By Marcos R. Inhauser
“The LORD answered me: Write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets, so one may easily read it” (Habakkuk 2:2).
I have learned and believe that the church is a gift cooperative. Also, that in each local congregation, there are a variety of gifts. I have come to think that there should be all the gifts listed in the Bible in every local church.
In the pastoral ministry, however, that doctrine, in practice, is different. I found that there was not a multitude of gifts in the first two churches I pastored. The most common gift was the “gift of sitting idly by.” Another was the “passive observer” or worse, the “critical observer.”
As there wasn’t the variety of gifts I imagined there should be, I ended up taking on the role of a conductor of the orchestra who plays all the instruments. With my wife, we did everything. I felt powerful. But I got tired of being powerful, carrying the church alone on my back.
In my doctor of ministry studies, I researched gifts in a specific denomination. I discovered something interesting: there are congregations where there is the primacy of a specific gift. It goes along with the gift that the church pastor is revealed to have. If the pastor was an evangelist, the church was full of evangelists. If the pastor had the gift of service, the church tended to be a diaconic church. If the pastor had the gift of teaching, the church was full of teachers.
The question that came to my mind was: are these gifts, or are they “manufactured” by the leader? If they are gifts, why this crowding into a particular local church? Does the church have the predominance of a gift because people come to attend, feeling comfortable with the predominance of their gift in the community?
I didn’t get a definitive answer. I understand and accept today that each local community must pursue its ministry using the gifts that exist within it. To illustrate this, I want to tell a little about the history of Igreja da Irmandade (the Church of the Brethren in Brazil).
When we started the project, some of my students were motivated to participate. Five of those students were the ones with whom we started.
I have the gift of teaching, and, as I see it today, three of the five were also capable of teaching. None were evangelists. One had the gift of mercy and the other that of administration. It gave the identity that we are a church that teaches. Some who joined later also had the gift of teaching. We had difficulties counting on evangelists, or gifts of service, or gifts of healing, and contributions.
The crisis of the pandemic and the impossibility of meeting regularly shook us. How to develop our teaching ministry when more consolation was needed? How to keep the flame of communion lit if what unites us is learning/teaching?
After reflection, listening to members, and assessing the contextual situation of the church in Brazil, when we resumed face-to-face services we also started an online seminar. We are offering courses in church history, pastoral care for loss, a Bible book analysis, and others that are asked of us. There are four days of classes, one each week, lasting one hour.
We are using the gifts we have without complaining about the lack of others we don’t have.
–– Marcos R. Inhauser along with his wife, Suely Inhauser, co-coordinates the Church of the Brethren mission in Brazil and is a leader in Igreja da Irmandade (the Church of the Brethren in Brazil).
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