a Spiritual Gift test--I am probably NOT the best choice to head the benevolence ministry or an encourager's ministry. If someone handed me three paper bags to sort by size and store, I'd lose them all within a week's time--so my skill set probably doesn't include organizing an event. But ask me to speak, or to teach, and I'm all over it!! Now, let me add one thing--I don't teach or speak because I'M good at it, but because God has gifted me with it. It may seem a small distinction, but it all makes ALL the difference! Maybe I AM good at it, maybe others really enjoy it--I certainly hope so--but if that is the case, that is to God's Glory, not mine...I'm just USING the tools He gave me.
Oh, that last guy...he represents those few poor folks at church who ARE working, they ARE using their gifts, the WAY God intended...but they don't seem to get much accomplished because everything they do gets criticized by the pew sitters, the very ones who aren't actually working themselves. Whatever you do, DO NOT be one of these critical pew-sitters!!
WHAT is your tool? How are you using it? ARE you using it? What are you helping to build for the Kingdom? If we are to accomplish all He has planned for us to do, we need EVERY "volunteer" out there, working!!
There are so many great verses regarding spiritual gifts, I just can't choose! So, I'll put a couple of verses here, and also some Scripture references...go check them out!
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:10-11
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
1 Corinthians 14:26
1 Corinthians 12:8-28 (it's long, but worth it!!)