This Sunday we explore some different ways of discerning and discovering the Spiritual Gifts that God has given us to encourage and build up the church and to enable the fruitful mission of going out and making disciples as Jesus demonstrated and instructed.
It is helpful to think of Spiritual Gifts in two ways. Firstly, God gives these gifts as he chooses so that the church can be encouraged and built up in its fruitful ministry and mission. Secondly, the way to identify whether a church is being faithful and fruitful in that mission and ministry is to see whether these gifts are being identified and exercised in the ways that God intends them to be used.
The following chart comes from Christian Schwarz’s book, The Three Colours of Ministry, one of the valuable Natural Church Development resources. It lists thirty distinct Spiritual Gifts that can be identified from various passages in the Bible.
We might be more familiar with the lists of Spiritual Gifts given by the apostle Paul in a number of his letters. The lists vary, as do the ways that the gifts are named and described.
Prophesy, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, showing mercy.
1 Corinthians 12:7-10
Message of wisdom, message of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophesy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:28
Apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healing, helping, guidance, various kinds of tongues.
Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers.
DISCERNING, DISCOVERING AND DEVELOPING OUR GIFTS
There are various ways to do this, and the appropriate way will depend on who we are and where we are in our Christian life and experience. We will briefly explore three ways, although there are many more.
For some (a few) it will be appropriate to simply pray about this and talk this through with Christian friends in the church, in your home group, or with your pastoral contact. Are there things you are doing that are clearly fruitful and demonstrate that God has blessed you with that gift? Are you doing things that you wonder whether you should be doing at all? Are there things that God is laying on your heart that need to be done and which you sense he might want you to be part of? Are there ways in which you feel unfulfilled because you are not engaging in some way or another? These are all helpful questions to help in your prayer and conversations, and then to do something about.
There are a number of focussed resources that help us in the process of thinking and praying through our Spiritual Gifts, and they are all slightly different. A useful tool has been produced by CWR, the people who publish Everyday With Jesus, and it is called Discovering your basic gift: A chart to help you find and develop your unique ministry. It is limited to the seven gifts mentioned by Paul in Romans 12, so it is not comprehensive. However, this is a good starting point for most of us, even if we are going to go on and explore this more in depth in due course. It is recommended that we follow these steps:
- Download a copy of the chart here. (Or request a printed copy from the minister.)
- Read and pray through the instructions carefully before answering the questions.
- It is often the case that others know us better than we know ourselves, so confide in and share with a couple of trusted Christian friends to confirm whether you have answered the questions honestly and truthfully.
- Pray and discuss what you have discovered with trusted Christian friends and begin to think about how you might respond.
- Make an appointment to share what you have discovered with the minister and to discern how your gifts might be encouraged and become and encouragement to the whole church.
- If you don’t understand anything, just ask!
C. IN DEPTH
First appearing in his book The Three Colours of Ministry, and now in an easy-to-use online eTest survey, Christian Schwarz has developed a comprehensive tool that covers all of the thirty Spiritual Gifts and provides a detailed Gift Profile to help uncover and develop our Spiritual Gifts. It is hoped that as many people as possible will want to use this facility and we will get a group together in a few months time to work through this together.
If you want to know more about this and see some sample pages of the report, click here. Do not create an account, do not log in, and do not pay for an eTest at this point. We can get a much better price if we bulk-buy when ten or more people want to take part. At this stage it is recommended that you follow these steps.
- Follow the Informal and Structured routes above and begin to pray and think through this subject in a more focussed way.
- Read through the lists of Spiritual Gifts that appear in Paul’s letters and the list of thirty gifts identified by Christian Schwarz above, and begin to understand what they all mean and which might apply to you.
- Register your interest in taking this eTest with the minister and think about which Christian friends you want to fill in the online test with you. (You’ll need at least two others, but ideally up to six – see the sample front page.)
- If you don’t understand anything, just ask!