Have you ever known someone who just liked to talk for the sake of talking? This sort of person (who I’ve probably been accused of being) doesn’t want to persuade others of a given point, or invest in relationships. Instead, he or she just talks.
Or, maybe you have a friend who exercises just to exercise. He or she isn’t trying to restore strength after an injury, stave off health problems that are caused by inactivity, or prepare for a physical contest. Instead, their primary goal appears to be just bragging about how much exercise they do.
Of course, helpful communication and physical activity are good things, but they are not ends by themselves. Our goal in learning to speak good things, and working to be reasonably fit (not that I have mastered either), should be to do something useful with those skills. Maybe we want to articulate our feelings better, or to motivate others to make good choices. Or, perhaps we want to be healthier and able to serve others.
Take a look at this passage from a letter (sent by the apostle Paul) to believers in Ephesus:
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 NLT
Paul identifies a specific purpose for these gifts that were granted to some in the church. We may not have the apostles with us anymore (although we do have their writings), but the role of educators in the church still exists. We might call them ministers or authors or podcasters these days, just as much as we might call them pastors or teachers. Opinions may vary as to what role prophecy plays in the church today, but there are definitely evangelists (and not just people in the technology business, who co-opted that label to identify themselves as promoters of new tech).
If you find that God gave you any of these gifts, it’s important to apply it towards the goal. Whether you are a leader, a teacher, or just someone who has the ability to instruct others in the ways of Jesus, you have a responsibility. The purpose isn’t to get “likes” or become famous. The goal is not to just deliver a certain number of messages or books. Instead, you have been entrusted with the role of giving followers of Jesus what they need to live out their calling. It’s like a new mechanic, needing to collect a good set of pliers, wrenches, hammers, and other tools. Christians need to learn the foundation of their faith, along with information about the teachings and person of Jesus. Once they have these tools, they should get to the point where they can contribute and become more and more like Jesus through their own study and discipline. Your skills have a purpose.
In the next article, let’s take a look at the responsibilities of students, as well.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.