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Bud Wilkinson, a former college football coach at the University of Oklahoma, led his team to three national championships. He was asked in an interview one time, “What contribution do professional sports make to the physical fitness of Americans?” You might find his answer a bit surprising: “Very little...A professional football game is happening where 50,000 spectators, desperately needing exercise, sit in the stands watching 22 men on the field desperately needing rest!”

We might compare his comments to the average congregation of a church. It’s a common frustration: a smaller group tends to carry out the majority of the work, while the rest tend to be “spectators”. Why is this? Sometimes, church spectators don’t really know what to do to help and nobody has mentored them over the years. Others simply think, well “so-and-so has always done that job, and I don't want to step on his toes.”

Yet, the truth is, there are a number of people who carry out too many jobs, because no one else steps forward to offer help. Chances are that the few, would deeply appreciate volunteers who offer to pitch in with particular tasks.

Every church participant has talents to offer, large or small. What is your strongest Spiritual gift? God has given every Christian man and woman, gifts that are to be used to uplift the church. Most of you, who attended over the last few weeks, completed the Spiritual Gifts Inventory we passed around. If you didn’t get to fill one out, let me know, and I’ll arrange it with you. It’s really interesting!

Christian Schwarz, a religious sociologist, analyzed responses from more than 1,000 churches in 32 countries, which totaled around 4.2 million people. He looked at big, small, healthy and unhealthy congregations. Essentially, Schwarz wanted to determine the essential qualities of a healthy, growing church, regardless of culture and theological persuasion.

In his book Natural Church Development, he writes “An interesting corollary result of our research was the discovery that probably no factor influences the contentedness of Christians more, than whether they are utilizing their gifts or not.”

In other words, he discovered that the happiest Christians are those who are using their spiritual gifts within their churches. People who understand what their gifts are, and who are using their gifts, are thriving, growing, happy Christians!

It’s a good question for each of us to ask: “Am I a happy Christian?” On the less happy side of things, I’ve seen church participants show envy over the abilities that other people have, which leads them to undermine their own gifts. I hear comments like, "I wish I knew the Bible as well as so-and-so”. Other people lament that they can’t repair things like someone else in the church. Still other folks shy away from admitting any talent, by undermining even their ability to make new visitors feel welcome. Have you found yourself ever saying/ praying, “O dear God, help me to be more like…(insert name here).

What is it in our North American culture that causes too many people, even Christians, to be hampered with inferiority complexes? We talk to ourselves in ways that we would never speak to a dear friend: "I’m not special. I’m not smart. I don’t have any special gifts, the church can do without me, and I don’t really have any way to make a difference in serving God."

That is simply “stinking thinking”. It’s no understatement that each of us is created in God’s image. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are humbly and yet proudly, putting our hand in the hand of our Lord. Each one of us has the right and privilege to discover our own gifts of ministry. Yes, you’ve heard it before and here it is again: Each one of us within our congregation has a unique and valuable ministry. In fact every Christian has more than one gift that can be used to contribute to the Kingdom of God on earth. Our Creator truly wants each and every one of us to be “happy Christians”.

In the next few weeks, we will be looking at our different spiritual gifts, and exploring how together, we can build up God’s work here in Mogadore.

Can you say, “Lord, I’m ready to explore my spiritual gifts, and I want to use them to build up your community!”

~Pastor J

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