Devotional written ten years ago!
Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you. 1 Timothy 4:14
One of the temptations we as elders face is to neglect our own spiritual gifts. We have been placed in positions of authority because we are faithful and reliable. Because of that faithfulness we will ask, “What are the current needs of the church?” “What can I do to build up the church?” We should do this. We are looking after Jesus’ interests when it may seem as if no one else is. But in this process of worrying about the whole, we can neglect our own unique gifting.
It seems that Timothy faced this. Paul was giving him many instructions to carry out in Ephesus. These issues needed to be addressed to build up the church. Timothy was to deal with false teachers (Chapter 1), correct some problems in worship (Chapter 2), ensure that good men were being placed as officers (Chapter 3) and make sure widows were being taken care of (Chapter 5) just to name some of the major themes. As elders, we can certainly relate to similar to do lists for our church.
But often in this outward focus to build up the church we neglect the inward focus of using our specific giftedness. So in the latter part of Chapter 4 Paul gives Timothy specific instructions having to do with him personally. One of those instructions is not to neglect his gifting. In other words, in the midst of carrying out some duties he has as an apostolic representative, he is to continue to develop and use his own gift.
As elder It is difficult to keep this balance. We are in this position because we are wiling to care for the whole church. One of the best ways we can build up the church is to grow in our particular gifting. I remember the advise given to me when I was taking some time for evaluation. This man of God said to me, “Since your gift is teaching, you ought to love people by teaching them.” Really this is another way of saying, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you.”
A church is not a franchise, where each location looks the same. A church is a collection of uniquely gifted and burdened people. As a result, churches are as different as the people who make them up. Churches are strong in one area because they have people that are strong in that area.
One of the biggest causes of elder dropout is weariness and discouragement. One contributor to this weariness can be working on the tasks before us with no regard to our gifts. If we are going to be in this for the long haul, we will need to balance these “duties” with activities that are within our giftedness and passion. The more we passionately exercise our gift, the more the church will be built up.