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7/30/97 Spiritual gifts should open doors, not close them, he says

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Discovering one’s spiritual gifts can open doors of service or limit a Christian’s availability to God, depending on how the person uses the information, a conference leader told participants in the Jericho Missions Festival, July 26-Aug. 1 at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center.
“Sometimes we limit God because we have categorized ourselves” and refuse to become involved in a ministry activity on the basis of not having the needed gifts, said Sam House, Experiencing God specialist in the Baptist Sunday School Board’s discipleship and family development division. He led conferences on serving God in all situations and following Jesus by serving others.
As an example, House recalled being asked to become involved in a church ministry with mentally retarded people. He agreed to visit the home but intended to turn down the request to serve, feeling he lacked gifts and time for the job. However, on his visit he was surrounded by a group of loving children with Down’s syndrome and he suddenly found he wanted to be involved even without skills or experience.
“Often our availability is the single thing God can use,” House said, “and the greatest barrier to service is that we limit God because we limit ourselves. If we are available, he will teach us what we need to know.”
When Christians make themselves available to God, he will put them in the middle of situations they would not have chosen for themselves and provide blessings beyond anything they could have imagined, he said.
“As we seek to be available to God, we must give him time to speak to us. Waiting is something people in our culture find difficult to do,” House said. “We are so American. We expect God to respond immediately. Waiting is so spiritual and we are so pragmatic.”
As editor of the Experiencing God newsletter that includes stories of God at work around the world, House acknowledged, “I continue to be amazed that I am amazed how God continues to work.
“God is always at work around us,” he said. “Just because we don’t know about it doesn’t mean God isn’t working.”
Noting surveys consistently show that 20 percent of church members do 80 percent of the work, he also noted “what we do for God is not restricted to what office we’re willing to accept.”
Too often churches get too preoccupied with keeping the ongoing programs and ministries going. Enlisting enough teachers and worrying about whether summer offerings will pay the bills can sidetrack leaders from being the body of Christ and being change agents in the church and the community, House said.
“Everyone who knows Christ is qualified to be a servant leader,” he said. “The whole purpose is to serve God and allow him to help us to serve others.”
Using an acrostic for the word “serve,” House said Christian service should include a focus on spiritual gifts and using life experiences.
“God tells us he can redeem every experience and give it new purpose,” House said.
Building strong relationships, using vocational skills and building on enthusiasm are other key elements of effective service. He warned that service is not always easy and becoming unhappy or even critical of something in the church doesn’t automatically mean a person should go to another church.
“We don’t choose a church like we do a dry cleaner,” House said. “When there are things that make you uncomfortable or even critical, it could be that God put you there to pray about that. It is not unheard of for God to assign us to do something hard.
“When we look at persons in our church as not being there by accident, it can make such a difference. When we look at what God has arranged for us, it can be so surprising,” House said.
Jericho is sponsored by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, Sunday School Board and Woman’s Missionary Union.

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  • Linda Lawson