Part 14 of series: Spiritual Gifts in the Body of Christ
Permalink for this post / Permalink for this series
1. “I’m pretty new to this ‘spiritual gifts’ stuff. How can I begin to experience spiritual gifts?”
If you’ve been a Christian for a while, even a short while, and if you’ve done any kind of ministry, you’ve probably already experienced spiritual gifts. You may not have known exactly what was happening, but you knew the Spirit of God was empowering you to do God’s work.
If you want to continue to experience God’s power in the form of spiritual gifts, do the following:
First, be open to everything the Lord wants to do in you and through you. Don’t limit God’s work by your past experiences or your fears.
Second, get plugged in to a group where you can grow in your ministry: a small group, Bible study, ministry team, etc.
Third, ask the Lord to guide you into ministry, and then step out in faith. Remember that gifts come as you need them for God’s service.
Fourth, as you serve the Lord, ask for whatever spiritual gifts you need. The Spirit will often give what you forget to ask, but asking in prayer is always advisable.
2. “I have lots of familiarity with spiritual gifts, but I’ve always thought about them with the ‘discover and use your gift’ model. I’m excited about the possibility of being gifted in new ways, but I don’t know exactly what to do with my older ways of thinking. How should I proceed?”
Perhaps the most important thing I should say here is that, in the end, precise definitions don’t matter. If they did, surely the Lord would have been clearer in the biblical teaching on spiritual gifts. If you are open to God, if you pursue love and, in that context, eagerly desire spiritual gifts, if you seek to build up the body of Christ, these things matter most of all.
As I noted above, what you “discovered” in the past was not “your spiritual gift” so much as how the Spirit had gifted you in the past. This pattern might very well point to how God is calling you into ministry. If, for example, you have been regularly given gifts of teaching, it’s reasonable to assume that you may be called to be a teacher. What you discovered before might indeed still indicate the primary focus for your ministry.
But notice I said “primary focus.” No matter what you have discovered previously, don’t let this limit what God might do through you in the future. If you are primarily a teacher, the Lord might still put you in places where other spiritual gifts are needed. I know several missionaries, for example, who have gone to Third World countries primarily to teach God’s word. As they come to love the people they teach, they also recognize their physical suffering from various diseases. Love leads these missionaries to pray for the sick, to seek spiritual gifts of healing. (Photo: A couple leaders from Irvine Presbyterian Church helping to build a fellowship hall for a small church in Mexico. I don’t know if there’s a spiritual gift of hammering, but in the context of such service God empowers people to minister to others.)
Some churches use diagnostic tests to help members “discover” their gifts so as to use them in ministry. This can be a helpful exercise, just so long as it is not used to put a cap on what the Spirit would do in anyone’s life or ministry. No matter what God has done in us previously, we should always “pursue love and keep on eagerly desiring” spiritual gifts (1 Cor 14:1).