At Christmas we often talk about the gift of Jesus Christ to the world. It’s hard to talk and write about it without sounding cliche and trite but that doesn’t change the fact that Christmas is about gifts and that ultimate gift was that of our Lord Jesus Christ coming to earth; incarnated as a human baby. But beside the gift that Christ gave us in Himself at Christmas, He also gave us more gifts when He left the world.
For example, the Holy Spirit. The Counselor, as Jesus called Him, was yet another gift that was only made possible because of the first Christmas. If Jesus had not been born, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins and rose from the tomb conquering death we would not have had universal access to the Holy Spirit as we now do. So the Holy Spirit is a gift that was wrapped on Christmas and given to ALL mankind at Pentecost.
Yet there were even further gifts that Christ gave to us! Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us what, or who, those gifts are. They are the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. This was the gift of spiritual leadership! These days we don’t like the gift of being led! For certain we like the idea of receiving a leadership gift, but when the gift is given to someone else we feel less than, sometimes even gypped out of a position we thought we deserved. Consider our political leaders. No sooner have we voted someone into office than we start griping about the poor decisions that unfortunate person is making. Yet scripture tells us that God appoints the government and that they deserve our respect (John 19:11; Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13-17).
And I hate to say it, but our attitude towards leadership often isn’t better on the inside of the Church. People do not like to be led. We are naturally suspicious anyone who tries to have any influence over us, and yet this is precisely the reason Christ gave these leadership gifts to the Church! So that she could be equipped, which means that she is being told what to do; a leader’s job by definition is to influence followers!
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-12 (NLT)
Is the gift abused by some leaders? To be certain. But the abuse is reciprocal – even if it sometimes unintentional. Consider the conversation we have on the way home from our church services; “I just don’t think Pastor Thom was on point today in his sermon.” “Did you hear what the church is spending our money on?” “What on earth were they thinking letting her volunteer with children?” The questions might be said without an ounce of resentment but often our conversations are questioning instead of celebrating. “I was encouraged by this part of the message today.” “What a joy to give to Church; our money doesn’t belong to us in the first place!” “Wasn’t it amazing that she has come so far in her life that she can help with registering the kids for Kidzland.”
We don’t need to understand or even support every decision made in leadership as though we were some unthinking autobots, but we should have the backs of our leaders because they are Christ’s gifts to the Church! We should find a way to teach our kids to think critically about church, leadership, sermons, truth – all of it! But we should not teach them to be critics! And we should certainly teach them to avoid becoming skeptics where we look for the fault because it is expected. I promise if you examine any leader for long enough you will find something that you don’t like.
Now think about Christmas gifts for a minute. Christ was the ultimate gift and yet even in His departure He left more gifts! It’s like finding that Grandma left a couple extra goodies under our pillows to discover the day after Christmas. Christ’s gift of Himself made it possible for all people for all time to experience the privilege of being filled with the Holy Spirit! And it is the Holy Spirit who assigns talents to the specific leaders who Christ commissioned in general (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)!
Christmas is about the gift of our Savior, to be sure, but it is about far more than that. Consider whether you honour those further gifts that Christ left for the good of the Church, and the world.
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