Now there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit. – 1 Corinthians 12:4 (NRSVUE)
My job description says I am a solo pastor of a mid-size church, but I learned early on that this job is only sustainable if I ignore the “solo” part. I rely on ministry partners of all sorts: staff who have the gift of recruiting volunteers or selecting singable hymns, church members who have the gift of a green thumb or leading small group discussions, and pastor colleagues who have the gift of collaboration and are willing to work together to better serve our congregations.
This model of ministry partnerships started with the first disciples, each of them tasked with supporting Jesus’ ministry by using their unique gifts. While Jesus was healing people in the house, someone was outside with the onlookers explaining Jesus’ backstory. While Jesus was walking on water and calming storms, someone else was reading the nautical chart and another was steering the ship. I imagine some disciples gravitated toward the elders in the crowds while others got the youth organized; some were great with groups while others excelled one-on-one.
The disciples were a cohort of collaborators, confidants, and colleagues that had to navigate ministry with one another and utilize all of their collective gifts. Even as a so-called solo pastor, I am dependent on the gifts of my fellow disciples that together we can minister in the name of Jesus.
Paul’s words to the Corinthians remind us that every spiritual gift is valuable, and no person’s gift brings them closer to God than anyone else. The challenge and the hope are to know what your gift is, use it, and then hold space for other people’s spiritual gifts to shine as well.
Bless our collaborators and co-conspirators, and may their gifts be a blessing in the body of Christ.
Liz Miller serves as the pastor of Edgewood United Church (UCC) in East Lansing, Michigan.