A few years ago, I was discussing a certain ecclesiastical matter with one of my best friends. He accused me —and rightly so— of being too rigid in my work or service approach. That was the first time I heard about “divergent thinking,” which later helped me understand why creative people like us struggle to fit into “square” systems.

We humans have an obsession with formulas. They give us a sense of security and control. Most people feel comfortable when everything is defined, and they generally feel threatened by change. “We’ve always done it this way” is a typical phrase found in leadership. Or even worse: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” even though the method might be falling apart. It’s easier to defend a method than to improve it.

Something similar happens with church/ministerial perspectives. Those who work with street people criticize those who don’t. Those involved in music consider themselves better worshippers than those “down there.” Those with formal education look down on the empirically learned. We forget that God’s work should be seen as a WHOLE: integral, varied, multifaceted, and broad. Broader than any structure invented by man.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NIV) states, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” We cannot expect everyone to do the same thing, as all individuals are unique, possessing diverse strengths, reaches, and contexts. The area where I operate allows me to serve God in ways others cannot, which is why God placed me there. However, this does not give me the right to belittle or criticize those in a different sphere, as they have their unique mission.

Continuing in 1 Corinthians 12:17-21 (NIV): “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!'” This clearly illustrates that the Kingdom of God requires each of us to be useful in our unique contexts, with the specific tools He has given us, which are different, yet complementary. We must avoid obsessing over our personal service formula as if it were the only effective method, for even the most successful approach is just a part of God’s grand plan.

We all share the same Great Commission, but each of us contributes differently to it. The church as a body must go “to the nations,” but not all at once, as it also bears a local responsibility that cannot be neglected. Some are better suited for street preaching, others excel in teaching and imparting in small groups. Some lead revolutionary movements effectively, while others are adept at comforting those who stumble along the way. We must not allow anyone to diminish our place in God’s plan, nor should we demean the roles of others.

Neither I, my church, nor my ministry hold a monopoly on the Holy Spirit. We must learn to respect one another as part of the body. Reading 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 together, we see Apostle Paul discussing service diversity and then introducing “a more excellent way”: LOVE. Respect is a form of love. Honoring others for serving God in ways different from ours is an expression of love.

From my blog, I extend a hug of honor to all my brothers and sisters serving God in places and manners different from mine. To those venturing where I cannot, my deepest respect.