A Gifted Community (You Belong Here Series)

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series called You Belong Here.

When you are part of something bigger than yourself— a job, family, or organization, for instance—you experience how everyone has a role to play in order for everything to run smoothly. In God’s family, His Church, it’s no different. He gifted each and every one of us with a spiritual ability to do something important and necessary that can impact everyone around us. How has God gifted you?

The You Belong Here series includes the following messages:

Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

WITH YOUR FAMILY, ROOMMATES, OR LIFE GROUP, WORK THROUGH THE MESSAGE NEXT STEPS:

A Gifted Community Next Steps

Bonus Reading: from Not Like Me: Learning to Love, Serve, and Influence Our Divided World – Chapters 7, 10

LISTEN TO THE MESSAGE I SHARED AT GATEWAY IN SOUTH AUSTIN:

HERE ARE THE MESSAGE NOTES FROM ME (IN ITALICS) and JUSTIN McCARTY :

Throughout this series, we’ve been focused on the idea that God has created the church (the people, not the building) to be an extraordinary, radically embracing, radically diverse community that loves, forgives, and comes together in a way that no other group on earth does.

In week 1 we looked at God’s ideal community – sons and daughters from every tribe and nation loving each other, loving the disconnected, and all motivated by their love for Him.

In week 2 we looked at Real community and we talked about how hard community can be.

Last week John Burke and a panel of some of our leaders shared on a Diverse Community. We discovered how evil seeks to divide us whereas Jesus “breaks down the dividing wall of hostility.” By the way, what we experienced on Wednesday night and last Sunday was beautiful and challenging. In essence, last Sunday our panel including John shared some of their personal experiences because they see you and this community as a safe space to share their heart. And if you found yourself getting defensive it could be because you feel misunderstood. The fact they were sharing these hurts with you is because they see you as part of the solution and not part of the problem. If you are from the majority white culture, we listen through a filter of “me” whereas many people of color share their experience through a filter of “we.” Keep engaging with others with empathy as we all seek to the solution the problem in our world. 

While made up of individuals, we are called to be “one”:

For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all. Ephesians 4:4-6 NLT

Doesn’t leave much room for doubt!

Learning to love, serve, and influence people who look differently, vote differently, have a different moral compass, or even believe differently may be uncomfortable, but press in!

As a community where people can come as they are, we need to work through our differences to become the people God created us to be!

Consider these resources to grow in this area:

  1. Watch the entire Diverse Community Panel Discussion
  2. Not Like Me: Learning to Love, Serve, and Influence our Divided World
  3. Beyond Colorblind Course – Online and at Gateway North starts March 26th at 7pm
    Register Here
  4. A Call to Unity on March 27th here at Gateway South
    6800 West Gate Blvd. 78745
    Come at 6pm for our Multicultural Dinner – Bring an entree, side dish, or dessert from your cultural background!

We are called to oneness which is not the same as sameness!

We are called to unity which is not the same as uniformity!

But don’t miss the next verse:

However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ.

We are a community united by our connection to Christ that creates profound spiritual diversity through the gifts of grace he has given us. The word often associated with spiritual gifts is charismata — means, “gifts of grace.” They are gifts, unearned by anything we have done, freely given by God — they are power, an ability from God in order for us to accomplish purposes that God has in mind. – Ephesians 4:7 NLT

Do you realize that church was never meant to be a spectator sport?

It hasn’t always been that people gathered to sit in rows, facing one direction, listening to one person speak. At its heart, the church is about participation, involvement, connection — a community of individuals serving one another in love. It has never been about focusing on a few gifted few on the stage, it’s about each person bringing a unique gift for the benefit and building up of everyone else. In a very real sense, this is church. We are church.

“The church is not here to meet our needs. We are the church, and we are here to meet the needs of the world.”
Erwin McManus in Unstoppable Force

Do you know that grace is the power that the church (the people, not the building) runs on? Imagine if each of us corresponded to a part in a car.

We would be one, as Ephesians says, but we would each have different functions and roles to make this thing go. It is grace that makes this whole thing go — unearned, but freely given power from God that enables us to move. With that mindset, God is the driver, engineer, and pit crew — and he has designed us to GO.

Reminds me of a story from the life of Alan Mulally, former CEO of Boeing and later Ford.

