Teachers or lovers?

I was reading a George Barna report today (read the report ). A couple of stats jumped out at me. Apparently, we evangelicals think we have spiritual gifts of teaching (28%) but not many of us have the gift of hospitality (3%).

Hospitality means that people feel welcome and at ease around us. They sense that they can be real with us. You know people who have the gift of hospitality. They invite you in quickly and you feel oddly at ease.

I’m not a big believer in spiritual gifts assessment tests. I’ve taken several. My experience indicates that they are more an assessment of how you view yourself and what you like. I think the people around you can give you a better sense for your gifts than a fifty question test. Friends know you.

I recently gave one of these tests to a group in a bible study. Two individuals in the group scored very high in leadership. It was awkward when we shared our results. I sensed tension in the room and saw others look down at their papers or stare at the floor when each of these people shared their results. I quickly moved on and redirected the group knowing that no one was ready to confirm leadership gifts in these two. In fact, had we done an exercise to indentify who, out of this group, was the least likely to score high in leadership, I am confident that these two would have been the top vote getters. Each of them has other evident gifts but we don’t see any evidence of leadership. Both are definite followers.

Barna’s report can be read in a number of different ways. We can argue the results reflect the direction and focus of the American church which clearly values teaching. Or, we can argue that the Lord is preparing his church to teach. The second is an exciting possibility.

The thing that bothers me is that most of us don’t pay much attention to teachers that fail to connect with us on a personal level. We’re less likely to listen to someone who doesn’t connect. We hear, “Blah, blah, blah…”

The world outside our doors looks on Christians with a skeptical eye. It feels like we look down long noses and point fingers and pass judgement. It knows we are ready for a fight because fights are usually the only place they see us. The world outside our doors is pretty sure that we don’t care. It hears, “Blah, blah, blah.”

Barna’s report disturbs me. It makes me think we have focused so much on teaching and guarding our doctrines that we’ve turned away from relationships. When someone reports a gift of hospitality in our churches, it’s pretty unlikely that we get very excited. In fact, we’re not even sure what to do with them or how to get them involved. Gift of helps? Stuff these envelopes. Mercy? Hand out some food. Hospitality? Uhhhhh … we’ll get back to you.

The Bible is pretty clear that the defining characteristic for followers of Christ is that people looking in will know we are Christians by our love. Acts speaks of believers gathering together in each other’s homes, having meals together and even selling their stuff to meet the urgent needs that came up for people in their group. Is that what defines us today?

Jesus called people by name and valued the tax collector and prostitute as much as the educated and wealthy. He welcomed children and offered hope to women. He touched the diseased. People from all walks of life followed Him and tuned in to what He had to say. He loved.

Think of how the world will change when more of us adopt a Jesus-style of living. I like His style.

In Mark 12 we see Jesus getting into some philisophical fun with one of the religious scholars. The scholar asks Him to boil everything down. He’s like an accountant looking for the bottom line. The balance.

Jesus tells Him that God is everything (“The Lord is one”) and thus worthy of all his prayer, passion, intelligence and energy. And then he gives the second part and tells the guy, “Love others as you love yourself.”

The scholar praises Jesus for His direct answer and the way He communicates but Jesus tells him that he is “almost” there; that he’s right on the edge of getting it. It’s like Jesus sees that the scholar can connect intellectually but still doesn’t get the bottom line. It’s as though the scholar dances around the things of God but just doesn’t hear the music. He can’t feel the beat. He’s out of rhythm.

In Mark 12:38-39 Jesus tells the people to “Watch out for the religion scholars. They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function.”

When we put up walls of status, position, wealth and education and see ourselves at a higher level than others, we miss the Jesus style I spoke of earlier. When we adopt an “us vs. them” mentality we fail to love others as we love ourselves. When we treat others as less, we do not represent Jesus.

We evangelicals apparently see ourselves as teachers. Imagine how our communities would change if we valued being lovers of God and others more than anything else.

Lord, make me a lover.

Survey Describes the Spiritual Gifts That Christians Say They Have

About Scott Linscott

Living life to the fullest, walking in the dust of my Rabbi, creating art through photography and written word, speaking words of hope wherever and whenever the opportunity arises.
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