Pastor’s Perspective – October 2022
Decades ago, I was being interviewed by a denominational organization. They asked me what I believed my spiritual gifts were. And I told them one of my spiritual gifts that I was nurturing in my life was the gift of long suffering, otherwise known as patience.
In my youthful naiveté I confused the gifts of the Spirit with the fruits of the Spirit. Spiritual gifts help us to accomplish the ministries that have been given to us by God. It is important to note that not all people are expected to have equal giftedness. The diversity of gifts allows the Church to work together to accomplish the work of God. No one gift, and no one person, is worth more than another. But like the human body, our gifts are used to animate the Church as a unified whole. Proper coordination between the people of God and the use of all our collective gifts helps to makes us effective and united in the Holy Spirit.
The fruits of the Spirit are not individually gifted. God expects us all to show the fruits of the Spirit as we mature and grow in our relationship with Jesus. Mature Christians show the fruits of the Spirit. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5: 22). These fruits are supposed to be found in all who would serve and follow Jesus. This is because the fruits of the Holy Spirit are the evidence of the character of God. Jesus himself told us that we would be able to identify Christians not by their giftedness, but by their fruits.
Patience is not a spiritual gift; it is a fruit of the Spirit expected of all Christians. And therein lies the problem. My own youthful misunderstandings aside, denominational and church leaders seek to find leaders who are gifted. Leaders who can accomplish tasks and get things done. In our rush to find talented leadership we have too often ignored the lack of fruit in our leaders. And when there is a lack of fruitfulness, we soon discover that while the Church may be thriving and filled with people and activity, it is not patterning itself after the character and heart of the triune God.
I am thankful for the spiritual gifts that God has given to me, and to the people who have surrounded me in ministry. Gifted people can effectively grow active Churches in the name of Jesus Christ, but over time and with maturity I have discovered that only fruitful leaders will bring glory and honor to Jesus’ name.
Have you noticed how many successful leaders have grown great Church organizations only to be discovered as bullies, predators, and charlatans? How many Churches have valued authoritarian tyrants with great giftedness over leaders who embody the love, patience, and kindness of God? Why is it so easy to value gifted individuals over those who show the fruits of God in their lives?
Much of this is connected to our need to succeed. We want to win, and winners are gifted and talented. They stand tall and are immediately attractive to those in the world. They get things done and boldly speak to the issues in a way that leaves no doubt as to the truth. They are decisive and leave nothing to chance. They know where they are going before they set about on the paths that they choose.
The problem with this profile of leadership is that is has nothing in common with the God-breathed leaders revealed in the scriptures. Our ancient heroes of the faith were neither impressive to look upon, nor decisive, nor courageous, and in many cases didn’t particularly feel that they were the most talented men or women in the community. So what did they have that made them heroic?
The had the Spirit of God. The walked with God and grew in Godliness every day. They embodied the fruits of the Spirt: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
In the Western world in the 21st century, success is equal to salvation. We have learned more from Vince Lombardi than from Francis of Assisi. We believe that winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. At First Baptist Church, we’ve discovered that winning is not the same as succeeding, especially when success means glorifying God in Jesus Christ.
As we consider the nature of success, let us remember what God has done to glorify His name at First Baptist Church.
During COVID, our church was in trouble. All churches were in trouble. But First Baptist Church sought to do something about the difficulties that we faced. While the church was in lockdown the leadership and our prayer warriors were not. We strived to reach out to new partners even while other organizations were closing their doors to visitors and collaborators.
We collaborated with Christian leaders to begin a daycare center. We followed the direction that God had shown us and started a daycare center at a time when no one in their right mind would do so. For over a year we underwrote the debts of the daycare center and did our best to show love, patience, faithfulness, and kindness to an organization that struggled. While our daycare center was unable to persevere and to find success in a world in which lockdowns had kept the children away, we did not lose hope.
Instead, we faithfully persevered. We showed the patience that is a product of a fruitful congregation. We trusted in God, and we tried again. We found a new tenant. Someone who was ready to take this new opportunity and fill our building with children.
While this was happening in our education building, we heard of a local congregation that was struggling to maintain its community during the COVID lockdowns. Garden Park Christian Church had been locked out of their new home due to COVID restrictions. They were on their last leg and told us that without a change their church would cease to exist.
God stirred something in First Baptist Church, and we invited them to worship in our building and to minister together. A year and several months later, Garden Park is thriving in our building. We’re worshipping as two different churches, under the sovereignty of one mighty God. And we are ministering together, and in our collaborations maintaining an outreach ministry of a Church much larger than the sums of parts. God is moving in mighty ways at First Baptist Church.
We are not done yet. We never will be. We are continuing to move forward by God’s grace to do God’s work. Sometimes the future unfolds slowly, and it demands patience. It demands perseverance. It demands a faith and a hope that defies human understanding.
At First Baptist, we continue to be faithful and hopeful. We seek God’s movement. We seek God’s direction, and we seek to do God’s will. Whatever it takes, no matter how long we are here to serve. I thank you for serving with me and for maintaining the patience and the perseverance of the Body of Christ.