The Early Church and the Exercise of the Gifts

joelby Joel Comiskey

Earlier on in my cell ministry, a person tried to convince me of the need to add additional programs, so that people could find and exercise their spiritual gifts. “But in the small groups they’ll have a chance to exercise their gifts,” I countered. “Those with the gift of mercy will have the opportunity to reach the poor and needy. The person with the gift of teaching can clarify a passage of Scripture. Those with the gifts of service or helps will have plenty of chances to use their gifts in the cell atmosphere.” Our conversation that night ended in a stalemate. We both had strong opinions. But the conversation was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to revisit the issue of spiritual gifts and cell groups. The conversation stirred me to go back to Scripture for answers.

I reread the book of Acts where we learn the believers met from house to house and in the public gatherings (Acts 2:46; 5:12, 20, 25, 42). Persecution soon made large group gatherings very difficult, and the preferred meeting place became the houses of the individual believers. These simple house churches became the primary type of church in the New Testament period. The writers of Scripture commonly referred to the “church in the house of” an individual’s name (see, for example, Acts 12:12; Romans 16:3–5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15 and Philemon 2). In fact, all of the New Testament books were completed by the year 90 AD, but the first time the early church had a building of their own was in the 150 AD. The New Testament was written to house churches in which the exercise of individual gifts was possible.

When Paul wrote about the gift passages, he was writing to believers meeting in home groups (Ephesians 4; Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12–14). In all three passages about the gifts, he connects giftedness with the body of Christ. The only way to know where a person fits in the body of Christ is to discover his or her giftedness. The home atmosphere of the early church gave each person ample opportunity to test, prove and discover their own spiritual giftedness and place in the body of Christ.

Today, more than ever, we need to get back to the small group as the primary place to exercise spiritual gifts. It is the most natural context for worship and prayer together. It is the best place to find encouragement and accountability as we grow in our relationship with Christ. It is also the most spontaneous and biblical place for the discovery of our spiritual gifts.

Comments?

Joel

18 thoughts on “The Early Church and the Exercise of the Gifts

  • Absolutely! Gifts are discovered and matured in the crucible of community life and outreach. Of course we incorporated gift discovery and gift teaching into our equiping track retreats and leadership huddles.

    Since, I, as the senior pastor was convereted and had a lifetime of experience in home group ministry, it was straight forward to create the right church environment for gift development using cell groups.

  • I totally agree Joel and not only discover your spiritual gifts but to be able to put them into practice and to draw closer to the people you come in contact with. Jesus told us not only to love God but each other. To me we need to know each other in order to love each other and He given us the Holy Spirit to exercise these gifts and growth needs to take place no matter what your age. Just a opinion from a old man. God bless you and your family Joel Rich

  • A new “program” seems to be the answer for everything in the minds of many church leaders. Keeping the people excited about some new program is the focus. I’ve seen leaders say this is “not a program” then stand there and discribe a program not realizing that the program based reality is so ingrained in them they don’t even see it any more. Once the Church understands that by following the biblical pattern for the New Testament Church Acts 2:42ff you don’t have to continue to try to reinvent the wheel every six months with another exciting program. Trying to support brick and mortor buildings and a large staff can lead to unbiblical dicisions.
    Fortunately we do have some great examples of what it is and what it should be in the world. The bible is complete, everything we need is right there if we will follow its direction and stop trying to come up with some new revelation of how to run the church. In an effort to be relivent we seem to be loosing our biblical focus and that is very dangerous!

  • Thanks for your excellent comments! One person (John) on wizehive wrote:

    I’m curious about the reference to the first church building in AD150. The
    earliest I’ve come across is the site of a building probably devoted to
    Christian gatherings at Dura-Europos, which is almost unanimously dated
    circa AD230. I don’t mean to be ticky at all; this is just an interest of
    mine & wondered if you had a reference for that. If not, no worries – just
    inquiring.

    _

    I wrote him back saying:

    Thanks, John. You might be right!

    The 150 AD building goes back to my dissertation where I said:

    “Elmer Towns affirms, “In the early church it is clear that ‘church buildings’ as such did not exist until the second or third century” (1983: 257-258). According to Donald McGavran, archeologists find no hint of church buildings before the year A.D. 150 (quoted in Goslin 1984: ii).”

    I thought that 150 AD was the discovery of the first building, but as I searched the internet today, I also get the 230 AD site.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Until I find the 150 AD building, I’ll need to bump it up to 230. Appreciate it.
    ____

    So I want you to know that 150 AD for the first Christian building is probably inaccurate. 230 AD is probably a better statistic to use.

