In our article “Safe Behavior,” we began with the foundation of creating a safe community where unsafe behaviors are not allowed and where every person is loved with God’s unconditional love as a person created in His image. In our article “Avoiding Tangled Webs in the Healthy Church Community,” we built on that foundation with a structure of healthy communication where conflicts are resolved as Jesus taught us to do in Matthew 18 so that divisions do not arise. Our article “Servant Leadership in a Healthy Biblical Community” focused our attention on the upward call of God where we humble ourselves as servant leaders rather than promote ourselves as “the leader” and direct church life to elevate the pastor.
In the fourth and final article in this series, we recognize that every person in the congregation is a vital part of its work and life. Described by Paul as gift-based ministry, the healthy biblical community finds each person their place to serve in the church body that fits God’s call and gifting, both inside and outside the church walls.
The basis for fulfilling gift-based ministry is valuing each believer as being gifted by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve as an effective member of the body. Paul’s teaching in Galatians 3:28 is essential because he taught us: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In a healthy church, positions of leadership and service are not assigned due to ethnicity, race, wealth or gender but by evidence of Christian character and maturity as well as by the gifting of the Holy Spirit.
In a healthy church, the positions of leadership are held not by those who seek them but by those whose gifts match them. This is seen at every level of church life from a leader who is a God-empowered servant leader, to a teacher who is a God-inspired instructor, to a counselor who has God’s gift of insight and wisdom in dealing with life’s struggles, to an administrator who has a God-provided plan for the use of resources, to every person whom God gifts to do their work with His strength, love, power and effectiveness.
However, in an unhealthy church, two problems often occur. The first is when people who have the gifts of God to fill the place of service for which He has gifted them do not step up and take their place within the family of God, or, conversely, those who do not have God’s gifting for the place of leadership or responsibility they seek maneuver the congregation to place them there anyway. Knowing that they sought the position rather than being called by God and the church, these self-called leaders can approach their work with an insecurity that undermines their effectiveness and then grab the power of the position in order to maintain their place. This creates havoc in the health of the church body as the perfectly excellent “eye” attempts to be a “hand” or the perfectly suited “liver” tries to be the “brain.”
It is evident that these two examples of unhealthy church life are directly related. When the person God gifted to do a ministry does not step up and take his or her place, then the void of leadership, teaching, counseling, administration or some other vital work of the church becomes a vacuum that can easily draw in a person unsuited to the work. This can be true either by an overly responsible person who is just trying to help out but is not gifted by God to do the work, or by an overly ambitious person who wants a place of prominence within the church family and ministry.
Denny Wayman is the lead superintendent of the Free Methodist Church in Southern California and the senior pastor of the Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara. Cheryl Wayman is a licensed therapist and the director of counseling ministries at the Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara.
DISCUSSION: As you consider your own place (or as a group, your places) within the church’s ministries, are you filling the place for which God has gifted you?  Do you have a gift that needs to be used, but you haven’t made yourself available?  Are you in a place of responsibility for which you are not suited?  Are there people in your church family with responsibilities for which they are not gifted?  What do you (or your group) need to do to help your church be a healthy biblical community by living out the Bible’s teachings on gift-based ministry?