  • After making tremendous advances in aviation for years at Boeing, including the development of the 747 and 777, Mulally made a gigantic jump in industries to automobiles.
  • Due to the economic impact of the automobile industry, as well as a particularly rough run that Ford was going through when he took the helm, his arrival was the subject of a lot of media attention.
  • In particular, the local media in Michigan who had seen the highs and lows of the automobile industry, were initially critical of Mulally’s credentials and his plans.
  • During a hard-hitting press conference, one of the local reporters brashly asked Mulally if being the CEO of an airplane manufacturer really prepared him for the highly regulated, nuanced network of automobile suppliers, buyers, and manufacturers.
  • Mulally cooly replied, “Well, an automobile has about 10,000 moving parts right? An airplane has 2 million — and it has to stay up in the air.”

That’s impressive!

But do you realize that God is building something with billions of moving parts? It’s us — the church. And it stretches across continents, cultures, time and space.

Together, he is integrating all of us, through grace, into the most glorious “vehicle” ever created!

And in God’s church, there is a place for everyone.

  • No one is an accident to God. In his kingdom, everyone is wanted and all are planned for.
  • I don’t know if we grasp how important this is unless we remember that we live in a culture that is harassed by loneliness and haunted by meaninglessness.
  • The God of the universe holds out community and eternal purpose to you – in the humblest of forms: the local church.
  • You are here but you could belong here — if you want to step into it.
  • I don’t mean “attend a religious service”
  • I don’t mean “come be in a building together with other people.”
  • You are invited to be a part of a gifted community, being put together by God himself.
  • You belong here.

For those that are involved in this already — our volunteers — can we say a big thank you for the way you offer your gifts in service to all of us?

Thank you for being a living reminder that God inhabits the ordinary to make it rich and meaningful.

Confession: I didn’t understand any of this when I first put my trust in Jesus and became his follower.

Church was simply a place to go to me. It was not a community for which I was made, and in which, gifts of grace would come alive in me!

In fact, it took some time for this to get clear to me, and I just wanted to share a little bit of what I learned in my journey, in hopes that it might help you in yours.

If you’ve ever been curious about how you can identify and use your spiritual gifts (or maybe you’re just a little more curious now), here’s a few things that might help you along the way.

3 KEYS TO DISCOVERY

In my experience, there were 3 keys to discovering the unique ways God had gifted me and fit me into his church.

  1. Knowledge

    Before you can identify what gifts God may have given you, you’ve got to know that there are gifts, and know what kind of gifts there are out there. Our primary knowledge of these gifts comes from the Bible, passages like this from Romans 12:

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.  Romans 12:4-8 NLT

In a passage we looked at last week, we discover that there is no distinction in the new family of God between male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free and that includes when it comes to spiritual gifts. People who were being oppressed in the Roman world were being valued and empowered in the early church as they discovered that they had spiritual gifts of leadership, hospitality, teaching, and so many other beautiful ways to contribute.

This is revolutionary!
As a quick aside, some of you may have had struggles with the way the Bible references slavery or seems to look down on women.

  • Just look at the context to understand what is going on.
  • In a society where women were seen more like property (not even second class citizens) and where 80% of the Roman world was enslaved, the early church had leaders who were women and who were enslaved.
  • The trajectory of the Scriptures was towards freedom of all people and towards empowerment and love and kindness to all!
  • So when Paul writes one of his mentees named Timothy and says:
  • “Women should learn in quietness and full submission” what he is saying is revolutionary!
  • 2000 years ago, the Scriptures declared that “women should learn!!”
  • Malala was shot by the Taliban on her way to school in 2012!
  • But what Paul was getting at was “women should learn but keep it on the downlow! Keep this hush hush so that we don’t get shut down!”
  • Remember, the early church was persecuted and even blamed by the government as the cause of anything bad happening in society!

So back to the Romans 12 passage.

  • All the passages about spiritual gifts emphasize how interconnected we are – male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free.
  • People in the early church found unity in spite of the cultural and socioeconomic differences because each learned to value others who are not like them.
  • Think about it: if my gifts are in this area, I really need to team with and find someone who has gifts in these areas.

There are several passages like this that give you knowledge about what a spiritual gift is, why it is given, and how God uses it to build other people up. There’s no exhaustive list of spiritual gifts (and I’m not going to go through them all right now), but in our “Next Steps” sheet today, I’ve listed out many of the spiritual gifts listed in the scriptures, as well as some passages for you to investigate on your own.

