In small-group ministry, I've always seen leaders who are doing lots of activity but just aren't firing on all cylinders. Something is missing in their group, and they know it. Others wonder why the group isn't growing, reproducing, or meeting people's needs the way it should. It causes frustration and can make even the best leader second-guess his or her commitment to serve and lead.
Even when we work with leaders to help them identify their passions, gifts, and personality in order to narrow their ministry focus, I notice that some leaders still feel overwhelmed and disappointed that more could be done. Unfortunately, they couldn't be more correct! More can always be done. The problem isn't their commitment, their work ethic, or even their skill. The problem is that they're trying to lead alone and aren't utilizing the power of their spiritual gifts or the gifts of others.
Let me start with what a life-giving group could look like:
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord's Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47).
Within this community, we see a variety of things:
- There is a sense of adventure and mission.
- There is a passion for God demonstrated by the activity of the Holy Spirit in and through the community.
- There is a common focus on the pursuit of God (prayer, Lord's Supper, etc.).
- Lives are being transformed and people are coming to Christ.
- Genuine relationships are being formed as people share with each other to meet physical needs through radical generosity.
- There is a clear commitment to orthodox teaching.
What does it take for a community like this to come together? We read in Ephesians 4:11-12: "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." These five gifts are given to help form the type of community we read about in Acts 2.
Unfortunately, we often ask an individual leader to create Acts 2 community by playing all the roles of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. That's a lot to ask of a single leader. Instead, we need to learn how to harness the power of all the gifts by recognizing the giftedness of the leader and helping him or her share the leadership chair with others who have complementary gifts. When we can do this, we allow people to really lean into their God-given gifts.
We have seen with regularity that when a group has a leader, an apprentice, and a host, the likelihood of all five gifts being present skyrockets. The result? A life-giving community grows and fires on all cylinders.
Here are five reasons it's important to recognize the fivefold gifts of your leaders:
- It helps the leader operate in areas where he or she is supernaturally gifted.