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Introduction (Part 4 of 7): Find your Purpose

Paul wraps up his human body metaphor by summarizing why he wrote it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:27-28)

We are all together the body of Christ collectively and individually. Recall, most feel the people in the church had asked Paul about utilizing gifts within the church. He reminds them, again, that God has placed these gifts in the church intentionally. Paul then starts to list a few roles and gifts within the church seemingly in a particular order (first, second, third, then). What the hecky Paul? Didn’t we just spend a couple of paragraphs saying that all roles are important and all are honorable?

Just because you are gifted at something doesn’t mean there is an immediate and obvious need for it on the team for that particular gift set. I get this all the time. “I am a gifted songwriter (this is a hypothetical situation). Why can’t the church pay me to sit in a coffee house all day being creative and writing songs?” My answer is usually some form of “that’s not what we need from you right now as a church team. Do it in your spare time if you are passionate about it but that’s a hobby or passion right now not your vocation.” I refer to this four circle venn diagram at least once per week with someone:

Take a minute to study this picture. To be clear, I did not come up with this model. I found it on the interweb one day and I love it. I actually think it is Japanese where the purpose is called Ikigai meaning “reason for being” or “motivating force”. Nonetheless, the intersection of what you are great at and what you love is your passion or hobby. I love to play golf and by some people’s standards, I’m even somewhat good at it. However, the world certainly doesn’t need me to play golf and nobody has yet offered to pay me to do it. (I’m open to offers though.)

The intersection of what you love and the world needs is your mission. There are many many people “on mission” doing great work that comes without a paycheck.

The intersection of what the world needs and what you’re paid to do is your vocation. How many people are in a job they don’t like and they aren’t particularly good at because somebody needs them right now? I had a wait person at one of my favorite restaurants the other night that fits this description.

And, lastly, the intersection of what you are good at and what you are paid to do is your profession. That doesn’t mean you particularly like it though. Unfortunately, I know many doctors, who are actually very good at what they do, that spend 8 years in school and 4 years of residency only to find out they don’t particularly love their job.

Now, if you can find that sweet spot where all four circles overlap, now you are on to something. Here’s the truth; these things generally don’t just happen. Sometimes, people may need to take on a mission (as defined above) and learn to get so good at it, somebody will pay them to do it. Or take a passion and make a market for it such that the world needs it and will pay for it (many artists do this). I will also say this and it is very important, more often than not, loving what you do has more to do with loving the people you do it with and feeling loved by them. Back to scripture:

Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:29-31)

Paul closes out the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians (Remember chapter breaks were added much after Paul died. The letter really didn’t have chapter breaks) with a series of rhetorical questions where the answer is obviously no. Then drops this little bomb, “now eagerly desire the greater gifts.” Really Paul? Donald Miller, author and CEO of StoryBrand says, “if you confuse, you’ll lose.” Paul should have read his book.

Three interpretations I will give you. I actually believe all three are true:

  1. Roles and gifts are not the same thing. In other words, a person with the role of teacher likely possesses the gift of teaching (I’ve seen otherwise). That said, this teacher could also serve others or lead someone to Christ even though her primary gifts are not the gifts of helps or evangelism. My primary gift is not teaching although I teach often and even try to be good at it. Jesus was the ultimate model for each of these gifts and he displayed all of them. We should all zealously pursue the gifts that help the church even if it is not our role.

  2. Paul is about to move into an explanation that whatever we do must be done with love as the motivation. We’re going to spend the next three days looking at this passage but he concludes that passage with “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Paul could be pointing to the greater gifts being the ones we pursue out of genuine love.

  3. And most directly, Paul is likely referring to Chapter 14 here. If you assume that Chapter 13 (all about love) should be the “why” behind everything we do, Chapter 14 begins as “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” Prophecy is hearing the words and thoughts of God and being able to communicate them effectively. Paul says in 14:3 that “the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging, and comfort.” The greater gifts are the ones that build up the church.

Again, I believe all of these three to be true. Tomorrow, we’ll dig deeper on how we can build up the church, and our teams, through love

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