If God has given the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, then it stands to reason that the saints are called to minister. Learning God’s Word isn’t just for the experts. All members are meant to know and understand the revelation He has given us. All members are to develop and hone their life skills and discover and practice their spiritual gifts. All are invited into this life restoration project in order to impart it to others. We are all equipped “for works of service” (v. 12).
The word for “service” is also translated in the New Testament as “ministry.” We get the word “deacon” from it. Though many people see “minister” as a synonym for “pastor,” they aren’t the same at all. The pastor is a type of minister, but ministry involves everyone. Everybody serves. The real action in the body of Christ is getting to see your gifts fitting with the gifts of other believers and watching people’s lives change.
Do you remember what Jesus did after defeating Satan? “He took many captives and gave gifts to his people” (v. 8). That means that your spiritual gift is a reminder of your position in Christ. God gives grace not only through the leaders He has called but also through the actions of every other believer using his or her spiritual gifts. Genuine transformation occurs in powerful, supernatural ways when Christians know, understand, and actively use the gifts God has given them.
One of my great delights as a pastor has been in helping people discover and deploy their spiritual gifts. God has given unique supernatural talents to every one of His children, and when we function in them, we experience great joy and others receive what they need to become mature in Christ. (I developed a Bible study resource called Your Divine Design: How to Discover, Develop, and Deploy Your Spiritual Gifts, which I believe will be helpful to you. For more information see the back of this book.)
If you’ve ever played sandlot football, you know what happens in the huddle. The quarterback draws the next play in the dirt. “Charlie, go past the blue car, take a left at the bush, and then go long. Pete, hook around the pothole and stop. Joe, block the big guy.” And if every player does his part, the play just might work once in a while.
The huddle is like a gathering place where the team makes its plans, talks about strategy, and gets prepared for the next play. That’s what church services are supposed to be like—a spiritual huddle. It isn’t where all the action is. It prepares people for the action, which takes place at home, in schools, at the office, on the job site, in community events, and everywhere else people live, work, and play together. Church prepares ministers to do ministry everywhere.
I’ve served in churches that have a limited number of pastors with very specific duties and thousands of other “full-time” ministers growing, transforming, and helping other people grow and transform. Some of these ministers pose as insurance agents, bus drivers, carpoolers, community activists, tech industry executives, hospitality industry servers, and simply mothers and fathers. The people they live and work with think they’re just employees or family members, but they pray with kids on a soccer team, visit the sick, counsel the hurting, lead Bible studies, walk through neighborhoods praying and blessing the homes and inhabitants, worship throughout their day, and display God’s love in winsome ways. They are actually ministers of the gospel who shepherd, teach, impart wisdom, express God’s heart, and live out their gifts whenever and wherever needed. They are fulfilling God’s plan for the church—and being transformed in the process.
When you get involved in the ministering process, life gets exciting. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know where to start or what your gifts are. In one way or another, you are equipped to help others spiritually, emotionally, physically, and practically. Every believer has at least one spiritual gift because when you believed in Jesus, the Holy Spirit came into your life. You were sealed with the Spirit, adopted into God’s family, and forgiven of your sins (Eph. 1:13–14). The Spirit of God now dwells in you, manifesting the power and presence of Jesus. Part of His ministry within you is one or more gifts that will enable you to minister to others.
Discovering and practicing your spiritual gift is an adventure. Plenty of tools are available for discovering and developing your gifts; if you need some direction, ask your church leadership for some resources and direction. But you will only discover your gifts in the context of the body of Christ because that’s where and why they are given.
As you learn to serve, care for, and love others by meeting their needs through your spiritual gifts, amazing things will begin to happen. The passage immediately preceding Ephesians 4 gives us a glimpse of them. Paul wrote that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20). He does the unimaginable through lives that are yielded to Him—that have entered into His death and resurrection by faith, now living as new creations and trusting His power at work in them.
Jesus’ words about the attitudes and actions of His followers will describe your experience as you serve. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38). This verse is often used in sermons about money, but that’s not what it’s about (though it can apply to financial giving too). It’s about ministry. It’s an amazing promise for using your spiritual gifts, time, natural talents, and treasure.
Ingram, Chip. 2021. Yes! You Really Can Change: What to Do When You’re Spiritually Stuck. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
We have just released a new Bible Study based on Chip Ingram’s amazing book, You Really Can Change. These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.