We at Blessing Point often deal with ministries where everyone appears to be on a different frequency. Just as a slight adjustment to the tuning knob on your radio produces static instead of a clear signal, uncleansed sin and unhealed wounds in the history of a church muffles the clear voice of God to a congregation. In our work to heal churches we teach them how to hear God speaking to them as a congregation, which includes an approach we call “resonance.”

Resonance and the Role of Spiritual Gifts

God draws people with particular gifts to a given church so that together they can achieve His purposes in the community where He has placed them. One of the great witnesses to His reality in their midst is the unity and love which should mark them as His followers. The apostle Paul explains both these elements to the Corinthian church, a church characterized instead by divisions. They had divided over leadership, church discipline, Christian liberty, and spiritual gifts. It is good that we have evolved past such things and don’t struggle with them anymore!

But to this divided church Paul writes two dynamic back-to-back chapters, the first In 1 Corinthians 12 about spiritual gifts and after it the famous Chapter 13 on love. In 12:4 He writes, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” He walks through how a “healthy body” has all its members using their spiritual gifts to build up and strengthen the body “for the common good.” Such diverse gifts, if understood correctly, equip a ministry to face any issue and know God’s mind and heart on it.

Resonance vs. Dissonance

The problem is that those gifts (and gifted people), by their very nature, experience strong tension (or “dissonance”) with each other. Should church leaders expect complete unanimity when a difficult issue faces their ministry? No, because the “variety of gifts” produces a variety of perspectives through which believers view an issue. Would someone with the gift of mercy (an emphasis on empathy) view exercising church discipline the same way as someone with the gift of prophesy (an emphasis on justice)? Would someone with the gift of administration (risk averse) view a major church expenditure the same way as someone with the gift of faith (risk taking)? God’s children struggle to understand that through such gifts God reveals His attributes to us and invites us into the tensions in His own great Heart.  Mercy and justice are always in tension within the heart of God, and through spiritual gifts we experience that tension.

However, we mistake this natural tension (which God intends and sees as good) between the gifts as personal opposition. By doing so we fail to recognize what Paul says, that it’s the same Holy Spirit speaking through all the gifts, even the ones in strong tension. Since it’s the same Holy Spirit speaking through all the gifts, we can recognize when the Holy Spirit guides us to a resolution because the “dissonance” will become “resonance” when believers truly seek the will of God and the guidance of the Spirit of God. Wise leaders work until they achieve that spiritual resonance, that sense of unity which maintains love in the midst of passionate differences. We believe this is a birthright experience for the people of God within His Church.

Resonance in Scripture

We see a beautiful example of this in Acts 15 during the Council of Jerusalem. In that passage, the Pharisees (with what appears to be a gift of teaching) create a crisis by insisting that Gentile believers must be circumcised to be saved. This clearly created strong tension (dissonance) with Paul (gift of apostleship) and Barnabus (gift of encouragement) in their missions work with Gentiles! The whole church assembled, including apostles and elders. All the gifts were present. At one point Peter, (the gift of leadership), offers his perspective on the situation, but the exercise of that gift does not resolve the dissonance. The discussion continues until James (the gift of wisdom) articulates a solution, and we watch how his gift changes the dissonance to resonance within the whole body.

The evidences of resonance are found in three statements, vs. 22: “then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders with the whole church . . . vs. 25: “. . . it seemed good to us, having become of one mind . . .” vs. 28: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us . . .” Spiritual resonance results in this kind of clarity: an unified sense of direction and a sensible plan to implement what the Holy Spirit was saying to them. The early church thus avoided a crisis that easily could have produced a major church split!

Most modern churches fail to understand the principle of “resonance” and what creates it (though they all desperately want it). They dismiss (or fail to listen to) what some of their body’s gifts are saying to them, opting instead for more “business-oriented” leadership solutions. They misunderstand the tension the gifts naturally produce as God invites His children into His heart. Church leaders then wonder why their “body” reels or resists in response. It is because the congregation does not resonate with their decision.

Feedback: Does this post “resonate” with you? What might happen if ministry leaders fail to recognize the Lord’s voice through the variously gifted people in their congregation? What attitudes are required to hear from all the gift’s God placed in your church body?

Mark Barnard and Ken Quick serve with Blessing Point Ministries, working to heal churches with painful histories. Barnard and Quick are the coauthors of The Eighth Letter – What is Jesus Saying to Your Church?

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