Publisher’s Page: Different Gifts
Welcome to the July/August 2017 issue of Interpreter. As you read through the pages, you'll discover a number of articles about diversity. Diversity is an interesting topic to consider since one person's idea of what is diverse may differ from someone else's perspective. Our Christian brothers and sisters in Zambia on the continent of Africa, for example, may well define diversity differently from our brothers and sisters in the Scandinavian nation of Finland.
One area in which our human diversity is most apparent is in our spiritual gifts. While life in and of itself is a gift, God also created each of us with our own gift or set of gifts. The Apostle Paul, in the epistles to Rome, Ephesus and Corinth (Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12 and 13) lifted up more than a dozen God-given talents that range from the gifts of compassion and discernment to healing and prophecy. Paul tells the first-century Christians that these gifts are given specifically by the Holy Spirit to build up the body of Christ and his church.
The same is true today. The United Methodist Church is most vibrant when everyone brings their unique spiritual gifts into community with one another. The following stories illustrate how United Methodists around the world are using their diverse spiritual gifts to further the Kingdom of God.
Equipped with the gift of evangelism, the Rev. Nyenda Okoko travels throughout the Tundu District of the East Congo Conference in the Democratic Republic of Congo to pray and minister to communities. Okoko is a 21st-century circuit rider who travels by motorcycle. The gift from Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda allows the pastor to reach his flock in a region where impassable roads are common. Daily, Okoko shares his faith with the people who live deep in the forests and savannas of one of the poorest countries in the world.
"I have a call from God," Okoko said, "and that call cannot leave me free " to do anything else.
When it comes to the gift of being faithful, the Rev. Earl Bible stands out for many who know of his ministry as a licensed local pastor in West Virginia, U.S.A. For the past 33 years, Bible has served four mountain churches in the Alleghany Charge of the West Virginia Conference. He alternates preaching at two churches on one Sunday morning and two on the next. The four congregations, which total approximately 100 members, come together on fifth Sundays. Bible also leads a Bible study at one of the churches each Sunday night and at another on Thursday evenings. For eight summers before he retired from the nearby Hanover Shoe Company, Bible spent his vacation traveling to Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., to take the courses required of local pastors. He and his wife, Doris, continue to farm, raising vegetables and livestock, including cows and sheep. At 80, Bible has no plans to slow down.
"I'll go, probably, as long as the Lord allows," he said.
Leaders at Christ United Methodist Ministry Center in San Diego, California, U.S.A., exhibit the gift of exhortation, offering encouragement, wise counsel, support and empowerment to others. A decade ago, when the congregation was in decline, the Rev. Bill Jenkins suggested turning the church facility into a place where non-profit and charitable organizations could operate, as well as offering worship room to congregations without permanent homes. Christ Ministry Center is now home to 10 diverse congregations, including Eritrean, Haitian, Hispanic and Seventh Day Adventist faith communities, four of which are United Methodist. A dozen non-profits are based at the center, including Dress for Success, Gambling Recovery Ministries and Cross Border Ministry, an organization offering services to Haitian refugees in Tijuana, Mexico.
Today, more than 1,000 lives are touched each week in some way through the work going on at the center, whose doors open at 8 a.m. daily and frequently stay open until 10 p.m.
There is no shortage of stories throughout our denomination that showcase United Methodists using their diverse Spirit-given gifts.
To learn about your gifts, I invite you to take a spiritual gifts assessment on our denominational website. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:11: "It is the same and only Holy Spirit who gives all these gifts and powers, deciding which each one of us should have."
When we all come together with our diverse gifts given by the Holy Spirit, it is then that we can most fully work together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Dan Krause is general secretary of United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A., and publisher of Interpreter.