I'm surprised by the reaction to the May 5 post and a bit disappointed at the reaction to the May 15 post. One-man shows apparently touch a nerve; but many of the comments there could just as well have been left in response to the last post. What should be the shape of the church, both the local body and the church around the world, for it to effectively be God's instrument for the release of His power in the world today?
My friend Mrs. S, who has seen church in a variety of situations (semi-communal, Third World, and megachurch), has lots of experience to draw on. My friend Mr. B and I have a shared church history up to about 12 years ago. We've all seen leadership done wrong. Sometimes we've felt that leadership is a necessary evil. I think Julie's reluctance to use the word "office" likely stems from that, at least in part (correct me if I'm wrong). We see pretenders (TBN's full of 'em) and we see people claim incontestable authority and we rightly want nothing to do with that. And since so many of those folks have assumed for themselves these NT titles, we're reluctant to use the titles, though we acknowledge the gifts.
A question, though: Don't gifts show function? If you have a spiritual gift, doesn't that indicate your function in the Body? If you were a body part with the gift of sight, then don't you have the function of seeing? And if you have the function of seeing, should I refrain from calling you an eye? Does it hurt or help me to refrain from admitting that you are, indeed, an eye?
I think Julie's getting at the point when she writes: "Servants don't seek leadership roles, nor do prophets, spiritual teachers, or evangelists. . . ." We have a biblical right to "sincerely desire the greater gifts" but also a reprimand to serve one another, for the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve. We have seen many who have insincerely desired the greater gifts and have not served. We ourselves (and many of our friends) have been taken in by some of them; we've been wounded. But what if we could learn to sincerely, humbly desire those greater gifts? If God withholds them, then He is always right; but could we perhaps become the kind of people who could be trusted with these gifts?
What if, tonight, Jesus appeared to you and said: "I will give you the gift of prophecy," or of teaching, or the calling of an apostle--could you handle it? If we can't, then shouldn't we get on our faces and ask God to make us into people who could respond to that call, who could take up that gift and be faithful with it?
I want to see a real Book of Acts outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and I have been seeking a specific gift. Even looking at that last sentence, I think: These folks are gonna think I'm arrogant! But I want to be the kind of person who can be trusted with the gift. I see the need in my assembly. I want to step up and fill the need. But being the kind of person who can fill that need, who handles that gift trustworthily. . . that's the kicker. That puts me on the hook.
I don't think I'm the only one God wants on the hook. If we say we want an outpouring of the Spirit but can't be trusted with His gifts, then we are fooling ourselves and had best come clean about it. We either change or accept that what we have now is all we're gonna get, because by not changing we're saying that what we have now is all we really want.