Special invitation:
Advance Workshop (Mar 15-16)
Make a Choice. Take a Chance. Create a Change.
Find out how God created you to put your faith in action. Includes the character matrix, spiritual gifts test, and Gallup’s StrengthsFinder, and MBTI! Cost is $30 for this workshop which includes assessments, materials, and snacks.
Event runs Friday 7:00-9:00pm & Saturday 9am-4pm.

Hearing God Workshop (Apr 26-27)
Do you desire to learn how to recognize God’s voice more and grow closer in your relationship with Him? This Friday night and Saturday intensive is a way to kick start that goal and equip you to experience God and His voice in a greater way in 2019! Looking forward to you joining us for this opportunity to impact your journey with God! Registration is $39 (Includes light snacks/coffee/water both days, lunch on Saturday, and training manual).
Event runs Friday 6:30-9:00pm & Saturday 9:30am-4pm.

What you can always bank on with a spiritual gift is that it

1) It’s a God-powered ability to build others up spiritually; it’s not just you on a good day.

For example, there are great leaders around the world in great organizations who are naturally wired to be influencers & leaders, but the spiritual gift of leadership is empowered and used by God to build people up spiritually; it advances God’s purposes in the world, not just a human purpose. Doesn’t mean you have to be a pastor or that you use the gift only in the church, but the result is the advancement of God’s Kingdom in some way.

Same thing for teaching, hospitality, and all sorts of giftings that may have been given by God at your birth, or given to you in a special way when you become a follower of Jesus.

2) It’s given for the purpose of serving/building other people up, not just your own personal enjoyment. Meaning, it’s to be used for others, which leads me to Key #2…

  1. Proximity

    If you’re going to discover what spiritual gifts God has given you, or to best utilize the gifts you know he has given you, you’ve got to actually be close to other people to use them.

Spiritual gifts don’t work well in isolation — we are meant to function together.

Here at Gateway, we describe this as “living connected”. Living connected with others is an essential part of getting opportunities to discover/use your gifts and getting feedback from others.

>> Quick word about “Spiritual Gift Tests” — There really is value in doing an assessment like this if you’ve never done it. However, like many self-administered tests, they aren’t always reliable — can often be a reflection of your own desires (what gift I’d like to have), ego, insecurities, etc.

You not knowing your actual spiritual gifts isn’t because you haven’t taken the test correctly, it could be because you aren’t close enough to the other members of the body for them to help guide you to use them.

To truly discover your spiritual gifts, you’re going to have to be in proximity, utilizing them, for people to feel the effects, to recognize it in you, and reflect it back to you.

  1. Experimentation

    Figuring out your spiritual gifts isn’t primarily about being able to name them, it’s about being able to operate in them. The only way you’re going to discover how you’re gifted (as well as how to grow in that gifting) is to take action.

This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.
– 2 Timothy 1:6 NLT

You’ve got to act on opportunities that come your way. You begin to compile data on when you watch God’s grace show up in you and then through you to other people. But it’s not a risk-free proposition, it’s inherently experimental.

As you’re working through experimentation, it’s helpful to know what you’re looking for.
What does it look like, feel like, when you’re operating in a spiritual gift.
How do you know when the “experiment” is successful?

Here are 3 paths that are wise to use in discerning if you’re operating in a spiritual gift:

3 PATHS OF DISCERNMENT

  1. Listen to those around you.

What is getting reflected back to you?
What is being affirmed by people that are in proximity with you?
The community of the church will help you discern when you are operating in your gifting, or out of it. This is one of the huge benefits of “living connected” with other people. When you are serving others with others, you begin to catch the feedback of those around you, and it begins informing your own sense of gifting.

As a middle schooler, I was a pretty insecure kid. I was just trying to fit in. In youth group, there were some intimidating seniors. Even still, my youth pastor asked me to lead a can drive we were doing for people in need. He didn’t just ask me to pull off a task that needed to be done. He encouraged me that he saw leadership gifts in me and wanted me to use them with this project. It was a transforming moment! At about the same time, my parents were encouraging me to try out for drum major in the band. I never thought I would make it, but I did. They believed in me more than I believed in myself!

2. Pay attention to what happens in you.

When you operate in a spiritual gift, you are tapping into one of the reasons you are alive, you are living deeply from your design, and it leaves a mark.

Does operating in this way produce joy, exhilaration (rush of trusting God), a sense of being fully activated or “in the zone” (time passes quickly, sense of effortlessness).

