I looove a real potluck! Everyone brings whatever they have, whatever they love to cook, whatever their diet allows them to eat, whatever their kids will eat … and there are choices that usually accommodate everyone. There is always the chance that we end up with a meal of mostly desserts, but that rarely happens — and if it does, is anyone really complaining? The point is to get together and enjoy each other’s company, and part of getting to know each other is seeing what each likes and is good at. The potluck can reveal a lot about a person — that and playing volleyball, which is another post for another day!
It’s when the micromanagers get involved that the potluck goes awry. They assign categories of food to people who happen to have a name that starts with certain letters of the alphabet. They have a Sign Up Genius that only allows certain items. They limit the choices and say that everyone must bring lasagna, salad, bread, or brownies. These various levels of intrusion have a significant effect on my enjoyment of the occasion.
So what am I on about? It’s not just the food. It’s our roles in the Body of Christ that I have in mind more than anything else.
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
God has given gifts to the church as He sees fit with the goal that we all contribute what we have been given, and this is what makes us all grow together in love. God has given each of us abilities and personalities that are a gift to the whole church. Sometimes those gifts lay dormant because there is no outlet for them. We’ve all had those moments where we look at someone and say, “I didn’t know you could do that!” Maybe it is because they have never been asked. Maybe they have been trying to be something they are not to fill a pre-decided slot.
Sure, there are things that need to get done that no one considers their special ‘gift.’ Of course, we should all pull together to do the routine set-up and nursery duties. But in other areas there is a lot more leeway, and just maybe we don’t know what each other has to offer because we micromanage too much. Just maybe we would benefit from letting each bring what they have rather than prescribing exactly what the role is.
One person may be great with kids’ activities. The children are laughing, jumping for joy, and filled with enthusiasm. They go running to their parents gushing about how much fun they had. This can make us think that every children’s activity should be like this. BUT pass this same lesson plan on to a person who is not of that bent, and the result is frustration all around. Maybe for some, telling a story, teaching a new song, or doing something artsy is the gift they have to offer, and we will never enjoy the true gifting God has given them. And this variety may be just what is needed to reach children who in turn have their own bents and respond better to different approaches.
This is not a plea for everyone to find his/her ‘gift’ and refuse to do anything that doesn’t fit what they consider to be their ‘ministry.’ (That is a kind of individualism that ‘seeks its own’ and does not seek the good of the whole church. This is a corporate venture we are involved in, and we must work together.) But it is a plea for appreciation of the great variety God has blessed the church with. God gives the gifts that are needed in His church, and maybe we need to accept the gifts He offers rather than being so intent on carrying out a particular program. We should learn to give up our micromanaging and trust God to orchestrate everything to accomplish His purpose in His Church as each is freed to make a unique contribution. And if we do end up with all ‘desserts,’ it is not a failure. It is exactly what our Father knows we need!