Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit and enable us to be effective body parts in the body of Christ (the church) as we see in 1 Corinthians 12. When we place our life in Christ, His Spirit is placed in us to gift and empower us for kingdom work. These gifts are to be received, understood and used for the common good, in order to build up the church in maturity . These “gifts” are from God’s hand and are not meant to be bragged about, feared, compared, or ignored. The Spirit distributes the gifts as He chooses and no person has all the gifts, nor is one gift for all people. One Bible passage specifically tells us “not to misunderstand” and to remember that… “there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Cor 12:4).
The context of the gifts is the body of Christ as they aren’t for us individually, but for the growth and encouragement of the church. 1 Corinthians 12:27 says… “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” The posture in which we are to use the spiritual gifts is a posture of love and humility (1 Corinthians 13).
There are 4 main scripture passages that teach on spiritual gifts: Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14, and Ephesians 4: 1-16, and 1 Peter 4:10-11. These lists are not meant to be exclusive, nor exhaustive, but to give an overview and sampling of some of the gifts for the church, as well as how the gifts are to be used and for what purpose.
The history of the church has seen an overemphasis on certain gifts, times of denying the existence of the gifts, and also times of healthy development and expression of the gifts for the mission of the church. Our church and also our MB conference understand that the gifts are still evident and active for today, essential for the vitality and effectiveness of the church.
With God there is no separation between sacred and secular. Placing our lives as living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1) is the starting point of being used by God for His glory. All of our gifts, talents, personality and passions are given to us by God and can be used for His kingdom.
Where to start in discerning spiritual gifts?
1. Start Serving
One of the best ways to begin this journey is to just start serving! Find a ministry area that interests you, or has a need, and dive in. Serving will give you a way to discover and test what fulfills you, what you are good at, and also what drains you or what you are not as good at. As you are serving, others will begin to see and affirm things in you that will help you in this journey.
2. Personal Study and Reflection
God has made you intricately and wonderfully (Psalm 139) and no one knows you more than the one who has created you. Take time to study the spiritual gifts passages mentioned above (and some definitions listed here) and reflect on the implications and expressions of these gifts in your life. Pray and reflect on how God has wired you in terms of your personality, what gives you passion, your strengths and weaknesses. Other than God, no one knows you better than yourself – so begin with you and God.
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
(The Message, Gal 6:4-5)
3. Use Additional Resources
There are many good books and online resources that you can access to help you with your gift discovery. One helpful one is called SHAPE, that helps you to identify five personal factors that combine specific traits you possess and how your SHAPE fits into the body of Christ. There are many online resources that have used and adapted this approach. (original concept of SHAPE comes from Saddleback Community Church, California)
S – spiritual gifts – what am I gifted to do?
H – heart – what do I have passion for?
A – abilities – what am I naturally good at?
P – personality – how has God uniquely wired me?
E – experiences – where have I been and what have I done?
4. Include others in this discernment
Once you have begun serving, taken time for personal study and reflection and used some other resources, bring some additional people more intentionally into the discernment. This could include your small group and also leaders from the ministries where you are currently serving. Set up a specific time to meet with your small group, and/or some leaders of your ministry areas to talk, pray and discern together with you in regards to all that you have discovered so far.
Why does this matter?
Understanding your gifts and how to serve, encourage, and mature the body of Christ matters because of the mission God has given us as the church. We are called to be a covenant community of believers, that loves God with the whole of our lives, intentionally discipling one another, and together, reaching out with the gospel to those who live right here in Saskatoon, to those who live at the very ends of the earth. You have an important role to play!