This doesn’t mean that operating in a spiritual gift is always “easy” (sometimes it requires perseverance in difficulty, or great effort to grow), but there’s usually an internal sense of joy and satisfaction in the use of a gift.

3. Watch for it to bear fruit.

Using a spiritual gift isn’t using magic or the Force — it isn’t something that you do on your own, or a power you manipulate.

It’s an active cooperating with another Person — this is God giving you grace to do what you cannot on your own.

And when God acts with you, it produces results you can’t manufacture.

There’s an aspect to spiritual gifts that you quickly realize that you can’t take credit for it; there is an effectiveness, a blessing, a power to it that you know doesn’t come from you.

Your spiritual gifts impact people, it provokes transformation in them, it draws them toward God.

While serving here at the church is a great way to use your gift, it’s not just about finding a certain role where you can officially use your gift.

A spiritual gift — a gift of grace — travels with you wherever you go.

Many times it is using the gift where you are instead of looking for a specific role.

Very few people use their gifts in a professional capacity, but that isn’t a hindrance to God’s purposes — in fact, it may be exactly what he’s looking for.

Maybe you use your pastoral gift at work or with your life group or as a coach in one of our networks.

Maybe you use your gift of hospitality or administration in serving your neighbors or extended family.

Let me share with you two needs we have as a church family, so that you can pray and determine if God has gifted you and may even be calling you to help meet these needs. Perhaps God brought you here to help us in these areas in this moment!

>> Serving w/kids and students — many of you think you don’t have the gift of serving with kids; “I’m not called to that”— but our kids are part of the Body of Christ and they need you using your gifts with them! They need pastors, teachers, hospitality, and encouragement. Almost any spiritual gift can be used in your capacity as a Kids volunteer! We have more kids coming than we ever had before. We have places where you can jump in and make a real difference now!

>> Gift of Giving – This doesn’t mean you become a professional philanthropist; God has given you capacity to make money for purposes he wants funded.

For example, right now our South Campus budget is under budget.

  • If you are a guest just disregard this part of the message, but for those of you this is your church family you probably know the way we set our budget is based on projections and as the year goes on we have to adjust spending based on what’s actually come in.
  • Even with the biggest month of giving in December that we have ever had, we are behind our projections. We projected we would grow by 12% this year, but we are growing by 5%.
  • If you are here and you’ve been waiting to start giving or you haven’t given in awhile, then now is a great time to jump in to what God is doing here – even if you don’t have the gift of giving!
  • For those of whom God has specifically supercharged with the gift of giving, could it be that he put you in your job and brought blessing your way so that you could help the church financially?
  • It could also be a person is in need in your sphere of influence, and you are there with abundance while they are lacking. You can help them!

>> Utilizing your gift doesn’t have to be within the confines of this building or this campus.

  • God may have given it to you to focus outwardly toward advancing God’s Kingdom into our city and world
  • Networks are organic groups of people using their gifts and influence to serve others.
  • Anchor (20s/30s), Buda and Kyle, new networks emerging in Bastrop and Lakeway,
    next Sunday the Reconciliation and Justice to discuss Not Like Me and the Dripping Springs network will gather together at SLAB BBQ (PIC)
  • On 3/17 the Business Leaders Network will meet up
  • On 3/24 the Serving the Homeless and Gateway South Deaf Network will both be meeting up! Every week our Sunday serving networks use their gifts to serve our church family like Arts/Production, Guest Services, and NextGen.
  • All the gifts are needed when these groups come together to serve a specific subset of Austin.Gateway South Austin Networks

Next week — don’t want you to be uninformed of some of the more mysterious gifts — prophecy, healing, tongues, miracles; these gifts open the door to a supernatural community; really unique week for us — be here!

Where do you need to experiment?

Where do you need to work at discovering, or perhaps fanning into flame your gifts?

For those of you who know you need to “live connected” but are looking for somewhere to begin, somewhere to get started — I’d love to meet you there at Starting Gate after the service. It won’t be the single answer to this entire issue for you, but it could be a beginning. I’ve come all this way, because church isn’t about what happens on the stage — it’s about what happens out here.

Remember, this isn’t a spectator sport, you are invited to participate, to get involved — because you were made to belong here.

FOR MORE ON SPIRITUAL GIFTS: 

Spiritual Gifts: Apply

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