By Paul Cook
Here’s the deal, Pastor,” the two of them were saying as they sat across from me drinking coffee at Panera Bread. “We are losing some of our effectiveness and momentum in the church, and it has nothing to do with really spiritual stuff. People just lose heart when we lose the details. We think we can help.”
Over the next three months, these incredibly gifted individuals met with me each week. They helped me think through a list of “operational absolutes.” They picked my brain and logged my organizational frustrations. I was amazed at their insight. They made me aware of hundreds of task-driven details that held the organization together every week. They categorized work and ensured it was properly assigned. They built accountability into systems and forced us to depend less on the ebb and flow of individual motivation. They helped me see things that I did not understand needed fixing and did not even know should be valued. These people were busy in
their own jobs, but they carved out the time to upright our ship. I felt badly for taking so much of their precious time, but they assured me, “We absolutely love this!”
Like other leaders, I see this sort of aid throughout the church offered by duty-driven, task-oriented workers who tirelessly structure the chaos of various ministries. I am continually blessed by those willing to dive into the minutiae and obviate potential disasters. Local churches seek out these organizationally-minded individuals to rescue projects, flesh-out direction, and handle the details of ministries. Not only do they do a wonderful job, but they seem to welcome the work. I contend that the existence of such organizational workers is neither coincidence nor haphazard concentration of talent. We may seem to just stumble onto this help, but actually God has commissioned and positioned these workers with intention.
Maybe you are one to whom God has given these skills, or maybe you are looking for this kind of help in the ministry you handle. Let’s take a quick look at the biblical foundation for gifts that support the organization of the church, and then we can overview a series of identifiers that help us recognize this ministry in a kingdom worker.
We are assuming agreement in this discussion that spiritual gifting is how God organizes His church. Without space for a comprehensive address of gifts theology, we are saying that God orders the work of His church through the distribution of spiritual gifts. Understand that Christ governs the church as its head and the government of His church is forever on His shoulders. Each of us is assigned to parts of His body according to His will. Those assignments are given in the form of spiritual gifts. If you know your spiritual gifts, you know your place in the body. That is the Lord’s organization.
We are also assuming agreement in this brief overview that the paradigm of only nine spiritual gifts functioning in the church has shifted. While some may define the operation of gifts in varying ways and categorize them differently, let us agree that our old list of nine gifts (Greek, charisma) from Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians has grown. If we include all references to charisma in the New Testament, we could easily read a list of more than twenty gifts. It is entirely plausible that the Lord never intended it to be a comprehensive list anyway, but simply a sampling of what He has done in the shaping of the body of Christ according to His will.
God organized the church through the giving of gifts, and among those gifts is a brief reference at the close of I Corinthians 12 to helps and governments. These two gifts validate the passionate ministries of thousands of vital players in the work of God. Christ in His wisdom has specifically assigned to some members of His body the role of assisting and administering work as part of the healthy function of the church. This assistance is not just coming from people who happen to be organized and want to help—the help is coming from the Lord. It is coming from people whom God has gifted to minister to His body. Therefore, the gifts that local churches need to organize, structure, support, and manage ministry are already in place in our pews because God willed it to be so.
Identifying Organizational Gifts
How might these gifts function? How are these gifts recognized in individuals? If God has prepared the church to meet administrative needs by gifting individuals to passionately minister in that way, we should be able to find and develop them in the local church.
There is no supporting explanation in Scripture for the mention of helps and governments. We are left to draw conclusions about these gifts from the words themselves. Also enlightening are the examples of those in Scripture who provided a supporting role to the organization
or to primary leaders they helped. For instance, the way Luke was a help to Paul—it seems his role was not one of leading. Instead, Luke felt passionate about providing assistance to the leader by supporting him in the menial tasks of his daily life. Luke ministered to Paul in prison. Helps may be found in the burden some have to support local leaders by performing menial tasks and lightening their load. A pastor’s armor-bearer might be a good example. A secretary, a handyman, a babysitter, a housecleaner could passionately serve in roles that support leaders in ways that have less to do with the ministry the leader is performing and more to do with his/her personal needs.
A more modern word for governments that is used in translations is administration. Maybe the seven men who were chosen in Acts 6 to feed the widows were known to have the gift to organize such efforts. Administrative gifts are easy enough to identify within the local church. Some people think more clearly and orderly than others when it comes to efforts that require organization. The ability to organize can be demonstrated by manager/leader types and at other times by those who avoid leadership roles like the plague. Either way, God has gifted them to bring order to the jumbled elements of someone else’s effort.
How can we recognize these gifts in ourselves and others? Here are four gift-identifiers worth mentioning:
Passion: We look for our children’s talents and steer them toward careers and activities that complement their skills. God is no different—He has pointed us toward roles that fit our gifting. We are gifted to do what we love to do. We can have a high level of drive and energy day after day when it comes to the areas of the work of God that we love. It requires little discipline to do what we love to do. Passion to lift a leader’s everyday load by performing tasks or organizing some aspect of God’s work is one sign that a gift is present.
Opinions: You see through the eyes of your gift. You see the need for your gift to be applied. You have opinions about how associated work should be done. You might even be fighting a critical spirit if you have not been given an opportunity to help. See your struggle over a critical spirit and your opinions and ideas as your gift talking.
Validation: People thank you for your assistance. They are amazed and blessed by your help or ability to organize and they let you know it. You are getting kudos—pats on the back, “What would we have done without your help?”
Secular Work: It is quite probable that God intended your spiritual gifting to glorify Him both inside and outside of the church. How you function in your gifts may be a witness in the workplace to those watching your life from outside of the family of God. The gifts of helps and administration may be defining your secular work roles as well.
Every person is given a measure of faith and every person has his proper gift. The role of helps and governments is a perfect example of how Christ in His wisdom placed some completely necessary ministries in the body.
We can truthfully say that organizational concerns are God’s concerns—and maybe concerns you are called to as well.