Youth, discovery and spiritual gifts: Discovered (Part 5)

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Assisting Youth to discover their spiritual gifts and enrolling them to serve in: Introduction (Part 1)

The youth of the church aren’t just a nice to have, Friday night special, future generation. They’re intricately connected and so must be active participants of any healthy thriving body. Click image to enlarge.

Article after article on the internet regarding the discovery of your and others spiritual giftedness points to 100 question tests. Answer 5 questions correctly in this bracket and you’re gifted to give, 3 answers in another bracket and you’re gifted to teach. I’m certain that’s not how it works.

The gifts are most likely recognised through service. Consider briefly Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.” [emphasis added] (1 Cor 12:5 – 6) As discussed previously there’s an assortment of spiritual gifts but it is clear from Scripture that there is also a diversity of ministry areas.

As such the primary testing ground for where a believer’s giftedness lies should be service. As one serves one’s giftedness will bubble to the surface. In this context consider Paul’s encouragement to Romans regarding how they should serve, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Rom 12:6 – 8) Paul’s point is that the gifts should be utilised within the sphere of matched service and edification of the saints to the glory of God.

Youth might require a bit more guidance and oversight than other more spiritually mature members of the body but there is no difference in the importance of their contribution to the health and growth of the body.

So what’s the answer? The youth need to be mobilised. They have to be encouraged to serve and shepherded that their giftedness might be recognised, developed and utilised to the good of the entire church to God’s praise and glory! Amen!

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Youth, discovery and spiritual gifts: Demystified (Part 4)

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Assisting Youth to discover their spiritual gifts and enrolling them to serve in: Introduction (Part 1)

The excesses of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements have created a ‘baby with the bathwater’ effect in Christian conservative circles regarding the present work of the Holy spirit. Click image to enlarge.

How do the spiritual gifts differ from talents or skills? Warren Wiersbe puts it like this, “A spiritual gift is a God-given ability to serve God and other Christians in such a way that Christ is glorified and believers are edified.” [emphasis added] (Wiersbe 2003:37)

The gifting is not capricious; they are for the common good (1 Cor 12:27). They are also not limited to a subset of Christians (1 Pt 4:10). Youth, who have trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, have also therefore being gifted by God for the edification of the saints (Rom 12:2 – 8).

The Bible has more than one compilation of gifts attributed to the Holy Spirit. The lists vary in length and are deemed to be descriptive rather than comprehensive. “Dr. Charles Caldwell Ryrie, respected scholar and theologian, in his book, The Holy Spirit, lists 14 spiritual gifts. Dr. Peter Wagner, also a respected scholar and theologian, lists 27 gifts in his book. And most other writers number the gifts somewhere in between.” [emphasis added] (Bright, 1980:218)

What can be agreed upon is that these gifts are divinely appointed (1 Cor 12:7 – 11), that they’re to be used in love (1 Cor 13:1 – 3) and that they are evidence of a healthy community of believers (1 Cor 12:27).

Not all gifts are available to all believers. For example the gift of celibacy (1 Cor 7:1 – 9), the ability to control ones sexual impulses and remain single voluntary so as to serve the Lord without distraction, is only intended for people who are not already married (1 Cor 7:5). And the gift of Apostleship (1 Cor 12:28 – 31), the exercise of general leadership and authority on matters of faith in the early church, was reserved for the 12 disciples and later Paul (Eph 4:11 – 12).

Other gifts are not appropriately used by all believers at all times. For example the gift of tongues (Acts 2:1 – 12), a super natural ability to speak in languages never learned for the purpose of evangelisation and edification of the body, was only to be bought to the body when an interpreter was available (1 Cor 14).

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Youth, discovery and spiritual gifts: Disconnected (Part 3)

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Assisting Youth to discover their spiritual gifts and enrolling them to serve in: Introduction (Part 1)

The youth as functional members of the Body of Christ. You even tried talking to them lately? Click image to enlarge.

Our society has elevated the perceived value of children far beyond any other time in history. We have Bill of Rights protecting them, conventions glorifying them, laws defending them and negatively, parents idolising them.

