Blog - Grasping Vocation
Do Spiritual Gifts Apply Where You Work?Monday, November 23, 2009
Does God give you gifts of his Spirit for use only within your local congregation? Or does he also give those gifts to make you able to serve him in your everyday work? In other words, do spiritual gifts function only within the context of an institutional church, or do they apply as well to what you do on the job?
As one raised in evangelical circles, I grew up with the impression that the gifts of the Holy Spirit operated just on occasions when Christians gather. God gave gifts such as prophecy and teaching, so I thought, for use in settings like Sunday services, Sunday school classes and small groups. If someone had the gift of administration, he or she should use it to keep church programs running smoothly. And the gift of helps? Well, that included everything from nursery duty to mowing the church lawn to cleaning up after a potluck dinner.
But in his book, Work in the Spirit, theologian Miroslav Volf stretched my idea of spiritual gifting far beyond those boundaries. As he puts it, “One should not define charisma [New Testament Greek for spiritual gifts] so narrowly as to include in the term only ecclesiastical activities.” He says, “One interpretation limits the sphere of operation of charisms to the Christian fellowship.” That interpretation pretty well describes the idea I had picked up along the way in my own church experience. But Volf sees that way of thinking as too narrow.
He backs up his position by pointing out that several spiritual gifts operate outside the established church. For example, the gift of an evangelist brings power to convey the good news to unbelievers. And can we say the gift of giving applies only when the contribution goes to Christians but not when given to non-Christians? Therefore, Volf says, “All functions of the fellowship—whether directed inward to the Christian community or outward to the world—are the result of the operation of the Spirit of God . . . .”
Volf continues, “The Spirit of God calls, endows, and empowers Christians to work in their various occupations.” And, “All human work, however complicated or simple, is made possible by the operation of the Spirit of God in the working person . . . .”
Wow! That means that as a Christian, I don't just activate my spiritual gifts on weekends and when I meet midweek with a small group of believers. Instead, God gave whatever gifts I have for use both in the church gathered and in the church scattered. And that puts me into full-time service, on active duty, no matter what my Monday-Friday work may be.
What do you think? Is Miroslav Volf onto something life-changing here? Could this way of understanding spiritual gifts revolutionize the way you work?