“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).
I shared the gospel with a young woman the other day. God dropped an opportunity in my lap and I seized it. She did not get saved, but a seed was planted. I don’t say that to boast; there have been plenty of missed opportunities in my life. To be perfectly honest, I have not personally prayed with anyone to receive Christ in several years. I love Jesus, I love the message of the gospel, I routinely weep over lost people in prayer, and I am prepared and equipped to share when God does present me with opportunities. But I also understand that evangelism is not how God has gifted me or where he has called me. I do not say that flippantly — I say it with a deep sense of clarity about what he has called me to.
God has gifted me in the areas of mercy and hospitality. I have a strong sense of purpose in serving the believers in the church — of equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13). I do look for opportunities to build relationships and share the gospel with unbelievers, and there are a handful of women who know Jesus today because I have shared with them. But there are many other people in my life who have a relationship with Jesus today, even though I didn’t share the gospel with them personally. And they might never have heard the gospel from someone else if I had neglected my God-given gifts to be something I am not.
Evangelism is important, and all believers are called to share our faith, regardless of our gifting. In the same way, someone with the gift of evangelism is also called to practice hospitality, mercy or service at certain times, even if that is not his or her particular gift. But it is a subtle lie of Satan that causes us to determine our value in the church or in the sight of God based on how he has gifted us. This mentality not only breeds disunity and competition in the body, but causes us to neglect using the gifts he has given us.
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (I Corinthians 12:14-21)
In an evangelical church, gifted evangelists are held in high esteem, and the impression can be given that the goal for everyone’s life is to be just as fruitful in a salvation-by-the-numbers sort of way. Those of us who are not gifted evangelists can find ourselves believing that we need to work harder at seeing people saved in order to be approved by both God and the church.
But there are (at least) two things wrong with thinking that way. First, it’s plain and simple pride. My heart can be more set on finding affirmation from believers than on being broken at the thought of the person sitting across from me spending eternity in hell. And that is the second problem. If I don’t care more about that lost person than I do my reputation, they will sense that. They will know they are just a project, another notch on my religious belt. A gospel of religious performance is no gospel at all.
My value before God and others does not come from how many people I saw saved this month. It also doesn’t come from how well I live out the gifting he has given me, although both of these should come from an overflow of gratefulness as I understand what is true. I have value in the body because God says so. I have value because God formed me in my mother’s womb, dreamed me up before he spoke the world into existence, then chose to redeem me while I was utterly unworthy of redemption. For his glory, not mine. And that should be the focus of living out our gifts — his glory. No one has absolutely pure motives at all times; we are all glory thieves. But our motivation in sharing the gospel should be bent toward bringing God glory, not ourselves.
The opportunity I had a few weeks ago to share the gospel with that young woman didn’t come as I sat on my couch watching TV wondering why God wasn’t using my life. But it also didn’t come because I was frantically looking for opportunities to share the gospel as a means of gaining acceptance from my peers or proving my worth before God. It came as I faithfully ministered the gifts I know God has given me.
I have recently begun opening up my home twice a month for single women to come over for dinner. No agenda, just fun and building friendships. But one woman I invited brought a friend, who also brought a friend, who ultimately stayed in my living room talking long after everyone else had left. I wasn’t thinking about sharing the gospel that night; I was thinking about making sure the carne asada didn’t dry out. And I never would have met this young woman if the other women hadn’t also been loving others and exercising their gifts. That’s how the body should function, for God’s glory and our joy.