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Forgotten Gifts

gift

It sits neglected, unopened, it is the forgotten gift. It is a sad scene. The forgetful recipient is the poorer and doesn’t know it. The giver’s best intentions are frustrated. It is a sad scene!

I have often used this image to invite people to receive Jesus as per John 1:12 “…but as many as receive him he gave the power to become the children of God.” The image lends itself well to this application, yet it is not limited to this gift of salvation.

I have heard lots of talk about gifts these past few weeks. Folks in the church I attend are doing gift discovery activities. I must admit to a bit of scepticism about such gift tests. They are more likely to show our personal preferences than to unveil latent gifts. By seeking our preferences we may certainly discover the ways God intends for us to enjoy him and our service to him, but it also invites us to a fleshly introspection where the subject is ‘me’ not ‘thou’. Such test are no doubt helpful but fraught with fleshly rather than spiritual insights. I would humbly suggest that our gifts emerge as we seek ‘the more excellent way’, that is as we actively love each other and the hurting world around us.

I also heard about gifts at a recent meeting I attended. The bishop freely admitted that the state of the Anglican Church in our area is not healthy. He suggested that we cannot continue as we have. He proposes an innovation where the church begins to think beyond parochialism, where clergy minister more widely and in cooperation with one another, where clergy offer their particular gifts beyond traditional parish boundaries. For an ancient church this passes as innovation but I suggest we have a forgotten, a neglected gift which offers much more hope.

In Ephesians 4 we read about the gifts Jesus gave the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. In the current church culture only the last two gifts are prized. If our diocesan answer is to redeploy shepherds and teachers exclusively, its best efforts will be hamstrung from the start. The Forgotten Way, the neglected gift to the church is an unwrapping of these Eph. 4.

The difficulty is that we are a clergy-driven church. Those with a personal stake in a version of the status quo are the very ones who must make way for a truly renewed way of ministry. I have been suggesting to many of my clergy friends that they study Neil Cole’s “Primal Fire”, in which he makes the case for what he calls “APEST” (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, and Teacher) Ministry.

The churches that are growing have elements of APEST and those that continue to neglect these gifts risk going the way of the dodo. I have great hope for the church and even for my denomination but no one church and no denomination has a license to perpetual existence. It is time to open the Forgotten Gifts.

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