In some early Bible manuscripts, the lists of spiritual gifts appearing in Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Corinthians 12 contain a little-known and anachronistic gift: audio/visual operation. Paul’s admonition to “desire the higher gifts” was a challenge to excel at running the sound system.
Each of us has probably been in a service, prayer meeting, Bible study or conference in which one technological marvel or another aided in the presentation. Perhaps the sound guy overcame a mic that was feeding back. Or maybe the website engineer created a thrilling looped video feed. Maybe the technical coordinator devised an especially inspiring PowerPoint presentation. Someone might have pointed out to the congregation how the video, sound or slide show was an excellent addition to the program, thanking the one who provided it, and thanking God for providing the church such skilled and talented people.
I certainly enjoy what I call the “geek gifts” — those things God has blessed us with that make life a bit easier. I do own an iPod, after all. I even allow that those things are not inappropriate for corporate worship. (“Not inappropriate” — how’s that for obfuscation?)
But why don’t we hear thanks for those gifts God has truly given? Why aren’t we thankful that someone with the gift of discernment pointed out the problem with a particular ministry proposal, so that the church avoided error? Why aren’t we thankful that someone with the gift of teaching guided the congregation through a particularly thorny doctrinal issue? Why aren’t we thankful that someone with the gift of leadership demonstrated the way to more faithful biblical living? Why aren’t we more thankful that someone with the gift of mercy showed mercy to the downtrodden or suffering, in the name of Christ?
We talk of the Spirit operating externally to man, pulling the strings of circumstances to accomplish God’s purposes. But in doing so we neglect the teaching that the Spirit’s primary method of ministry is indwelling men, reforming hearts, changing wills. One specific way he accomplishes this is through the gifts he bestows on believers.
How spiritually impoverished we are, then, when the only “gift” for which we thank God is someone’s skill in running the sound board. Instead, we should recognize the Spirit working through men, and through the gifts he bestows, for the edification of the body. We should celebrate the Spirit accomplishing the purpose of God, protecting us from error or harm, shepherding the flock, alleviating suffering — and all (mostly) through the gifts he gives to men.