Church is a team sport. If everyone gets in the game, we are in a better position to win. If half the team plays, we can guarantee that we’ll lose.
You’ve been chosen to be part of God’s team, and each of you are needed, because you bring different gifts – different abilities – to the table: It’s easy for you to invite people to church; you can lead a women’s Bible Study really, really well; you’ve done so much work as a deacon, that you can spot impractical solutions a mile away.
No one person has all these gifts, which is another way of saying: No one person is the church, or can build the church. When each of us operate in our gifts, we have the opportunity to advance the ball down field – to advance the Kingdom.
Are you plugged in where you want to be? Where you feel like you’re operating in your gifting – that is, where you are gifted? Now, there’s some stuff that we all have to do, that may not match up with our own gifts, but discovering what you’re gifted at, and operating in a ministry that expresses that gift, is crucial to the growth of a church.
Once you know your gifting, there’s only one, large problem that can create a perfect storm of inaction and hesitation: Fear.
Church members fear not knowing enough: “I don’t have enough Bible knowledge; don’t have the right answers; don’t have enough experience trying to reach new people for Christ.”
Pastors fear giving away too much power, responsibility: “If I don’t do it, it won’t be done right.” “They definitely need to know more, to do this work well.”
Fear from both sides – members and pastors – adds up to a perfect storm of hesitation and inaction.
The remedy? It’s in this story from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 14. Jesus has gone to pray by himself, and the disciples have – we think – fallen asleep in a boat, and drifted out into dangerous waters. A storm is brewing. Later that night, the boat is in real danger, but the disciples see Jesus walking across the water. He says to them: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And then we read this:
‘”And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”’ (vv. 28-33)
Again and again the disciples need to hear from their Lord: Do not be afraid. And even more than that – to step out of the boat. “Trust, and do not doubt me. I am here. You will not do this perfectly. It won’t feel like “winning” all the time. You can’t wait to do this perfectly, before you step out of the boat. The only thing you need to do, is take my hand.”
When we take Jesus’ hand, especially when we doubt – when we fear – we share according to what we know, and are eager to learn more – to do more – so that people can know Jesus. When pastors – like me – take Jesus’ hand, we encourage church members to step out of the boat, and trust Jesus: We give away control because we trust that even when things start sinking, Jesus is there to help us rise.
Take Jesus’ hand in prayer, this week, and ask for strength to learn and begin to operate in your gifting. Take Jesus’ hand in prayer, this week, and ask for strength to join him in the middle of his difficult, joyful work of advancing his Kingdom.