I originally had a different plan for today’s post, but decided to expand thoughts from Friday’s post: Once again, sci-fi and Christianity! I relate an eclectic group of people in a science-fiction mini-series coming together to solve a mystery to…the church and spiritual gifts. The church is composed of different people with different gifts, and that is a good thing, but too often the church struggles with this. We honor certain gifts above others, look askance at some people, and tend to prefer people who see things just like us.
We are not always functioning as the beautiful Body of Christ as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.
But I want to expand this to more than spiritual giftings. James chapter 2 warns against Christians showing favoritism, particularly in regards to income level. We should not show special regard for the wealthy, while dishonoring the poor.
We can show favoritism in other ways too. In the James passage, it seems that the favoritism was an overt thing. But I think we can play favorites inadvertently, without realizing we are doing it.
We need more self-awareness of our personal prejudices. We all have them. We should pray for spiritual sight.
Who do we immediately “see” and who do we fail to see or view with blurred vision? Who do we honor and who are we failing to honor?
We may inadvertently only see potential in certain types of people. We look out and only see those who match our preconceived ideas about who best does certain things. Many examples could be given:
♦ Those who place high value on formal education may fail to consider that someone lacking in education could nonetheless have keen insight and be a great asset on a church committee. (Or reverse this! Some people are suspicious of advanced education.)
♦ Male leaders can fail to see gifted and qualified women in their midst – or try to plug them into a ministry that does not fit them – but fits their preconceived ideas about women.
♦ Gifted introverts can be overlooked because they are unassuming. In an age of celebrity church culture, we need more of the unassuming among us. There is more than one leadership style!
♦ Ageism is all too real, and I increasingly hear stories of those overlooked because they are “too old.” Yet older folks can bring tremendous experience to the table.
Years ago we attended a church where many of the attendees were affiliated with a certain local university. I honestly don’t think it was a purposeful thing, but it seemed like you were only “seen” if you were connected to this university in some way.
I’m aware of a church where there is a mild version of the James 2 problem. To be truly “seen” there, you must be someone of influence in the community – that is, be affluent, run a certain type of business, or have certain connections.
Again, this does not have to be purposeful. We look out and just naturally see people who are like us. We have preconceived notions without realizing it. Some ideas:
♦ Pray to better “see” people without your favoritism filters filtering certain people out.
♦ Be more observant and pay attention – you may notice latent gifts in individuals, gifts that simply need development. In other words, look for the potential in others, whoever they happen to be.
♦ Give someone a chance. Maybe you lead a Bible study. You could ask someone else to lead one week. You’ve sensed potential in them. See how they do.
♦ Put in a good word for someone. Go to the pastor or other leader, and let them know the gifts you’ve observed in someone. Recommend them. You can help this unseen or overlooked person be seen.
♦ Are you part of a leadership team? Take a look around. Are you all alike? Start looking for some differing people to include. Caution is needed here in regards to motives. No one wants to be a token! We should humbly realize how we’ve had limited vision and sincerely want others to join us at the table.
P.S. I didn’t even mention racial prejudice which is a sad reality.
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Wally Fry said:
“Give someone a chance. Maybe you lead a Bible study. You could ask someone else to lead one week. You’ve sensed potential in them. See how they do.”
Sometimes just asking is all it takes. I know in a perfect world, people would be beating on the door to serve, but as you said, we are not all the same. We might be amazed at who would serve if we just asked them to partner with us. That’s called making disciples.
Good stuff Laura, thanks.
You are welcome. Thanks for commenting!
Another thought about asking someone to serve, is that… some have given up after being overlooked for years. They have indeed made themselves available (let it be known they wanted to serve) but they were not utilized – for reasons such as in this post. “Seeing” someone and asking, can help their spiritual gifts be used for the Kingdom.
Wally Fry said:
I love this! Bias is something we must all guard against. I became aware of this tendency in myself about 15 years ago and try hard not to favor one person or type of person over another. It is hard and I’m not always successful. Thank you for reminding me I must stay on guard.
You are welcome, and thanks for your comments Melanie! I think all of us have this tendency in some way.
LIBERTY DUNN said:
Very well written respectful and insightful! Thank you Jesus for shining Your Light on this very real matter.
I appreciate your encouraging comment. Thanks for visiting my blog.