Sometimes when I am very tired or discouraged, or both, I have trouble trusting God. I read the lovely promises that Paul writes to the church in Corinth and I wonder. I read Paul’s words, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift.”
Is this true? Sometimes I see a void in the church and wonder what kind of miracle God will work to fill the gap. I look around and see a lack of resources, and I wonder about solutions.
One approach to address this lack of resources is to try to inspire generosity of spirit and encourage big donors to step up to the plate and give a little more. While I appreciate the generosity of many people who give selflessly, I wonder if there are additional approaches to a perceived lack of resources.
One other approach is to consider each person in your community to be a gift from God and therefore worthy of contributing to the ministry of the body. In this approach, you create an inventory of the gifts, skills and capacities of the community’s residents. Household by household, building by building, block by block, you will discover a vast and often surprising array of individual talents and productive skills, few of which are being mobilized for community-building purposes.
This idea relies heavily on the basic truth that Jesus taught that every individual is particularly important and each person has gifts to share within the community. This applies to everyone, including those who often find themselves marginalized in communities. It is essential to recognize the capacities, for example, of those who have been labelled mentally handicapped or disabled, or of those who are marginalized because they are too old, too young or too poor. In a community whose assets are being fully recognized and mobilized all people will be part of the action, not as clients or recipients of aid, but as full contributors to the community-building process.
This requires that gifts are not ranked in order of importance. Each gift must be seen as valuable. Each person has something completely unique to offer, and therefore each person is completely valuable.
As we start this new year I want to encourage all faith communities to embrace the inclusive model of developing community, and to trust the promise that you will not lack in any spiritual gift, because you have already been sufficiently strengthened by the one who gives life.
Ken Warkentin is the executive minister of Mennonite Church Manitoba.