Dr Geoff Waugh published Body Ministry, a popular version of his Doctor of Missiology degree dissertation from Fuller Seminary. This article is reproduced and adapted from Chapter 4 of Body Ministry: “Spiritual Gifts – From limited to unlimited”.
Jesus insists on unity, not uniformity. We are one in Christ and will be for ever. That unity is incredibly and eternally diverse. We are all created different and unique. We have many different gifts and abilities. These are meant to flow together in powerful unity.
Miracles in Ghana, West Africa
God honours and blesses unity. I saw that vividly in my first trip to Africa. Pastors from the mountain town of Suhum, about 50 miles north of Accra the capital of Ghana, invited me to speak at crusade meetings at night and teach pastors and leaders each morning.
Four of us flew from Australia to West Africa in June 1995 during the mid-year vacation at the college where I taught. I did not realise that heavy monsoon rains fell in Africa in June! So we arrived on a Monday amid pouring rain. The meetings were planned for Tuesday night through to Friday night, with various independent and charismatic churches co-operating. Their leadersd and youth groups shared leading the extended worship each night.
When we arrived at Suhum on Tuesday evening the whole town was in a black-out because heavy rain had affected the town’s electrical supply. Our team of Africans and Australians prayed in the mud at the market place which the team had prepared for the night meetings: “God, we are here serving you and we ask you to take over and do what only you can do.”
Within 10 minutes the rain had ceased and the town power was on again. Our excited Africans began exclaiming, “This is a miracle. We will be talking about this for years!” Those monsoon rains held off till Saturday, and then the next week the deluges made international news on TV. But we hadover three days of clear, cloudless skies and tropical sun.
Every night we saw hundreds respond for prayer, and many gave salvation and healing testimonies.
The pastors and leaders had asked me to teach about spiritual warfare in the morning sessions in a local church. As I prayed the Spirit impressed me to teach about unity. So I did. Prayers become powerful against evil when we are united, as Jesus demanded.
During the second morning as pastors and leaders prayed specifically for one another and confessed any resentments or hostilities, I had an open vision. I clearly saw the church fill with a bright, golden light which swallowed up the blackest black I had even seen. The Africans became more excited. Men and women shouted prophecies. Youths danced vigorously. I looked on perplexed, perspiring under the hot iron roof dressed in the mandatory suit of pastors and speakers!
That night miracles began in the long worship. An old man now blind discovered he could see as they worshipped and danced. Even the offering was a long process of dancing in lines, waving coloured cloths as they filed passed the offering box at the front, led by the pastors.
Their co-operating and unity had opened the way for powerful spiritual warfare. Everyone knew that a powerful ruling spirit dominated that area, but now it was gone. People felt the4 difference and enjoyed the freedom.
Later on teams went out in power evangelism, praying for people to be set free. The town market became unusually profitable and people could sell their vegetables and goods. Churches found new vitality. Previously isolated independent church, often competing, discovered united strength, love and unity. God blessed their unity.
The ascended, victorious, all powerful Christ, having conquered sin and death and hell now reigns supreme. He is the head of his body, the church. He gives gifts to his church, specifically those called under his authority to exercise authority in the church as leaders so that all God’s people may be equipped for ministry. That is a powerful body, the body of the risen Christ.
Our Lord’s intention for his church is for us to grow till we reach the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ who is all and in all (Colossians 3:11).
Body ministry requires spiritual gifts. The body of Christ ministers charismatically. There is no other way it can minister as the living body of the living Christ. He ministers in and through his body, by the gifts of his Spirit.
Spiritual gifts differ from natural talents
Charismatic gifts of the Spirit are different from natural talents. We can do much through dedicated human talent, but that is not body ministry through spiritual gifts. Natural talents do need to be committed to God and used for his glory. They can be channels of spiritual gifts.
Someone may sing beautifully or speak eloquently. That natural gift becomes a spiritual gift when it is anointed by God for ministry.
Spiritual gifts constantly surprise us. They often show up with great power in unlikely people and in unlikely ways.
