Insights asked five Uniting Church members about their personal reflections on leadership training and lay ministry, below Asinate Angaaelangi shares her story.
Most people I know, whether called to be a minister, lay leader or even to study theology have not experienced an easy path of discipleship. Smooth sailing and clear skies of discernment haven’t been a part of my reality. A lay preacher and a theological student at Uniting Theological College (UTC) was never a part of my plan. I wanted to become a flight attendant! I am nowhere near planes and fun trips around the world, but I can honestly tell you that I still pinch myself some days whether this is real or just a dream.
In 2014 I was among twenty two people from the Auburn Parish to participate in the Living Our Faith course. I was told the course was for lay preachers. It wasn’t something I thought at the time that I was ready for. Many good leaders and dear ones to me at my Church encouraged me to just give it a go, so I went. Like the calling of Nathaniel from (John 1:43-51) I just came to see and I never stopped coming to see what God had in store for me.
I believe that spiritual gifts are God-given abilities of a particular spiritual nature and a spiritual purpose. They may or may not overlap or coincide with natural talents or learned abilities. As we observe Christians in our journey, we can see spiritual gifts, learned abilities and natural talents coinciding. Another interesting fact from the Greek text is that the word translated ‘gift’ in the ‘spiritual gifts’ passages is charisma which is derived from charis [grace]. A ‘charisma’ is a free gift, involving grace on the part of the giver.
Some of us are already aware of one or more of our spiritual gifts. Some may not be. A spiritual gift analysis is simply a tool to help us come to an awareness of our gifts.
Whatever it is actually bringing to light, and however imperfect it may be, it does serve to make us aware of the things we have an ability in, or a leaning towards. We may think the results are not accurate and that’s okay. It’s just a human tool? But think about the results for a while; they may have bring out some hidden talents or inclinations you didn’t realise you had.
While doing the lay preaching course with Uniting Mission and Education (UME) I still had that mindset of being a Christian just means professing a faith in Jesus, but Jesus clearly said ‘Follow me’. Sometimes, that means literally dropping everything like those first disciples, and doing what we feel called by God to do. It often felt risky, but exciting at the same time, and God sustains us through the changes that are necessary for our lives. When I first felt called to faith-related work, I knew I had to drop everything that I was doing at the time and move to away from my parents and love ones, this wasn’t easy at all. Other people have done much more drastic things because they felt called by God to do them; in some cases they even risked their lives.
Not everyone is called to do something frightening or daring, but we are all called to take our faith seriously by putting it into action. If not, all we have is a shallow faith and a ‘cheap grace’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). If we just say we believe in Jesus and go to church every Sunday, but do not act out God’s love in the world, we are, in Paul’s words, ‘like a clanging cymbal’ (1 Corinthians 13:1).
Putting faith into action can take many different shapes, but I believe it should always follow Jesus’ example of solidarity with those less fortunate, inclusion of those on the margins, and putting others before ourselves.
The church is a spiritual body. In fact, it is the Body of Christ with Him being the head.
It is Jesus who guides, organises, oversees and shepherds the body in order for us to be what He wants us to be and to do what He wants us to do. The church is compared to our physical body to help us understand its structure and diversity of parts or members. All of which are necessary for the church or body to perform its task, function or work in unity and harmony efficiently.
Jesus organises the church so that we may function properly. He organises His body by giving gifts and assigning ministries or functions to each member. We are who we are in the body of Christ because Jesus decided what your part is to be. Your assigned ministry is not your decision. Jesus is the one who calls. Our role is to hear and recognise and submit to His decision.
Answering our call goes with learning and training each step that we make on our journey. It is so wonderful to know that the Uniting Church in Australia has this training to equip all leaders. Equipping us, so that we may work together not only for the common good but to build up the Kingdom of God where ever we are call to work in the Church.
Asinate Angaaelangi, Auburn.