Often regarding gifts of our members, we may be the ones that observe a gift, that we will then encourage.   Sometimes, as Richard Stimson has said, we’ll see how others in the group look to a certain person as a leader, mother-figure, etc. and that can confirm a gift.

I confess that I don’t find it easy to identify gifts in EVERYONE. Some gifts are easy to see, but “to EACH ONE THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SPIRIT IS GIVEN for the common good..” (1 Cor.12:7).  This one of our favorite passages.  Another is John 9:3 where Jesus is asked why a man was born blind. “‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but THIS HAPPENED SO THAT THE WORK OF GOD MIGHT BE DISPLAYED IN HIS LIFE.'” This is the key.

We look for the work of God, the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and then, as pastors and teachers, seek to “PREPARE GOD’S PEOPLE FOR WORKS OF SERVICE, so that the Body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith, and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph.4:12-13).  It’s not always easy to see the work of God in an individual that may be going through much suffering; but we know God is at work. For most of our folks, I guess we just watch for signs, and then bless them and encourage them when we see glimmers of interest.  We must then try to give them room to grow with our loving guidance.

As i mentioned at the beginning, it was Simon’s mother-in-law who seems to have gotten it, long before the disciples, and other women who loved Jesus also led the way in terms of modeling this servant way of life.   Do, in our groups not all will respond the same way.  We too will have to work with friends who have a tendency to be bossy (just like James and John and Peter…).  Some of our members will relish the power and authority of a responsibility more than the cost of humility.

For this reason, we have developed an annual Leadership Retreat in recent years – where we will take 20 of our folks and some servant-leaders away for a weekend, to work more deliberately to help them become better equipped to serve the body of Christ. These can be exciting weekends, and Linda Howard from Special Gathering joined us two years ago for one of these weekends. What would YOU do, if you had the chance to take a team of those who were keenest and most involved in the ministry of the church away for a few days? What would you concentrate on? Let’s give this some thought.  Our next retreat is April 16-18.

I found Richard Stimson’s discussion of the Deacons a challenge, and realize that we have been pretty cautious in including our folks with disabilities in our Council. However, as Stimson explained it, I like the idea of people representing volunteers, families, disabled members, supporting churches, etc.  I like this largely because it seems to have exacerbated authoritarian tendencies – but that didn’t stop Jesus from giving James and John and Peter leadership roles, and they had the same struggles, so I think Joy Fellowship needs to move in this direction.