Young people, is this your story? You were raised in your family’s church and were very involved in it when you were a kid and maybe through high school. But when you left for college or the military or to take a job far from home, you became much less involved in any church.
You did not plan to do this, but you had new responsibilities and demands on your time. You were free from old patterns and on your own to form new ones. Maybe you shopped around for a church that “fit your needs”—one that had a lot of people your age or music you enjoyed or a great preacher. You missed worship due to heavy school or work demands, but you still loved Jesus and prayed and watched worship services on TV or your computer. You just did not get plugged into a church.
Let me encourage you with two biblical thoughts.
First, Jesus has a plan for you and for every Christian. His plan is to have all Christians immersed in and cared for by His church. He revealed His plan to His disciples in Matthew 16:18–19: “I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” So, Jesus personally founded, authorized, and gave structure to this plan when He said, “I will give you [the Apostles] the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Because Jesus has given you spiritual gifts, His church needs you and you need the church.
Jesus’ plan is not a suggestion but is His divine will—the plan of God. It is not one plan among others that we might create, but it is His plan—the very plan for which He came and died. The book of Acts and all the epistles verify that Jesus’ Apostles carried out Jesus’ plan in their generation.
Jesus’ plan is still to gather all His sheep into churches through which He uses His resurrection power and authority to teach, care for, rebuke, and restore His people on a continuing basis. To accomplish this, He gives spiritual gifts to men and women to build His church in every place to which He sends them. Jesus’ plan for His church (for you and me) includes structured leadership. Jesus’ plan for us is to be cared for by pastors and teachers in His church. Jesus’ plan is divinely inspired and the best plan heaven can make. It is our duty and privilege to buy into His plan and to get immersed in it.
God explains His plan in Ephesians 4:11–12: “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds [pastors] and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
Many in my generation, and perhaps more in yours, consider church to be only an option and have lost sight of Jesus’ plan.
Second, Jesus’ plan includes you in another way besides just attending church and hearing His Word preached. Jesus has given spiritual gifts to you to be used in His (your) church. Yes, you have gifts, and they are to be used in the church for your and our mutual growth. Hear Ephesians 4:7: “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” “Each one” includes you. You are needed if the church is (and if you are) to be the people of God as God planned.
How can you discover and develop your spiritual gifts?
Here are a few thoughts.
Become very regular in attendance at your church.
Be teachable, patient, and prayerful.
Talk to one of your pastors or elders about this matter, or find a spiritually minded man or woman with whom you can develop an informal mentoring relationship.
Serve in any capacity in the church that opens up and try your hand at it—ushering, nursery, committees, Bible study, community service. Stay in touch with your leaders and get their review of your service.
Ask Jesus, the One who gifted you, to help you identify your spiritual gifts.
Make your inner aim to become all that Jesus has designed you to be. Tell the Lord that you want most of all to bring glory to Him.
Because Jesus has given you spiritual gifts, His church needs you and you need the church. Let’s get together on Jesus’ plan.
Dr. Larry G. Mininger is pastor emeritus of Lake Sherwood Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla., and student care administrator at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Fla.