"For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance to your faith. If it is serving, then serve; if teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully." (Romans 12:4-8, NIV)
By BISHOP ROBERT HAYES JR.
One of the great strengths of our Church has always been its emphasis on the laity. Methodism in America began as a lay movement.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of the lay person’s role in advancing the Kingdom of God. Yes, some laity find their gifts lead them into formal pastoral ministry. Yet just as there are clergy who are influential in your development and mine as disciples, there likely are three or four times as many lay people who, through the witness of their lives, bring us into deeper relationships with Jesus Christ.
For me, one of them was my childhood Sunday School teacher, Emma Bingham. I was the impressionable age of 9 when she made tremendous impact on my life.
Every Sunday morning she was in her classroom, waiting for me and other students to arrive. We had no digital technology to stimulate our imagination — we didn’t need those because we had Mrs. Bingham!
She insisted each child bring a Bible to class. (It’s a good thing the parsonage was next door to the church. I can’t count how many times she sent me home to retrieve mine.)
And when she opened her Bible the characters leaped off the page!
I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am today if there had not been a Mrs. Bingham in my life.
Who are the Emma Binghams in your life? Can you recall those saints who took you by the hand and helped shape your life? As I go from church to church, I see so many lay people involved in our churches, sculpting more United Methodists who love and live for God.
It warms my heart to see today’s Sunday School teachers, Lay Servants, mentors, and volunteers engaging in all kinds of ministry, but especially with children and youths. Liturgists, musicians and choir directors, ushers, digital technicians, trustees, missions leaders, Stephen Ministers — a host of people give their time and gifts to God’s glory. Every person who prepares or serves food for those remarkable covered-dish dinners is using his or her gifts to create Christian community and fellowship!
Have you ever thought of your church involvement that way?
The Apostle Paul sums it up best in his letter to the Romans: "We have different gifts, according to the grace given each of us."
Then Paul provides a beautiful list of gifts to put into service as a member in the body of Christ.
Laity, my plea to you today is: Claim your gift! That’s right! Claim your God-given talent and use it as an offering to your church and your community of faith! You not only will be blessed, but also will bless others in ways you cannot imagine.
Colgate-Palmolive is a familiar product brand name. What you may not know is how William Colgate claimed his gift of crafting soap.
Colgate worked as an apprentice in a soap manufacturing shop as a young boy. At age 16, he left home to seek employment. Traveling on a canal boat, he told the captain that his ambition was to make soap in New York City.
After hearing about this dream and realizing the young man had a gift, the old captain gave Colgate some advice.
"Someone will soon be the leading soap maker in New York. You can be that person. But you must never lose sight of the fact that the soap you make has been given to you by God. Honor Him by sharing what you earn. Begin by tithing all you receive."
That advice changed Colgate’s life. He realized that God was the giver of all he possessed, not only of opportunity but even the elements used in making his soap. He became one of America’s leading philanthropists.
To my dear brothers and sisters who occupy the pews of our churches: You have so much to offer your church. Honor God by sharing your gift. Invite someone to go to church with you; volunteer your time in a ministry about which you are passionate. Teach, serve, encourage, give generously, and show mercy cheerfully!
Do these things, and the Church as we know it will be transformed. The Emma Binghams of our lives will rejoice!