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I don’t usually mourn the deaths of popular culture stars. I just simply have no connection with them. However, Whitney Houston’s death was different. I’m certain it’s because she was a Christian. One of my all-time favorite Christian songs is her rendition of “I Love the Lord.” She had a spectacular, beautiful voice. That voice was a gift from God. And it’s that topic—giftedness—that I would like to address. There are natural gifts, and there are spiritual gifts. This brief article will deal only with natural gifts.

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There is a discrepancy between the gifts that are needed by our organizational structure and the biblical gifts that God provides. In our churches, the gift that is needed the most by far numerically is the gift of service or helping. Greeters. Ushers. Nursery attendants. Sunday School assistants. Information kiosk and bookstore workers. Coffee bar servers (although this position wasn’t in this particular pastor’s list). Fewer teachers and leaders (mostly for small groups and Sunday School) are needed. The ministries of pastor/teacher/leader/speaker/evangelist as well as perhaps apostle, exhortation and administration, are usually resident in a very few paid positions. If God has given a person who is not on staff one of these pastoral/teaching gifts, he’ll probably be sitting on the sidelines, unused, unless he teaches in Sunday School, a small group or perhaps an adult class. What’s left for the “common folk” are giving, faith, mercy and service. There are very few opportunities—perhaps none—for the use of almost half of these biblical gifts in our church services. The gift of prophecy, mentioned four times, is absent altogether, as are discernment, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, tongues, miracles and healing—these last three being each mentioned twice.

Welcome to the weak and deficient Western Church.

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Are there any more scriptures that we fail to obey?

Unfortunately, yes—the verses that were referenced at the opening of this chapter.

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).

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What are the three things that I would like you to remember most of all:

The first one is a simple one: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Make Him the ultimate focus of your life. As you know, this is the first and most important commandment, and the commandment from which all others flow, including loving others.

These two commandments are simple, but they’re not easy.

But there is another biblical truth that we include as we try to keep the commandment to love God: We are unable to do that, in and of ourselves.

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The Church is filled with people who have all kinds of gifts, given to them by God Himself. I’m not talking about natural gifts like the ability to sing, play the piano or do math, although those gifts, and many more like them, are certainly present. I’m talking about the gifts of the Spirit, which He distributes to each one as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). We admire people who have natural gifts, but we’re at sea when it comes to how we regard the gifts of the Spirit or what to do with them.

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I was listening to the podcast of a nationally known pastor as he shared the need for volunteers in his church. Here’s what he listed, and for anyone who has either worked for or attended a large church, most of these ministries will be familiar.

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