We have already touched briefly on the role of gifts in the Church. Actually every believer has some gift, some special function in the body of Christ. In addition there are the special service gifts of evangelist, pastor and teacher (Eph. 4: 11). The latter gifts were given to help all the saints find their gift and to exercise it. They were given to build up the saints for the work of the ministry, and thus for the building up of the body of Christ. From this it is clear that:
The work of the ministry is not for a special class of Christians but for all the people of God.
The work of the special gifts of Ephesians 4 is to build up Christians to the point where they can carry on by themselves, then to move on. In other words, the saints should not become perpetually dependent on such gifts. On the contrary these gifts should work themselves out of a job in the shortest possible time, then move on to new areas of opportunity. Just as parents begin right away to teach children to take care of themselves, so should these gifts teach the babes in Christ.
Now this raises a question: "How long should such a gift remain in a local assembly?" There is only one Possible answer to the question-as long as it takes to mature the saints to serve. Paul only stayed in Thessalonica "for three sabbath days" (Acts 17:2), yet left behind an indigenous assembly-self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating. As far as the record is concerned, the longest that he stayed in any one place was the three years that he spent in Ephesus (Acts 20:31). It is not exactly a question of how long a man stays in one place, but rather what his purpose is. What is he trying to do? Is he trying to equip the saints to carry on by themselves?
In this regard, these gifts must guard against the natural tendency to nestle, to think of themselves as having a lifetime appointment in any one place. (This is as true of foreign missionaries as of workers in the homeland.) They must keep themselves mobile. And they must also guard against another subtle danger, that is the feeling that the saints couldn't get along without them. When they are absent, the attendance drops; this makes them think that they must not leave. They are afraid that the whole assembly would go to pieces. It caters to pride to think that we are indispensable. And sometimes it wounds our pride to think that we are no longer needed in a particular place. Actually we should rejoice when that time arrives.
While speaking of gifts, there is something else that should be mentioned. In the New Testament, these gifts were charismatic, not professional. By this we mean that these gifts were men who were sovereignly endowed by the Holy Spirit without regard to training or occupation. For instance, the Spirit would reach down and equip a fisherman to be an evangelist. Or He might take a shepherd to teach His Word. Or He might fit a carpenter to exercise a pastoral ministry among the saints.
There is no suggestion in the New Testament that professional training can make a man a gift to the church. The idea that only men who have had formal schooling in the Word are qualified to minister is disgusting. Training can be helpful to a believer in getting a grasp of the Scriptures, but no amount of training can make a man an evangelist, a teacher or a pastor. And there is always the danger of professionalism. If the Scriptures are approached from a philosophical basis, then training can be a very deadening and dangerous thing.