How do you know what your spiritual gifts are?
- You could take a “spiritual gifts inventory test.” (or)
- You could give each of the spiritual gifts a whirl and see which ones fit you best.
The second option may actually be better than the first, but I submit to you that neither of these options is satisfactory. In fact I think the question itself is dangerous.
I submit to you that the first question we should be asking ourselves is not “what are my spiritual gifts?,” but rather “what are the needs of my church?”
Remember why you have spiritual gifts–not for your own sake but for the edification of the church and ultimately for the glory of God–your spiritual gifts are not for you. Spiritual gift inventory tests are problematic for a couple of reasons. First, it is you who takes the test, thus you end up choosing your spiritual gifts. I have taken a few of these tests before and they were different every time because every time I took them, there were different gifts I was interested in. The nature of a gift is that it is not something we choose but something that is given to us. The second problem I have with spiritual gift tests is that they can, at times, make people think they have certain gifts at the neglect of others. I have heard people say things like, “I don’t have the gift of administration, so I will let someone else schedule the mission trip” or “I don’t have the gift of service, so I will let someone else do that.” Who in their right mind would want the gift of administration anyway? If we all relied on spiritual gift tests, no one would have the gift of administration (except maybe you weird people who are really organized)! But more importantly, I think Scripture gives us no indication that we are to section ourselves off to only utilizing a limited number of spiritual gifts that we think we have.
It is worth noting that the Bible never gives us a rubric for determining our spiritual gifts, nor does it ever give us an indication of how many spiritual gifts we have. Yet, if you are a Christian, you do have spiritual gifts, so what should you do? As I said earlier, I think the first step is to ask what needs the church has. The second step is to ask God to help you meet those needs. Third step is to begin serving and seeking to help fill those needs by the power of the Holy Spirit. I really do think it is that simple, but Scripture does say quite a bit about spiritual gifts, so we ought to go beyond simply telling people to seek to meet the needs of the church by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The gifts found in Scripture could be categorized into two groups:
- Speaking gifts–apostleship, prophecy, teaching, discernment, tongues, exhortation, utterance of wisdom, utterance of knowledge, evangelism (Rom. 12:6-7; 1 Cor. 12:8-10, 28-30; Eph. 4:11).
- Serving gifts–serving, giving, leading, mercy, contributing, healing, administration, and miracles (Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 12:9-10, 28-30).
I will address the charismatic gifts in a post later on this week, but charismatic gifts aside, what do you notice about the spiritual gifts? First, I notice that many of the spiritual gifts are things that all believers are commanded to do in various places in Scripture. Every believer is commanded to teach and to lead in various degrees–though I do believe that men are to preach in the church–women are commanded to teach other women and to teach children in the Bible (Titus 2:3-5; Deut. 4:10, 6:11). When I look at the lists of gifts, I also notice that many of them are not all that spectacular–“teaching, administering, serving, contributing, leading, and mercy.” Each of these seem to be gifts that anyone in the church could conceivably do. So don’t section yourself off from certain gifts, but be willing to be used of the Lord in any way! Secondly don’t forget that you do have spiritual gifts, so don’t try to serve in the church by your own power, instead, “serve with the strength that God supplies” (1 Peter 4:11). And if you speak in the church, don’t speak your own wisdom, but rather speak the “oracles of God”–in other words teach the Bible.
- If you are a Christian, you have been gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve in the church so use your gifts to serve in the church (1 Pet. 4:10; 1 Cor. 12:7). Be a good steward of God’s varied grace.
- We may have various gifts in different degrees (Rom. 12:4-6; 1 Cor. 12:4-11), but don’t forget that the Holy Spirit can equip you to do anything in the church.
- Thus don’t think that there are certain things you can’t do. Instead, trust that the Holy Spirit will equip you to serve (Phil. 4:13; 1 Cor. 12:4-11). All Spiritual gifts are empowered “by the same Spirit, who apportions each one individually as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11).
- Never use your spiritual gifts as an excuse not to serve! Doing so contradicts the purpose of spiritual gifts: to glorify God, build up the church, and promote unity. See Spiritual Gifts 101: THE Spiritual Gift.
- Test your spiritual gifts–are they building up the body, promoting unity, and pointing to the glory of God? If what you are doing is causing division, your “gift” might not be from the Holy Spirit!
- Don’t force your gifts on the body. In other words, you may have the gift of teaching but don’t demand that your church give you opportunities to teach–remember we have gifts to serve each other and not to promote ourselves.
- Be humble (Rom. 12:3; 1 Pet. 5:5-6). It is interesting to note that the teaching on spiritual gifts in Romans is preceded by a warning to be humble while 1 Peter’s teaching on spiritual gifts is followed by a command to be humble! As you seek to use your gifts in the church don’t forget to keep fighting your own pride! Be aware that as we seek to serve in the church, sin is “waging war against” our souls (1 Pet. 2:11).
- Ask where the church has needs and ask the Holy Spirit to equip you to serve. Talk to your pastors/elders–if they are faithful pastors, they are “exercising oversight” (1 Pet 5:2) and likely can help you see where the church has needs and where you can best serve. If you see a need in the church seek to fill it, or help a brother or sister in the church fill the need.
These are suggestions and are not by any means inerrant, though I have done my best to let Scripture inform these tips. If you have a different view of how we come to understand and use our gifts, please kindly leave a comment and tell me your disagreement. What I am concerned about is the individualizing of the Christian faith. Too often we ask what our spiritual gifts are without taking time to think about the needs of our local churches and how we could be used of the Lord to serve in them. I think there are certain people in the church that are better teachers than others and those who can best teach should be utilized to teach, but what if those who are able to teach leave the church? Don’t fret, our God is big enough to equip anyone to do anything. But don’t forget why you have gifts–to serve the body of Christ, to promote unity, and ultimately to bring glory to the God who has given you gifts!
My third and final post on Spiritual gifts will briefly address my view on the charismatic gifts (be patient with me, I am far from an expert on this subject!). May we all be used of the Holy Spirit in our churches to the glory of God in Christ Jesus.