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FIRST-PERSON: Using your gifts

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — When I look at the Bible, I see a God who loves words.

We live in a spoken creation (Genesis 1), we are sealed with a spoken victory (John 19:30) and we anticipate a spoken renewal (Revelation 21:5). In a sense, the whole of the Christian life is growing in the understanding of God’s words — both His spoken word and the inspired words of Scripture.

As a student, I have watched my seminary’s faculty and staff members model how we Christians can use our gifts to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” — including a love for writing and storytelling. For the last year or two, a three-question test has helped me find the best ways to take my vocational and creative gifts captive and obey Christ. There are no hard and fast answers to each of these questions, but I believe they can yield a more Christlike posture of service.

How can my gifts meet the needs of the church where I am a member?

This question helps us think about the names and faces affected by our work. Most often, our gifts ought to be used to help brothers and sisters in our own local church body. As fellow church members, we have been given an obligation to care for each other — to use our gift set for others’ edification or refreshment and, ultimately, for others’ soul care.

In my church, I can offer my writing gifts to help draft or edit any documents, articles or curriculum that my church needs and I can offer my guitar-playing gifts to help lead worship.

There are often unseen ways we can use our gifts to serve our fellow church members, but we must first ask where our church’s needs lie.

How can my gifts meet the needs of those to whom I have been given?

Beyond the local church body, there is a long list of people to whom we have been given. A helpful evangelistic tool is to use your gifts to serve those who are not part of your local church but are still part of your everyday life. Ask yourself how your specific gifts can yield opportunities for fruitful, Gospel-focused conversation.

Much of my writing is done in the same coffee shop, smack dab in the middle of my small town. Between study time for school and writing, I have become a regular. It’s a soil ripe for planting seeds of the Gospel, and I’ve grown observant about the kinds of conversations I’m having with others. Though most of the workers and customers will never read my writing, it is precisely because of my gift set that God has put me in a place where I get to overhear their stories — stories of hurt and happiness for which the Gospel is always a talking point.

Our gifts are almost always tied to a specific place, and oftentimes we can leverage where we have been placed for the Kingdom.

How can my gifts meet the needs of the church at large?

While this may not seem apparent (and might even sound redundant), serving your fellow church members and those to whom you have been given outside the church is the primary way you can meet the needs of the global church. We may not need more people trying to be top-level culture changers, yet we always need people on the ground willing to create a culture shaped by the Gospel.

That said, there are some smaller ways you can intentionally try to meet the needs of the global church. Find outlets where you can use your gifts to uniquely benefit the church abroad. There are a plethora of organizations all around the world seeking volunteers or resourcing.

As an example, I tend to be fairly particular about which outlets I allow to publish my writing. This isn’t because I want to be uptight, difficult, or feel only certain organizations are “good enough”; instead, I want to be sure they make the Gospel central and be sure I agree with their mission. In doing so, I typically try to find additional ways to serve them and hope to reflect Christlikeness when collaborating with others.

All in all, I’m learning that the best way to use our gifts is to use them faithfully. We don’t need to try to build platforms or tackle the biggest projects we can dream up. We leave the building up to God and remain obedient wherever He places us. It is faithfulness in all realms that can truly be called “growing in the understanding of God’s words.”

    About the Author

  • Cody Glen Barnhart

    Cody Glen Barnhart, of Maryville, Tenn., writes at www.counterculturing.com and is a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is pursuing his M.Div.

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