Church Swat Team: Find the Sleeping Gifted
Joe McKeeverJoe McKeever says he has written dozens of books, but has published none. That refers to the 1,000+ articles on various subjects (prayer, leadership, church, pastors) that can be found on his website -- joemckeever.com -- and which are reprinted by online publications everywhere. His articles appear in a number of textbooks and other collections. Retired from "official" ministry since the summer of 2009, Joe stays busy drawing a daily cartoon for Baptist Press (www.bpnews.net), as an adjunct professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, writing for Baptist MenOnline for the North American Mission Board, and preaching/drawing/etc for conventions and churches across America. Over a 42 year period, McKeever pastored 6 churches (the last three were the First Baptist Churches of Columbus, MS; Charlotte, NC; and Kenner, LA). Followed by 5 years as Director of Missions for the 135 SBC churches of metro New Orleans, during which hurricane katrina devastated the city and destroyed many churches. Joe is married to Margaret, the father of three adults, and the proud grandfather of eight terrific young people. He holds degrees from Birmingham-Southern College (History, 1962), and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (Masters in Church History, 1967, and Doctorate of Ministry in Evangelism, 1973). Joe's father was a coal miner who married a farmer's daughter. Carl and Lois McKeever, both of whom lived past 95 years of age, produced 6 children, with Joe and Ronnie being ministers. Joe grew up near Nauvoo, Alabama, and attended high school at Double Springs. Joe's life verse is Job 4:4, "Your words have stood men on their feet."
- 2012 Jan 16
A Swat team is a small group of highly trained military or law enforcement people who can go into a tense and dangerous situation, armed to the teeth, able to respond in any way necessary. (The initials stand for "Special Weapons and Tactics.")
No, we don't require such combat specialists in the church, as far as I know.
I'm suggesting a different kind of Swat team. Let's have a small band of church leaders who are constantly on the alert for fellow members who have spiritual gifts which they are not using in the Kingdom, or are under-utilizing them.
Such gifted church members are usually unaware of their spiritual endowments, of the ways in which they could be serving, and of the difference they could make in the lives of others.
Our job--your job, if you are one of those gifted by the Lord for this kind of work--is to find these people, open their eyes to what God has done in their lives, teach them, and then help them find their place of service. Find their calling.
The strange thing is that far more people believe that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to every believer than believe that there is a place of service in the Kingdom for each person. A rather odd little dichotomy, I think.
Here's a director of human resources who puts someone on the company payroll and sends them to the plant manager with instructions, "See if you can find a place for this one." An hour later, the individual returns with a post-it note on his back saying, "Don't need him."
If God loves us and saves us, calls us and gifts us spiritually, then has no place of service for us in His work, He is as inefficient and foolhardy as that director of human resources.
If God gifts you for His service, He has a place for you in the Kingdom.
And that, I say to you, is one of the most exciting things in the world.
Acts 26 is one of three places giving the account of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. As the Apostle Paul tells it, the Lord said to him, "I now send thee (to the Gentiles), to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me" (26:16-18).
One of the earliest disciples who believed in this new convert and encouraged him was Barnabas (see Acts 9:27). Later, after Paul had fled Jerusalem ahead of a lynch mob and returned to his ancestral home in Tarsus, Barnabas learned of a great revival taking place in Antioch of Syria.
The Jerusalem church sent Barnabas to Antioch to check out this new thing the Lord was doing. "When he came and had seen the grace of God, (he) was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord" (11:23). Then, something occurred to him.
Many of those coming to Christ were Gentiles. And God had called Saul of Tarsus to be a missionary to these very people. And so we read one of the most critical sentences in the history of this planet: Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus for to seek Saul (11:25).
Among the fascinating aspects of this wonderful thing that Mr. Encourager (the literal meaning of "Barnabas") did was this: evidently, he did not ask Saul to do anything. He merely exposed him to the things God was doing. Since the Lord had called and gifted Saul, once he saw the need and stayed close to the Lord, the opportunities opened up. The rest, as they say, is history.
Barnabas was one of those rare individuals who sees a need and asks himself, "Who do I know with the gifts for this work?"
Just as fascinating is the way Barnabas and Saul went out on that first missionary journey (Acts 13), with Saul as the understudy, and shortly the roles became entirely reversed. The next journey (Acts 15:36ff), Paul took Silas on his trip into Asia Minor, while Barnabas chose another youngster, John Mark, and they headed to Cyprus.
One reason the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is so weak in parts of our world today is that saved, called, and gifted believers are sitting back, letting others do the work of the Kingdom, while their gifts atrophy.
The caricature of the typical church as a stadium of spectators cheering and booing on a few over-worked athletes is not far wrong.
Tell the average joe in the pew that he should be up there preaching or singing, going door to door witnessing, or organizing for the mission trip to Uganda, and he will wonder if you have lost your mind.
Christi Gibson has an unusual title. On the staff of New Orleans' First Baptist Church, she is the Minister of Connections.
I asked her about that today. "My job is connecting God's grace in people with the work He has prepared for them in the Body."
I said, "In other words, you help them find where to use their spiritual gifts in the work of the Lord."
"At first," Christi said, "we were calling it Minister of Assimilation. Same idea, but people responded to it negatively. I think it sounded a little too Star Trekkie to them."
"So, we went with Connections. The idea is to get people connected."
Connected with what?
"With their place of service. After all, they are saved by grace and gifted by grace. So, now let's see where the Lord has for them to use those gifts."
How do you do that?
"We take people through a course on the subject. At the conclusion, I have a personal consultation with each one. We look at their testimony, their life experiences, and a spiritual gifts inventory. We talk about where they might want to plug into the Lord's work around here."
"The best thrill is seeing that 'aha!' light go on in their eyes as they see that there really is a ministry for them to do, one that is just right for them."
Now, there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord. And there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. (I Corinthians 12:4-5)
On a football team, the last thing you need is eleven quarterbacks. Or eleven tackles or centers or running backs. You will need one center, two guards, two tackles, a quarterback, and five more athletes who will line up variously as ends or running backs. And that's just the offense. You'll require another set of skilled athletes altogether on defense.
In an orchestra, you will not want 25 violinists or 25 tuba players or 25 percussionists. You will want several of each talent--violin, cello, bass, flute, various horns, perhaps a piano or keyboard, and such.
In a church, you will not be needing 100 preachers or 100 soloists or custodians, unless your congregation is massive. In most cases, one or two preachers, a few Bible teachers, a group of singers, and then child care workers, teachers for children and youth, custodians, groundskeepers, secretarial, and such. And that's just inside the building. These days, churches often need technical workers with computer skills, graphic artists, marketing people, and church planters. In their local community, the church will need members with a calling for feeding and clothing the needy, trained witnesses for reaching the unsaved, and skills in housing the homeless.
That most of our members sit on the pews expecting to be fed once a week and seeing that as the extent of their discipleship can be laid at the feet of the ministry. We have not taught our people that the Lord of grace who saved them has both gifted them with special abilities and callings and prepared places of service for them.
Members who will help me find my calling, my place of service, the ministry for which the Lord saved me, are doing me an incredible favor.