Gifts and Leadership

I ran into a conundrum this week.

In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul says that Christ gave gifts to the church. Christ gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.

This is a sticky and tricky passage.

And here's the conundrum ...

If you find people who have these gifts, they're often leaders. That's it.

Doesn't seem like a conundrum yet, does it?

Well ... which comes first: the gifts or the position? Does God give gifts to people who eventually rise to lead the church? Or does God pour gifts out on the people who are already leading?

This may not seem like a big deal. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Who cares? You're making me hungry. Let's eat!

But it is a big deal.

It's a big deal because many Christian communities find apostles and prophets and evangelists to be totally absent. Many, many churches are only led by people with pastoral and teaching gifts. The others lead elsewhere.

If gifts come first, then perhaps our churches have a problem with leadership promotion.

People with apostolic and prophetic and evangelistic gifts may lack opportunities to serve in their churches, so they take their gifts elsewhere. In my work with InterVarsity, I see gifted people serving on campus in ways that they couldn't in their church. While I'm grateful for their service on campus, I wonder what would happen if they were more welcome in their churches.

If leadership comes first, it's a different story, a different problem, a different opportunity.

If God pours out these gifts on leaders in the church, this could diagnose some dysfunction on leadership teams. Unrecognized diversity often creates tension.

If an intact team experiences a fresh gifting with these Ephesians 4 gifts, leaders may develop different priorities. They may pull in different directions. Unrecognized, these diverse gifts may refuse to work in concert with each other, may tug in opposite directions, may miss opportunities. I can only dream about what would happen if people with these gifts were able to work well together.

What do you think? Does either of these scenarios sound more likely to you? Do you see another option?

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