A common misunderstanding, for instance, is that those with an effective healing ministry must be especially holy people. However, many are not. They may not be faultless ‘saints’. Gifts of the Spirit are given by grace, not earned by consecration.
Young, immature Christians may have powerful spiritual ministries, as they discover and use their spiritual gifts. Many do. That is no proof of consecration or maturity, even though to please God we need to offer ourselves to him in full commitment.
Romans Chapter 12 explains this. The well known first two verses challenge us to offer ourselves fully to God and so discover his will for our lives. Paul then explains that knowing God’s will involves being realistic about ourselves and our gifts. If we know and use our God-given gifts, we fulfil God’s will for our lives.
Body ministry, then, depends on the use of spiritual gifts, not just the use of natural talents dedicated to God. Both are vital for committed Christian living, and both will be present in the church. However, the church is not built on committed natural talent, even though churches sometimes operate that way.
Spiritual gifts differ from Christian roles
Similarly, spiritual gifts are not Christian roles or tasks. All Christians witness, but only some are gifted in evangelism. Every Christian has faith, but some have a gift of faith as well. All must exercise hospitality, but some are gifted in hospitality. Prayer is for all of us, but some are gifted in intercession.
We all have Christian roles such as leaders, helpers, servers, prayers, and supporting one another. Gifts of the Spirit can flow through these tasks. Our spiritual gifts add a deeper dimension to our roles or tasks – they add the depth dimension to those ministries.
Spiritual gifts flow strongest in unity with incredible diversity.
Each passage on the gifts of the Spirit stresses the importance of being one body (1 Corinthians 12:12‑13; Romans 12:4‑5; Ephesians 4:4). The whole context of Paul’s teaching on the gifts of the Spirit is one of unity with diversity; one body with many parts functioning in harmony. Paul repeats many themes in the three key passages in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4:
- One body: The church is the one body of Christ on earth
(1 Corinthians 12:12‑27; Romans 12:4‑5; Ephesians 4:4‑6).
- Gracious gifts: They are given, not earned and not achieved
(1 Corinthians 12:1, 4, 6, 8‑11; Romans 12:6; Ephesians 4:7‑8, 11).
- All Christians have gifts: There are no exceptions; and each gift is important
(l Corinthians 12:7; Romans 12:6; Ephesians 4:7).
- Gifts differ: Value our differences; we need each other
(1 Corinthians 12:4‑7; Romans 12:4‑6; Ephesians 4:7 8).
- Unity: They function in unity and promote unity
(1 Corinthians 12:12‑13, 25; Romans 12:4‑5; Ephesians 4:3, 13, 16).
- Maturity: Spiritual gifts build up the body in maturity
(1 Corinthians 12:7; Romans 12:9‑21; Ephesians 4:12‑15).
- Love: Love is the top priority; gifts must be used in love
(1 Corinthians 13; Romans 12:9‑10; Ephesians 4:4, 15‑16).
Without unity expressed in love, diversity destroys the body’s ministry causing chaos, division, sectarianism, and impotence. This is Paul’s theme in 1 Corinthians 12-14.
Paul had to correct the divisions in Corinth by emphasizing the unity of the body, bound together in love. Gifts are not to be a source of division and strife, but an expression of unity and love. Unless rooted and grounded in love, the gifts are counter-productive.
Unity in the body of Christ allows that body to function well, not be crippled. No one has all the gifts. We all need one another. No one should be conceited about any gift that God has given. No one claim that their is gift the most important, and magnify and exalt it at the expense of others. Gifts are to be used in humility and service. We do not compete. We minister in harmony and co-operation.
Paul’s great theme, “in Christ,” expresses the unity essential for body ministry. In Christ we are one body. In Christ we live and serve.
Love lies at the heart of body ministry. The body is one, bound in love. The body builds itself up in love (Eph. 4:16). That is why 1 Corinthians 13 is central to Paul’s passage on spiritual gifts in the body of Christ. “Make love your aim,” he insists, “and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 14:1).
