Wednesday, June 23, 2010
On the Gifts
When I first came to Hayward Wesleyan and began helping new Christians and those seeking membership to discover their spiritual gifts I began using a spiritual gifts test. It seemed simple enough. Break out a number 2 sharpie, answer 50 questions or so, and presto! After ten minutes of thought and shading in some boxes you have discovered your unique role and fit into the local Body.
But, I confess that after doing this for a while, I began feeling less settled about the whole process. It seemed stagnant. Lifeless. Too contrived and individualistic.
"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good" (I Corinthians 12:7).
The manifest ion of the Spirit....
The Scripture teaches that it is the Holy Spirit who gives or bestows the gifts, not a test. There is a strong argument here that as we keep in step with the Spirit the Spirit Himself will bestow these gifts to us. One might find it humorous to think of Peter sailing the sea of Galilee while jotting down answers to a test in order to find out how he would "plug into" and adequately minister to the Church. No, we all recognize that the gifts of the early church fathers and mothers emerged out of listening to the pull of God's Spirit and by being in deep relationship to others with whom they worshipped with.
Is not the same true for us? We no longer live a life led by "mute idols" (1 Cor. 12:2), but live by the Spirit who speaks, who leads, who brings clarity to us. God is not concealing your spiritual gift and there is no systematic process that Scripture outlines for us to discover our gift other than keeping in step with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit wants to bestow gifts to that will build up the Body of Christ and ultimately bring glory to the Father. He is working in your life and distributing gifts to us for the common good. The question is are you listening? Are you keeping your ear to the ground and eyes to the Lord to discern the giftings that His Spirit longs to give to you?
. . .To each person for the common good.
The gifts are ultimately for the common good of the Church. This is yet another point where it seems that a spiritual gift assessment falls short. A spiritual gift test simply asks questions about YOU. Your personality, your preferences, your likes and dislikes. . .essentially what you are good at. But, the goal of the gifts is not primarily about discovering a place where you can flourish. Rather, the gifts are primarily about building up the Body of Christ and bringing glory to God in the process. Spiritual gifts are the Spirit's gift to us not for our own good, but for the common good.
As team player in sports, this makes perfect sense. I may be a great striker in soccer. But, if the team already has a couple strikers (a striker is an offensive player), and the coach places me as a defensive back, and lo and behold, I flourish in that role, then that's where I need to be because it serves the common good. It doesn't serve the team well to demand that I play striker simply because I appear to be better at this position on paper. What matters is what the team needs of me on the field.
In the same way, God wants us to minister to the Church, not based on how we appear on pen and paper, but on the playing field of life in community. When we are immersed in love for one another, connected to the common good of one another, the Spirit of God has a way of affirming us directing us within that community to the exact place and setting where we can most effectively minister.
Most of us were raised on the model of discovering our gifts first, and then putting them into practice in community. But,I might suggest a reverse model. We first discover our community. Fall deeply in love with the brothers and sisters that God has set before you. Discover the needs of the Body and give yourself over to the welfare and health of that community. And, in so doing, I believe your spiritual giftings will begin to emerge with clarity and focus all by themselves as God's Spirit guides and illuminates.
How about you? How did you discover your spiritual gifts? What played the most essential role in you being affirmed and encouraged to minister and give towards the common good? I'm interested in your feedback.