Thursday, June 21, 2007

God is not Captain Planet (and spiritual gifts are not just for church)

In 1990 Ted Turner started a cartoon series called Captain Planet in which 5 ethnically diverse kids had the unique powers of earth, wind, fire, water, and heart. These powers were represented and embodied in the rings they wore. These power were to be used to ward off ecologically harmful villains and conditions like smog, toxic waste, and animal poaching.

Sometimes, eco-villians would be too powerful for the Planeteers to ward off by themselves and using their rings, they could enlist the power of the super-powerful Captain Planet, an almost unstoppable force with infinite powers and abilities which could ward off eco-danger.

I think sometimes we have an inept and independent view of God. It's as though in the American church we often get in to a mindset where we, aware of our God given talents and giftings try to do those most Christian things, and the hope is that with our powers combined we can illicit God through the work that is done through the divine-fully-functional, every-one-is-in-their-proper-place church. I think our view of God is limited that if God can only do powerful things if every person is doing their part.

The Bible talks about how God/the Holy Spirit gives people different Spiritual Gifts, and compares the interconnecting of these gifts as though parts of a single body which God has created with different parts with different functions (eyes, ears, livers and kidneys).

In constructing the American Church, I think that at times we get into a view that God will only be manifested in the lives of people, the community, and the world if "the body" is properly organized and coordinated. This means eyes, livers, and toes need to be discovered within the "church body" and properly put to use in the church nursery, handing out communion, counting the offering, singing in the choir/worship group/rock band, and preaching the Sunday sermon. And when all people and pieces are in place, it is then that (I feel) many believe God will show up, save the day and be present for a whatever the desired purpose is (whether it ultimately is social, political, and/or spiritual impact that is sought).

I fear that God did not give people gifts so they could simply evoke his presence and power amongst each other. In fact I don't think God would, through Christ and his Spirit, give people gifts at all just to be used among each other, to draw forth an analogise embodiments of Christ.

No, instead I think God is not like Captain Planet at all. God is not the be called forth and drawn out. In fact, God is always there.

In so much as God has given us unique gifts in accordance with the grace given to us, it seems as though these gifts are given to be used in the most active of ways. It would seem a pity if a person had the gift of leadership, encouragement, or teaching and only used it in the confines of church.

Church is not the end all and be all of ministry. The purpose of Church is not to use our own gifts to beckon forth the full embodiment of God as though God were Captain Planet.

No, if Captain Planet was to be an analogy for the Christian faith (which clearly it is not, nor was it intended to), then when people have a life-transforming encounter with Captain Planet/God then he would entrust to them a gift/mission/purpose. To Abraham he was given Faith, which led him to go to follow God to go to a place where he would be the father of nation of Israel. Or after an encounter with God, the Samaritan woman at the well came to believe in the redeeming power of God and instantly told others about him and in a powerful way introduced others to him. The stories are endless, whether it's the apostles, Paul, the four friends who carry their friend to see Jesus, doesn't matter. Different people were given different gifts and roles in carrying out the message of God/Christ in a powerful way.

I believe that when we encounter God he gives us gifts to be used (although we may not be able to always neatly identify them) in whatever ways possible, so that he may receive Glory. After encountering God we are to be used by God.

I think that the body of Christ as represented and discussed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 is less so for God to have power (because he's already omnipotent), but instead it is to help those who've encountered Christ to continue to encourage and minister to each others as we see in the end of Acts 2 as the early church is described. As I see it, the purpose of the early Church was not to be or be used to beckon forth God, or even to be as an institution responsible for spiritual work, but was a natural formation of those who were following Christ as a source of encouragement, fellowship, power, and focus to bless one another as they used their gifts among each other and in the world.

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Will said...

Great thoughts here, RC.

Reminds me of another thought — God and Christ did not come (and do not come) because we've got our act together, but because we don't.

I'm still convinced that humility is the necessary foundation for all of the Christian life. Including the way we view the gifts that God has shared with us.

nate said...

Nice blog, too much to comment on. Your right...what are "gifts" for? To make us powerful? We wish, but no, look at Jude vs. 9. The highly "gifted" and powerful archangel states in the assumption of moses, "the lord rebuke you"...not the humanistic, egocentric, evangelical "I rebuke you."
In the past I have thought of "gifts" as things to seek to make me powerful, but really, they should make humble. They should allow me too empathize with the marginialized in order to heal (spiritual and physical)--a gift Jesus possessed unlike any other. I like your stuff!

Anonymous said...

Jesus states that many will say, "but we healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead in your name", but they will depart from him because they did not know him. I believe that above our gifts we receive from God to do Kingdom work, a personal relationship with Him is the most important "gift" of all. Great blog.

Aaron said...

Great post, RC.

I'm not a Christian, but I have to say, you hit the nail on the head, not with what is "wrong" with the church, but with what can be made more right.

Keep up the good work - and the strong faith

Anonymous said...

Love it. I agree with Nate, too much to comment on. The topic is extremely revelant (esp. @ dccf). I don't want us to think since we have no "head" that the body cannot walk about doing his work. "God is always there." I have to tell myself that often. The whole point is using gifts to win others into the kingdom that are outside of the church.

I just got done reading 1 Corinthians and Romans in LTG. Like it says he died for us who were not worthy and when we were bascially no value to him at all. What can we help him do that he cannot do himself.

Thanks, RC.

PS: Captain Planet was one of my fav shows going up. I still can be caught saying, "with our powers combined!"

Anonymous said...

RC, thanks for dropping by my blog and leaving the link to this article. Very interesting analogy.

I do agree that while our gifts are for the building of God's team (the church), they have an application in the workplace where people can be drawn to the work of Jesus Christ through the life and ministry of a believer. Fascinating comparison in this story.

Anonymous said...

We're children of God
You can be one too
'Cause saving lost souls is His thing to do!

Living in sin is not the way
Hear what the Lord Jesus has to say!

"Salvation is Yours"!

Da, da, da da!