  • Amem Joel, concordo plenamente con tu exposición, tengo plena certeza que el lugar mas adecuado para la manifestación de los diversos dones es la célula, pues es en ese contexto familiar que Dios nos usa para edificarnos mutuamente !!!
    Gracias Joel por tus aportes y por las revelaciones que Dios te dá, pues son de gran valor para mi vida y ministerio.
    Que Dios te continue usando e bendiciendo!!
    Obs. voy a traduzir una parate desta expoción al portugues y voy a postar en el facebook.

  • Jimmy disse,
    7 de abril, 2011 @ 05:03

    Amem Joel, concordo plenamente con tu exposición, tengo Plena Certeza Que el Lugar Mas adecuado para la Manifestación de los Diversos dones es la Célula, pues es en ese Contexto familiar Que Dios nsa EUA parágrafo edificarnos mutuamente!
    Gracias tus Por Joel aportes y las revelaciones Por quê Dios te da, pues filho de gran valor para mi y Ministerio Vida.
    Que Dios te continuar Usando e bendiciendo!
    Obs. voy a Traduzir una parate Desta expoción portugues al y voy a postar en el facebook

  • Hola Joel:

    Por favor aclarar la fecha de la primera iglesia, en espanol dice en el 230 y en ingles dice en el 150, por otro lado, si los primeros cristianos se reunian en sus casas, debemos nosotros hacer una iglesia en nuestra casa?

    Saludos y un abrazoi,

    Ernesto

  • Excelente, Ernesto! Alguién me criticó sobre la fecha después del boletín en ingles. Después de investigar en el Internet, me parece que tenía razón! Le respondió a esta persona diciendo:

    The 150 AD building goes back to my dissertation where I said:

    “Elmer Towns affirms, “In the early church it is clear that ‘church buildings’ as such did not exist until the second or third century” (1983: 257-258). According to Donald McGavran, archeologists find no hint of church buildings before the year A.D. 150 (quoted in Goslin 1984: ii).”

    I thought that 150 AD was the discovery of the first building, but as I searched the internet today, I also get the 230 AD site.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Until I find the 150 AD building, I’ll need to bump it up to 230. Appreciate it.

  • Cali, Colombia / Jueves, 07 de Abril de 2011

    Mil gracias al Doctor Joel Comiskey por enseñarnos a ejercer Los Dones del Espíritu Santo en Las Células.

    Cordialmente,

    JORGE DORADO
    PASTOR GENERAL – I.C.L.C.
    IGLESIA CRISTIANA LA COSECHA
    CALI – COLOMBIA
    ————————————————————–

  • GRACIAS DR. POR LOS APORTES DADOS PARA EL BUEN DESARROLLO DE CÉLULAS NUTRIDAS Y ALIMENTADAS POR EL PODER DEL ESP´RITU SANTO.
    QUE DIOS LE SIGA BENDICIENDO EN SU MINISTERIO.

  • Thank you for the encouraging comments. Yes, we continue to encourage, sustain, and explore the genius of the gatherings in the home and cell group contexts.

    I would appreciate some practical ways or instances where spiritual gifts become operational within the cell groups. How should the group relate with the way members are able to use it.

    Thanks.

  • Hey R. Balisong, we’ll be exploring some of the more practical aspects of spiritual gifts in the cell in the next three weeks on the JCG blog. I hope we answer some of your questions. . .

  • I am doing a church planting in Canada among Filipinos. The pressure has been to start worship immediately. That was almost two years ago. I am still groping and trying to establish cell groups. I think I know what I should do but cultural immersion has helped the difficulty considering that I just moved to this place 30 months ago. My initial goal for cell group was not very successful.

    Reading much of the experiences shared here is really an encouragement.
    Could you update me with some follow-up and equipping track and materials corresponding each step. I don’t find much help on cell church here in my area – Calgary City.

  • Hi brother R Balisong, keep up the good work. church planting is hard. Yet, God is growing you and others through it.

    Please look at:

    1. http://www.joelcomiskeygroup.com/articles/training/cellTraining.htm (all the articles)
    2. http://www.joelcomiskeygroup.com/articles/training/bestTraining.htm (specific understanding)

    Training is critical for everyone in the church. When a person has passed through the entire training, he or she will feel more confident to actually lead a cell group.

    My book on church planting will give you insight into the church planting process.

    Keep pressing on !

    Joel

  • Gracias pastor por sus enseñanzas son muy utilez para nuestro crecimiento espiritual y como desarrollarnos dentro de una cèlula, es muy importante contar con tan agradable ayuda siga adelante que Dios lo bendiga.

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