Frank Furedi in his book Paranoid Parenting illustrates that there is very little that parents will not do to ensure that their children have every opportunity in life. In order to deliver these opportunities parents reduce responsibilities and expectations that are placed on their kids while simultaneously increasing supervision of them and lavishing stimulus to them. (Furedi, 2001) “The challenge of our society is to give children greater respect and responsibility to enable them to become capable and sophisticated adults.” [emphasis added] (Donahoo 2005:4)

This culture of pandering to the every want of juveniles has become entrenched in modern church life too: Sunday school programmes which are designed primarily to entertain, worship services which resemble rock concerts and designated youth pastors who are charged to relate and tolerate rather than challenge. Church culture is increasingly a mirror image of current world trends and philosophies.

And yet there’s clearly something missing. All the programmes, resources and people seem to be losing the battle. The church is not so much fighting to attract youth as it is fighting to retain them once they cross over to adulthood. (The National Study of Youth and Religion 2005)

The Christian walk is characterised by service to others (Jas 1:27) and the denial of self (Mt 16:24). By pandering to the youth the church has set a false expectation of what Christian life actually looks like. There is a clear disconnect between a healthy expectation of what the youth should offer the church and their current experience in it.

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It is the church’s responsibility to equip those who are called out and to develop them as functional members of the Body of Christ. What should this look like?

Youth, discovery and spiritual gifts: Defined (Part 2)

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Assisting Youth to discover their spiritual gifts and enrolling them to serve in: Introduction (Part 1) Julius Malema

He certainly grates my carrot. Is Julius Malema still youth? Click image to enlarge.

The word ‘youth’ is culturally ambiguous isn’t it? The modern Jewish rite of passage marking the transition between late childhood and early adulthood is recognised at 13 (think Havah Nagilah, Hora and Bar mitzvahs) (Wikipedia 2009a, b, c). The amaXhosa of the Eastern Cape enter the bush as abakwetha (initiates) to later undergo ulwaluko (circumcision) between 14 and 25 (Wikipedia 2009d). For me the shift from child to adult was acknowledged at 21 when I received an oversized key from my parents at a birthday party as a symbolic gift. The ANC Youth League recognises anyone under the tender age of 35 as ‘youth’ (23rd National Congress 2008:9).

Because culture doesn’t give us definitive guidance regarding who youth is we should set parameters ourselves. 13 to 18 seems a logical scope. Children of this age generally have senior education in common, they’re not quite old enough to vote but are certainly old enough to stand accountable for their actions and most Western churches regard 18 as the minimum age required for full membership.

Differentiating between age groups is not a modern invention. Paul, writing to Titus in chapter 2 says,

1 But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be…
3 Older women likewise are to be… 4 so that they may encourage the young women to…
6 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible;” [emphasis added] (Titus 2:1 – 6, NASB)

Want to hear the verse in context? Titus 2
What is this about?

In short Noah Webster describes this generational group as, “The part of life that succeeds to childhood; the period of existence preceding maturity or age; the whole early part of life, from childhood, or, sometimes, from infancy, to manhood.” [emphasis added] (Webster 1913:1676)

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Youth, discovery and spiritual gifts (Part 1)

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Assisting Youth to discover their spiritual gifts and enrolling them to serve in: Introduction (Part 1)

Seriously, does anyone actually take the youth seriously? Click image to enlarge.

You might have seen them around? In the parking lot listening to loud music before the morning service? They’re the ones with funny clothes and bad haircuts? They’re loud with each other but dead still in one on ones and, quite frankly, no one really knows where they stand in relation to Christ? They are the youth.

And when you sit around in church planning workshops everyone nods their heads and pats each other on the back as you think about the successful Friday night programmes or the attendance at “KidZ Church”. Maybe you have even pulled out all the stops and have a line item in the annual budget for “youth worker”.

And yet who is the youth really and why is it that they sit at the back of church and hardly seem involved? Could they possibly be gifted in some spiritually unique way and if they are should they be allowed to use those gifts within the church?

These questions have become increasingly relevant at a time when the church is considered ever more irrelevant to the youth.

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