Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Spiritual Gift of Bassackwardness

Many of us have been forced to participate in spiritual gift inventories. They were all the rage a number of years ago and have been mercifully fading from the scene with the advent of newer, similarly meaningless, fads in the Church. These asinine activities were sometimes given in conjunction with personality profiles (most of which are transparent enough to fake your way through and end up with a different personality every time you take them—try it, you’ll amaze the more simple-minded and trusting of your friends and/or coworkers).

The exclamations of those around the table upon discovering their personalities and spiritual gifts can make dull meetings momentarily entertaining. “I’m a lion!” “I’m a shepherd!” “I’m a badger!” “I’m an evangelist!” “I’m blue-green!” “I’m a leader!” “I’m orange!” “I’m a prophet!” “I’m an osprey!”

All this looking inside yourself to “find” your gifts is misguided. St. Paul is usually cited in connection with this nonsense, yet he did not go around handing out multiple-choice surveys, nor did he encourage anyone to look inside him/herself to discover hidden spiritual gifts. Our spiritual gifts do not come from inside of us but from outside of us. Paul did not wander around the ancient world trying to find someone with the gift of shepherding, and upon finding someone possessing that gift, then ordain him/her (yes, there’s been many a woman who finds that, lo and behold, she’s got the gift of pastorin’ upon completion of a spiritual gift inventory) into the office for which he/she has the gifts. Rather, those gifts were given to the person in ordination. This does not deny the importance of training and education or do away with Scripture’s clear qualifications for candidates, but those things, along with inherent personality traits and aptitude do not in themselves make someone worthy of the pastoral office. Who among men is fit to stand in the place of Christ? No one. That is why the gifts to be able to carry out the ministry must come from outside the person.

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.
What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:6-14)

“…if ordination is understood as carrying out the ministry of the Word, we are willing to call ordination a Sacrament. For the ministry of the Word has God’s command and has glorious promises, ‘The gospel…is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes’ (Romans 1:16). Likewise, ‘So shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose’ (Isaiah 55:11). If ordination is understood in this way, neither will we refuse to call the laying on of hands a Sacrament. For the Church has the command to appoint ministers, which should be most pleasing to us, because we know that God approves this ministry and is present in the ministry (that God will preach and work through men and those who have been chosen by men).” (Apology XIII)

Obviously, the gifts given in ordination do not make your pastor into some sort of SuperMinister, nor are they a reason for him to become arrogant or dictatorial. He still serves in weakness in the Church Militant, as do all until the End. This is not an excuse for the laity to disrespect the Office or the gift you have been given in your pastor (Eph. 4). Nor does it give an excuse to pastors to be lazy or persist in improvable weaknesses. Don’t tell your people that you are just not very friendly or punctual or well-prepared and they’ll have to get used to it, even consider it their cross to bear. If you do, they will have every right to beat you over the head with the nearest cross, preferably the big empty one from the front of church. Then, your replacement can have the Ladies’ Aid donate a nice crucifix to put in its place.


rlschultz said...

There are several aspects of this whole silly spiritual gifts inventory that should be looked at and harpooned. What could be most important is that those behind this simply do not trust in the efficacy of the Word. I am assuming that if this is truly about "Spiritual Gifts", then this has to do with ways that the Holy Spirit works. But the Holy Spirit works only through the Word and never apart from it. In the local congregation, the duly called and ordained pastors are "the stewards of the mysteries of God". However, if you embrace the notion that "everyone is a minister" (whether expressly stated or implicitly implied), then the assessment of spiritual gifts become necessary to match up everyone's "ministry".zw

Anonymous said...

What do you mean that these things are fading. Not in the WELS... from a fall WELS teachers' conference:
Understanding U

"Understanding U Personality Assessment (additional $12.50)- Mark Sellnow
Why do you do the things you do? Have you ever wondered how certain tendencies that you possess recur time and time again? Do you have predictable patterns of behavior? Why? In this session you will complete your own personality profile assessment and graphs, learn how to read them and what they mean to you. This will be a time for you to discover your unique personality blend. You will be introduced to the four distinct styles in an entertaining way that will allow you to laugh and learn as you see yourself and others with humor and acceptance. You will be able to identify your Style Blend to clarify and better utilize your assets within your teaching style. This information will certainly allow you to gain a better connection with your students, their parents and your fellow staff members. Don’t miss it!"

Anonymous said...

oh... I forgot this great testimonial from 2929...

"Mark Sellnow helped our future principals gain a greater understanding of personality types and their impact on team interactions. After attending Understanding U, the future leaders of our schools are better positioned to work effectively with diverse teams of educators who bring a variety of interpersonal orientations to the table. We heartily recommend Understanding U."

~ Jim Brandt
Director of WELS Schools Administrator Candidate Training
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to learn of this "Understanding U" promotion within WELS. I am so gullible - I thought teachers and principals in WELS were set apart from the world. My eyes have been opened and I am very disappointed.
The teachers and principals in the 60s, 70s and 80s did not resort to such things.....or did they?

Sr. Kate said...

Hmmm ... what do you make of this? When I clicked on the Understanding U link above, I received the following message: "Unable to verify the identity of as a trusted site.