You must learn, you must let God teach you, that the only way to get rid of your past is to make a future out of it. God will waste nothing.
So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
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 discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
-I Corinthians 12
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
A friend and spiritual advisor also happens to be an extraordinarily talented ad guy, creative director in an ad agency in New York. In a tough business that can seem singularly secular and often mean-spirited, he has thrived for years, working with wit and wisdom, while preserving a kind and gentle spirit, letting his light shine, sharing the spirit of Jesus.
He has used his gifts in that world for good, harnessing the considerable influence of his agency to develop (for instance) a city wide campaign to alleviate hunger by painting faces around potholes in the street indicating hungry mouths, reminding city dwellers that hunger surrounds us. In one campaign, he invited pedestrians to take selfies with huge spoons (7 feet tall) to support soup kitchens. He arranged for top notch chefs to provide meals where the wealthiest and most destitute in the city dined together in style. He’s good at what he does, using gifts and skills and experiences to shine God’s light and love.
I know a priest, an excellent pastor, who spent years working as a flight attendant. I can’t help but think that the experience of air travel, handling complaints and anxiety with grace, is excellent preparation for work in a church.
One of my favorite preachers worked as a Toyota car salesperson before she made the slight career shift to seminary. In fact, one year she was awarded best salesperson in North America. She brought those compelling gifts of persuasion to her preaching. Homiletically speaking, she knew how to close the deal.
A parishioner manages money for people. He functions as pastor, invited into the most intimate family conversations, bringing the compassion of the gospel and a gift for listening into those settings.
Jesus called his disciples to leave fishing nets and follow him. He suggested there were transferable skills. They would now be fishing for people. Jesus called Peter to a new life. He didn’t disregard Peter’s history but transformed it. Jesus called Paul to spread his gospel of grace. The energy of the apostle was transformed, changed from someone who obsessively ran from town to town persecuting the church to someone who ran from town to town obsessively promoting the church. Same person. In some ways, same gifts. Same work ethic. Repurposed.
We each have gifts. We each have life experience. The God of creation is extraordinarily creative in putting those gifts to work. Sometimes to humorous effect. And what’s even better, quite often the Holy Spirit not only takes our assets but also takes our deficits and transforms them into useful resources to accomplish God’s mission in the world. In my work in advertising and in the church, I’ve had moments of success and moments of failure. Some projects really took off. Others bombed. Each were teachers. The work I get to do now often seems to be the summation of those peaks and valleys. God seems to work that way.
God uses not only the work we may have done, but our personality types, our family histories, our hobbies, our relationships. In short, it seems that there is not much that God cannot in some way repurpose for the way of love. Wherever you’ve been, whatever you’ve done, let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5)
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.
Leading for Discipleship:
A conference especially for those
who have worked with RenewalWorks
Sept. 30-Oct. 2
Click here for registration and more info