Jesus insisted on love. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all mean will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Our unity is not based on doctrine, but on Jesus. Unity comes from who we are, the body of Christ. This is a fact, not a hope. We are one in Christ. We are one in the Spirit. God has made us one. Unfortunately, being sinful, we often fail to live out that reality.
A Christ-like attitude, in humble kingdom thinking and love overcomes competition and critical spirits that divide us. That’s where we see the Holy Spirit moving in power among us as we obey the Lord’s command to love and serve one another.
Breathtaking community transformations are now happening around the world where we live this out in unity. Whole communities transformed by God now witness to his power to heal the land and the people when we repent and unite in obedience to his requirements.
Almolonga in Guatemala, Cali in Columbia and villages in Fiji all provide outstanding examples of this transformation. This information is from George Otis, 2000, “Snapshots of Glory” reproduced in Renewal Journal, Issue 17
The town of Almolonga in Guatemala in South America, typical of many Mayan highland communities, suffered from economic depression, inebriation, and crime. The four gaols were full this town of 19,000. Many criminals had to be transported to gaols in the capital city.
Guatemala City pastor Harold Caballeros reported that, “the town suffered from poverty, violence and ignorance. In the mornings you would encounter many men just lying on the streets, totally drunk from the night before. And of course this drinking brought along other serious problems like domestic violence and poverty. It was a vicious cycle.”
Donato Santiago, the town’s chief of police, said, “People were always fighting. We never had any rest.” Now with crime dramatically diminished and the gaols no longer needed, police chief Santiago, says with a grin. It’s pretty uneventful around here.”
A few Christian leaders began regularly praying together from 7 pm to midnight in the 1970s. As they continued to pray in unity, increasing numbers of people were being healed and set free from strong demonic powers or witchcraft. Churches began to grow, and the community began to change. Crime and alcoholism decreased.
Within twenty years the four gaols were emptied and are now used for community functions. The last of Almolonga’s gaols closed in 1994, and is now remodelled building called the ‘Hall of Honour’ used for municipal ceremonies and weddings.
The town’s agricultural base was transformed. Their fields have become so fertile they yield three large harvests a year. Previously, the area exported four truckloads of produce a month. Now they are exporting as many as 40 truckloads a day. Farmers buy big Mercedes trucks with cash, and then attach their testimony to the shiny vehicles with huge metallic stickers and mud flaps declaring, The Gift of God, God is my Stronghold and Go Forward in Faith.
Some farmers provide work for others by renting out land and developing fields in other towns. They help people get out of debt by providing employment for them.
On Halloween day in 1998, an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people gathered in the market square to worship and honour God in a fiesta of praise. Led by the mayor and many pastors, the people prayed for God to take authority over their lives and their economy.
University researchers from the United States and other countries regularly visit Almolonga to investigate the astounding 1,000 per cent increase in agricultural productivity. Local inhabitants explain that the land is fertilized by prayer and rained upon with God’s blessings.
Unity did not happen overnight. It took time. It needed a small group of persistent leaders who began praying together, crying out to God for mercy and for change. That usually happens when we are desperate and realise that we need God’s intervention.
We are desperate, or should be. We live in tough times as persecution and calamities increase globally. But there is hope.
Some leaders now look beyond their doctrinal and denominational differences to seek the Lord together in unity, as he told us to do in humility, prayer, seeking him and in repentance (2 Chronicles 7:14).
God can change whole cities, such as happened in the city of Cali in Columbia.
Columbia in South America was the world’s biggest exporter of cocaine, sending between 700 to 1,000 tons a year to the United States and Europe alone. The Cali cartel controlled up to 70 percent of this trade. It was called the largest, richest, most well organized criminal organization in history.
The drug lords in cartels ruled the city through fear. At times 15 people a day were killed, shot from the black Mercedes cars owned by the cartels. Car bombs exploded regularly. Journalists who denounced the Mafia were killed. Drug money controlled the politicians. By the early 1990s the cartels controlled every major institution in Cali including banks, business, politicians and police.
The churches were in disarray and ineffective. “In those days,” a pastor recalls, “the pastors’ association consisted of an old box of files that nobody wanted. Every pastor was working on his own; no one wanted to join together.”
A few discouraged but determined pastors began praying together regularly, asking God to intervene. Gradually others joined them. A small group of pastors planned a combined service in the civic auditorium in May 1995 for a night of prayer and repentance. They expected a few thousand people, but were amazed when 25, 000 attended, nearly half of the city’s evangelical population. The crowd remained until 6 o’clock the next morning at this the first of the city’s now famous united all-night prayer vigils held four times a year.
Two days after that event in May 1995, the daily newspaper, El Pais, headlined, “No Homicides!” For the first time in anyone’s memory, 24 hours had passed without a single person being killed. Then, during the next four months 900 cartel-linked officers were fired from the metropolitan police force.
By August 1995, the authorities had captured all seven of the targeted cartel leaders. Previously the combined efforts of the Columbian authorities, and the American FBI and CIA had been unable to do that.
In December 1995, a hit man killed Pastor Julio Ruibal, one of the key leaders of the combined pastors’ meetings and the united prayer gatherings. 1, 500 people gathered at his funeral, including many pastors who had not spoken to each other in months. At the end of the memorial service, the pastors said, “Brothers, let us covenant to walk together in unity from this day forward. Let Julio’s blood be the glue that binds us together in the Holy Spirit.”
Now over 200 pastors have signed the covenant that is the backbone of the city’s united prayer vigils. What made the partnership of these leaders so effective are the same things that always bring God’s blessings: clean hearts, right relationships, and united prayer.
As the kingdom of God became more real in Cali, it affected all levels of society including the wealthy and educated. A wealthy businessman and former mayor said, “It is easy to speak to upper-class people about Jesus. They are respectful and interested.” Another successful businessman adds that the gospel is now seen as practical rather than religious.
Churches grow fast. One church that meets in a huge former warehouse holds seven services on a Sunday to accommodate its 35, 000 people. Asked, “What is your secret?” they point to the 24-hour prayer room behind the platform.
A former drug dealer says, “There is a hunger for God everywhere. You can see it on the buses, on the streets and in the cafes. Anywhere you go people are ready to talk.”
Cali police deactivated a large 174-kilo car bomb in November 1996. The newspaper El Pais carried the headline: “Thanks to God, It Didn’t Explode.” Many people noted that this happened just 24 hours after 55,000 Christians held their third vigilia – the all night prayer vigil that includes praise, worship, dances and celebration mixed with the prayers and statements from civic and church leaders.
City authorities have given the churches free use of large stadium venues for their united gatherings because of their impact on the whole community, saving the city millions of dollars through reduced crime and terrorism.
Fiji, South Pacific
Fiji now has significant examples of effective community transformation, based on honouring God in unity between churches and communities. Fiji has experienced many military coups. In spite of this, Fiji also experiences significant unity in local village communities and among many churches.
The 2005 documentary report titled Let the Seas Resound, produced by the Sentinel Group (www.sentinel.com), identifies examples of transformed communities in Fiji, featuring reconciliation and renewed ecosystems. The former President of Fiji, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, and former Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, include their personal comments in this video and DVD report, now distributed worldwide.
In September 2004, 10, 000 people gathered to worship together in Suva, Fiji, drawn by reconciliation initiatives of both government and church leaders. Only four years previously such unity among government and church leaders was unimaginable. Ethnic tensions flared in the attempted coup of May 2000, when the government was held hostage for 56 days, and violence erupted in the streets of Suva.
As people of Fiji unite in commitment to reconciliation and repentance in various locations, many testify to miraculous changes in their community and in the land.
Three days after the people of Nuku, north of Suva, made a united covenant with God, the water in the local stream, which for the previous 42 years had been known as the cause of barrenness and illness, mysteriously became clean and life giving. Then food grew plentifully in the area.
Fish are now caught in abundance around the village of Nataleria, where previously they could catch only a few fish. This change followed united repentance and reconciliation among all the churches and in the whole village.
Churches in the Navosa highlands north of Sigatoka came together in reconciliation and unity. Some people in that area grew large marijuana crops worth about $11 million. Nine growers were involved. The team leaders told the farmers that it was their choice, that they should obey God and trust him for their livelihood, without any promises from anyone to do anything for them. If they could not, then they should not participate in the Healing Process. By the time the Process had finished, the people had destroyed the crop as part of the reconciliation Process. After the HTL ministry, a total of 13,864 plants were uprooted and burnt by the growers themselves. There were 6,000 seedlings as well.
Many island communities in Fiji and the South Pacific now report similar ecological and community transformation. See my book, South Pacific Revivals for further examples of healing of the land through reconciliation and unity among churches and communities.
This is not only an island phenomenon, where it may be easier for whole communities to come together. It happens in towns and cities too.
When we obey our Lord who requires unity in his body, we see miraculous changes. That unity can be lived out amid God-given diversity.
Our unity is expressed in the diversity of gifts. There is one Spirit; his gifts are incredibly diverse.
The point is developed in all the body passages of Paul. Diversity is to be celebrated, not squashed; encouraged, not smothered; developed, not ignored.
Body ministry will use these gifts. God’s Spirit moves among his people in power to meet needs and minister effectively. Those gifts need to be identified and used, and in the process, as in Jesus’ life and ministry, special anointings enable effective use of all the Spirit’s gifts.
The best use of spiritual gifts is proper use, not misuse nor disuse. Paul describes various streams of God’s gifting.
1. God our Father gives personal gifts in grace. Often seen in our personalities and preferences, these motivating gifts include prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhorting, giving, leading, and showing mercy in compassion (Romans 12:6-8). They blossom in us as we offer ourselves to God, not being conformed to this world but being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2).
2. Jesus Christ, the Head of his Church, gives leadership gifts to his church, including the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). These gifts are the people – not just their ministries such as evangelising and teaching. They may be full-time or part-time, paid or unpaid. Most are unpaid, as with Jesus and the apostles. Think, for example, of the huge army of voluntary home group leaders giving pastoral care to millions of people, and reaching out to others in natural friendship evangelism.
3. The Holy Spirit manifests himself in our lives with gifts given to each of us for the common good. They include a word or revelation of wisdom, a word or revelation of prophecy, faith, various gifts of healing, miracles, prophecy or speaking from God, discerning spirits, various kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).
Paul even ranks God’s gifts in order of ministry importance in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guiding or administrating, and of different kinds of tongues (1 Corinthians 12: 28). We sometimes mix up the order and emphasize the least the most!
Not only are we rediscovering the many and varied gifts of the Spirit in the 21st century, but we are also rediscovering the vital biblical truth that these gifts belong to all God’s people, not just the leaders, pastors or clergy. Together we learn to be supernaturally natural.
That motivates us all to be involved in ministries which include all the various manifestations of God’s Spirit among us all.
The diversity of these glorious gifts can be summarised in the following way for a simple, practical application to ministry:
motivational gifts from God our Father,
ministry gifts from Christ Jesus our Lord and Head, and
manifestation gifts from the Holy Spirit our Comforter and Friend.
Motivational Gifts from God our Father
Romans 12:6-8 lists gifts in a passage about discovering and doing the will of God in the body of Christ, using our God-given abilities. This list corresponds closely to our natural God-made abilities filled with God’s Spirit. Some writers suggest that knowing these God-given gifts in our lives motivates us to serve him well for his glory.
1. prophecy: so prophesy in proportion to our faith;
2. ministry: so use it in ministering or serving;
3. teaching: so use it in teaching;
4. exhorting; so use it in exhortation;
5. giving: so give liberally;
6. leading: so lead with diligence;
7. showing mercy: so do it with cheerfulness.
Most of us do all these things in various ways, but each of us will be gifted more strongly in some of these gifts. Knowing our gifting helps us serve the Lord with gladness, fulfilled in our calling.
Ministry Gifts from Christ Jesus our Head
Ephesians 4:11 summarises the leadership or ministry gifts given by the risen Lord, Head of his church. These gifts differ from all the other lists of gifts because it is the person who is the gift of Christ to his church, not just their ministry gift:
1. apostle: sent by the Lord (originally the 12);
2. prophet: speaking from the Lord;
3. evangelist: proclaiming the gospel of the Lord;
4. pastor: shepherding the Lord’s people;
5. teacher: instructing the Lord’s people.
Increasingly, these gifts are being recognised and developed in local churches. Usually, where people are gifted by the Lord in these ways, they become leaders in the church, often unpaid (as in home groups or specialised ministries such as with youth or children), sometimes paid (as on staff, part time or full time). This list in Ephesians is not a list of local church staff, although the staff will have some of these gifts. The more that the leaders in the church, voluntary and paid, can exercise and be supported in these ministries, the more the church will demonstrate the anointing and power of the Spirit in its life.
Manifestation Gifts from the Holy Spirit
1 Corinthians 12, gives two useful lists of manifestations of the Spirit in the body of Christ. Some people use the following helpful categories:
The power to know:
1. word of wisdom: a divine understanding for a need;
2. word of knowledge: a divine revelation about a person or event;
3. discerning of spirits: a divine awareness about spirit powers;
The power to act:
4. faith: a divine enabling
5. healings: a divine provision of wholeness;
6. miracles: a divine intervention supernaturally;
The power to speak:
7. prophecy: a divine word given;
8. tongues: a divine unknown language (occasionally known to others);
9. interpretation of tongues: a divine revelation of a message in tongues.
Paul emphasizes the importance of these gifts, and strongly argues that we need one another because we are all gifted differently. The eye cannot say it does not need the hand; the head cannot say it does not need the feet.
Gifts are gifts of grace. We all need God’s grace as we grow in using these gifts, and appreciating them in one another.
1 Corinthians 12:28 then arranges various gifts in an order of ministry significance:
6. helps – service
Leadership in the church is crucial for it can release or stifle the use of the spiritual gifts of God’s people. Leaders do not need to envy or fear God’s gifting in his people. The more the body of Christ lives in its gifting and calling, the more the leaders themselves are able to live in their own gifting and calling, and not be overloaded with ministry which is neither their gifting nor their calling.
We all have many gifts from God but some people are gifted by the Spirit more fully than others in various ministries. Gifts may emerge unexpectedly as we believe and obey the leading of the Spirit in our lives. We often discover God’s gifting as we serve one another in various ways, for the Spirit then anoints us for those ministries.
Preaching, for example, can become prophecy as it is anointed by the Spirit of God. That prophetic ministry may happen unexpectedly in the process of a sermon. It may also be given in preparation as a word directly from the Lord.
Compassionate service and healing prayer will at times be anointed powerfully by God’s presence in signs and wonders to heal. Our gift, anointing and role then merge together into strong spiritual ministry.
So role, spiritual gift, and anointings cannot be clearly divided. Indeed, as the Spirit of God moves in greater power among all members of the body of Christ, the ministry of that body becomes increasingly anointed.
Then the professional is swallowed up in the spiritual; natural ability is suffused and flooded with supernatural life; the human is filled with the divine.
Jesus lived this way. He laid aside the rights and powers of his divinity, though still being divine. He became fully man, not superboy nor superman, but fully man, the second Adam without sin.
Then filled with the Spirit from his baptism at around 30, he lived and ministered in the power of the Spirit. He was filled with the Spirit, led by the Spirit, anointed by the Spirit, and empowered by the Spirit. He showed us how to live a Spirit-filled life.
Following Pentecost, his followers did the same, though not sinless like Jesus. They too were filled, led, anointed, and empowered by the same Spirit of God. So the gifts of the Spirit functioned fully among them also, though limited or marred by human weakness and sin, as Paul often pointed out in his letters.
You can ask for this, and expect it. The leaders and Christians in the New Testament church did that. They constantly prayed that believers would be filled with the Spirit. And they prayed for boldness to live courageously in the power of the Spirit and for God to confirm his word with healings and signs and wonders (see Acts 4:29-31). God answered those prayers.
© Renewal Journal #17: Unity (2001, 2012) renewaljournal.com
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