August 31, 2022
This week a casual conversation reminded me of a cruise my wife and I had been on many years ago. We traveled with a group of about 300 other Christians, and because of the size of our group, we had our own events each day. These usually consisted of at least a concert by a Christian musical artist in the late afternoon or evening, and a morning devotion, led by one of these same artists. The artists had all different styles, interests, and ministries, and they each took a turn.
One was a trio of three pastors, who formed a musical group, called Phillips, Craig, and Dean. Their style is very contemporary, upbeat, with a high production feel. Their songs were flashy, well-choreographed, and lively. They performed early in the week and were the leaders of the devotion the next morning. Their devotional time matched their music in that it too was high-energy and had a production feel.
The next artist to lead the devotion was Steve Bell. In some ways he was the complete opposite. His musical style was very casual and laid-back, as if he were singing songs around the fireplace. His songs were stories, accompanied by a single acoustic guitar. His turn at leading morning devotions was the day after that led by Phillips, Craig, and Dean. As he stepped up to the front to lead the devotion, he shared that he had attended the one the morning before. He said that he had left feeling somewhat overwhelmed, asking himself and God, "How can I compete with that?" (meaning the high energy devotion he had just attended).
He began to question the devotion he had prepared to give / lead. He tossed and turned well into the night. Finally, after much prayer, he felt God calming him with these words, "we are not called to serve with someone else's gifts; we are called to serve with the gifts and talents that have given uniquely to us." So, he began his devotion saying, "I am a simple storyteller, here is my story." There were several wonderful Christian musicians on that cruise, but the one I remember 15 years later is Steve Bell and that morning devotional.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church he helped to plant at Corinth on his second missionary journey. He told them in the verse we call I Corinthians 12:7 "... to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." But he goes on to point out, that those manifestations or gifts will all be different. We are not called to be clones of each other. Rather, we are intended to use our unique gifts in a complementary way with other believers "for the common good." One serves as the hand, another the foot, another the head, etc. - we are only complete when working together in a coordinated and complementary way. Even when speaking of his own ministry, Paul would write, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it." (I Cor 3:6)
Similarly, all five (5) ministry areas must work in a complementary balance in a fully healthy church to:
grow warmer through fellowship
grow deeper through discipleship
grow stronger through worship
grow broader through missions and ministry
grow larger through outreach and evangelism
We pray this week that God will help us all to see how God is calling us to exercise the unique gifts, He has blessed us with, for the common good.
If you would like to know more about Steve Bell, check out his website at stevebell.com . Jim Van Earden called him a "resolute Christian pilgrim, a spiritual sommelier, a 'deeper-life' troubadour."
If you would like to know more about Phillips, Craig, and Dean, check out their website at phillipscraiganddean.com . For more than two decades the trio of Randy Phillips, Shawn Craig, and Dan Dean, have churned out some of contemporary Christian music's most enduring hits.
Your Brother In Christ,
Warren Warren J. Ayer, Jr. Chairperson, Board of Deacons United Church of Colchester