One of my favorite church events has always been the post-church potluck lunch. COVID-19 may have paused our monthly parade of 9-by-13 pans, but I dream of the day when we’ll all be back together in the church basement with our favorite recipes.

As a kid perusing the potluck banquet, I always went for the cookies. As an adult, I try to make wiser choices. I pass up the kielbasa to leave room for some salad, and I take a generous spoonful from otherwise-untouched pans so that no one feels bad. But no matter how carefully I make my selections, the offerings themselves aren’t always balanced. Some weeks, in mysterious synchronicity, everyone shows up with a pasta dish. Other weeks, we all resolve to be healthier, and vegetables take over space usually reserved for desserts.

The composition of spiritual gifts in the local church can look a lot like a meal in the fellowship hall. Sometimes, the church has an abundance of preachers and teachers. Other times, it has no one to fill in when the Bible study leader is sick. Sometimes, the church has plenty of people to cook and clean for the elderly. Other times, it struggles to find any. A church may have dozens of ministry organizers to every one person who can make the coffee, or 15 nursery volunteers to every one who wants to do evangelism. And in many churches, it can feel like a few people have all the gifts, and the rest of us barely have one.

For a generation of Christians versed in personality inventories and enneagram numbers, this environment can feel disorienting and even disappointing. Shouldn’t the gifts and graces in the church be more evenly distributed? Shouldn’t we be able to categorize the gifts in our midst? And shouldn’t our local body ...

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