A Quote about a Favorite Topic — Spiritual Gifts

“We ask to know the will of God without guessing that His will is written into our very beings. We perceive that will when we discern our gifts. Our obedience and surrender to God are in a large part our obedience and surrender to our gifts. This is the message wrapped up in the parable of the talents. Our gifts are all on loan. We are responsible for expending them in the world, and we will be held accountable.” Elizabeth O’Connor in Eighth Day of Creation

When our congregation went through the Fanning the Flame process (How it Works — the Fanning the Flame Process, part 1) a few years ago, my job was Spiritual Gifts Coordinator, and it involved asking our members to complete a spiritual gift assessment, and then meeting individually with each person to help them understand the results. Some were reluctant to do this, and I have a hard time understanding why. A few people said they were leery of being “pigeon-holed.” But being aware of our natural gifts certainly doesn’t mean we can’t try something new. It may actually help us to see how our particular abilities fit into a new project. I suspect some members saw the assessment as a “test” and therefore something they could fail. This is a misconception as well. We will have high scores in some areas, and low scores in others. The point is to discover what you are best at, and everyone is good at something. I can’t help but wonder if gift assessment is avoided because once we know our gifts, we may be asked to use them, and many would rather just sit on the sidelines. We know from the parable referenced in the quote that God expects more than this. He wants our involvement and engagement in His plan to evangelize the world.

So if you have an opportunity to learn more about your spiritual gifts, please do it! You may be surprised, you may be affirmed, and you will be better able to serve God and your neighbor.

For more about spiritual gifts see:

Let Your Spiritual Gifts S–T–R–E–T–C–H You

What are the Spiritual Gifts?

The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual Gifts by Thomas R. Schreiner–Book Review

As the newly trained Spiritual Gifts Coordinator for our church, I was excited to review this book the Lutheran Ladies received from B&H Publishing.  It didn’t live up to my expectations.  Don’t purchase this book thinking it will help you identify and use your own spiritual gifts.  Instead the author, a Professor of the New Testament at The Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, addresses certain theological questions about the gifts:  for example, are all of the gifts listed still present in the church today?  What exactly are the gifts of prophecy and tongues?  What purpose do spiritual gifts serve?

I did learn some big theological words (I always enjoy this).  Evidently there are two theological camps when it comes to spiritual gifts.

“Some are continuationists, arguing that virtually all the gifts still exist today.  Others are open but cautious about whether certain gifts still exist.  Still others are cessationists, arguing that certain gifts have ceased.”

The vast majority of Lutherans fall into the cessationist group, agreeing with this statement by the author:

“I believe God gave gifts and miracles, signs and wonders, in remarkable ways at certain points in redemptive history to authenticate his revelation…..Now that the church has the authoritative guidance for faith and practice in the Scriptures, the gifts and miracles which were needed to build up the early church are no longer needed, and they are not common.”

This doesn’t mean the there are no miracles, or instances of healing today, simply that they are rare and individuals should not expect to receive this sort of gifting.  Having been taught this viewpoint from my youth, I found it unnecessary and slightly boring to read an entire book dedicated to defending its validity and parsing every Scriptural reference to gifts to support it.  

Pentecostals and charismatics are those who most often accept the continuationist view. Schriener is quick to say that although he disagrees with them, he does not believe their practices to be demonic.  He also points out that this question of spiritual gifting is secondary, and that we may disagree with fellow Christians about it while still maintaining unity on more basic and important issues.

I also disagree with his stance that Spiritual Gift assessments are not helpful.  He seems to feel they may cause some to become arrogant about their particular gifts; and that our gifts will be discovered in the natural course of doing ministry.  In my own case, I found taking such an assessment years ago encouraged me to concentrate on my strongest gifts, affirmed me as a gifted person with something to offer and gave me the confidence to turn down opportunities that clearly weren’t for me.  Many of us waste a lot of time trying out various ministries, and doing things out of duty or because somebody else decides it’s what we should do.  Why not use the tools available and learn to hone in on the tasks God created us to do?

My verdict:  I give this book only two stars.  For the cessationist, Schriener is speaking to the choir;  and the continuationist will probably not be convinced by any of his arguments.  Ifhttp://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/spiritual-gifts you are interested in purchasing it, or learning more, use the link below: