A Dialogue On Spiritual Gifts

    • Why identify spiritual gifts?
    • Are spiritual gifts given permanently to Christians, or are they given as needed for the duration of a ministry assignment?
    • What are the benefits and limitations of spiritual gift questionnaires, or should they be used at all?
    • Can we receive new spiritual gifts if we have been Christians for a long time?

These are some of the questions we look at today as I continue my discussion with Charlie Forrest*, a pastor from Auckland, New Zealand. Charlie’s comments are in blue italics, followed by my own responses.

Charlie:You talk about identifying [spiritual] gifts, I understand what you are saying but for me my whole understanding in this area has changed, I would be interested in your comments on this.
I believe that the gifts lists given in the Bible are lists of examples, not the complete list, there are a far greater range of gifts than listed

Charlie, I agree with you that the gifts lists given in the New Testament are not meant to be a complete list of gifts available to Christians [1]:

  • Each of Paul’s lists in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, for example, have some gifts that are not included in the other of the two passages
  • Different gifts are also hinted at by Paul in other places (1 Cor 7:7, 1 Cor 13:3)
  • In another passage, Peter avoids lists altogether and broadly divides gifts between speaking and serving gifts. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

Many Christian leaders today concur with this, including other gifts such as worship, creative ministries, and intercession in gift analyses, even though these are not specifically listed as gifts in the New Testament.

Charlie:The context in Corinthians is not about teaching about the gifts themselves but the right usage of them, so Paul gives some examples and explains the usage of them.

Yes, this is a great point.

Identifying spiritual gifts through questionnaires and assessments has become very popular in many Christian circles today. **Are you in disagreement with this practice, Charlie, or just noting its drawbacks?

I personally endorse the practice of identifying spiritual gifts. However, I believe there are significant limitations that we should take into account. For example:

Benefits of Identifying Spiritual Gifts

  • Honours the ministry of the Holy Spirit and His gifts
  • Helps Christians become aware of and learn about spiritual gifts
  • Encourages us to be good stewards of the particular gifts God has invested in us
  • Assists leaders in releasing people into service in the church, i.e. ministry placement (especially in larger churches)
  • Helps bring direction to Christians who do not have clear guidance about a suitable next step in where to serve in their church or in ministry
  • Provides appreciation for others’ gifts and how we function together as a church body

Limitations of Identifying Spiritual Gifts

  • No questionnaire could cover every possible spiritual gift—and could potentially stifle the creativity of the Spirit if we use a closed approach
  • Does not identify gifts that have not yet emerged
  • Most gift analyses do not make an allowance for gifts that are present but are not currently being used in a ministry environment
  • Tends to be outcome-focused on ministry placement in the church—however, our Spirit-empowered gifts should also be utilised in our everyday lives and in evangelism

I believe if we took these issues into account we could greatly increase our effectiveness in identifying and releasing spiritual gifts.

Charlie:Secondly the Lord will release whatever gift we need according to the circumstances we are in if we are open to Him to do that.
For example I did not feel I was an evangelist, therefore when in India I always looked for others to preach the evangelistic message. Last time the Lord rebuked me on this and said, when you stand to speak I will release that anointing and gift, and He did. Since then I have seen this in a number of situations, He releases what is needed.

So true, Charlie! I agree. Obedience to the Holy Spirit always takes precedence over our own preconceived ideas of what spiritual gift we may or may not have. God anoints obedience.

I also agree that God can and will release a gift to us at a time when it is needed—whether momentarily, or for a longer season of time when we have a ministry assignment. I have experienced this myself.

Charlie:The gifts are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, belonging to Him. As we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, he gives what is needed. Yes we will be more use to operating in some gifts than others, maybe a core gift mix, but maybe that is because of experience or faith to use them.
How many people are open to the Lord to continually release new gifts into their lives? Or do we limit ourselves to what we have and become comfortable in them?

These are all great points, Charlie. There is a lot to be said about gift-mixes, which I will leave for another time.

Overall, your questions highlight two contrasting perspectives that I noticed when I was researching the topic of spiritual gifts for my book, ‘Grow Your Prophetic And Prayer Gifts’:

  • The viewpoint that spiritual gifts are invested permanently into a Christian believer (predominant in Charismatic/Pentecostal circles)
  • The belief that gifts are released as and when needed for God-given assignments (ministries or callings)

Personally, I agree with aspects of both these perspectives. (It reminds me of the question, ‘Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?’) I do believe that gifts are invested in a Christian, like a kind of spiritual DNA, and that these are related to our calling.

‘For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ (Eph 2:10)

However, I also believe, that gifts can emerge throughout our lives. Charlie, I totally agree with you that we should be open to receive (or should that be, ‘unwrap’) new gifts throughout our Christian walk. I had been a Spirit-filled Christian for more than 17 years when a gift of intercession manifested strongly in my life for the first time.

We will continue the discussion in the comments section, but before we do, I would like to share this reflection from my book, ‘Grow Your Prophetic And Prayer Gifts.’

‘When the Apostle Paul—then Saul—became a believer, Jesus spoke to him about his call. His gift of teaching and preaching was evident from the outset of his conversion (see Acts 9:3-22). Years later, he was still ministering as a teacher at the church in Antioch when the church leaders heard from God that it was time to send him and Barnabas out from the church as missionaries. We see at this time gifts of evangelism and miracles, along with the ministry of apostle, emerging in Paul’s life. His first recorded miraculous sign is in Acts 13:8-11. It is not until later, in Acts 19, we read of many ‘extraordinary miracles’ of healing being worked through Paul.

Gift emergence and development happened progressively in Paul’s life and it will happen that way in ours too.’

For more information on the development of spiritual gifts, check out my e-book, ‘Grow Your Prophetic And Prayer Gifts’ by clicking on this link.

[1] Recommended Reading

The following resources I found especially helpful in my studies on spiritual gifts:

BUGBEE, B. What You Do Best In The Body of Christ. 1995, 2005. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan.

GRUDEM, W.  Systematic Theology.  1994.  Nottingham: Inter-Varsity.

WAGNER, C.P. Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow 2005. Ventura: Regal Books.

*Charlie Forrest pastors New Hope Fellowship in Auckland, New Zealand. Charlie has many years leadership involvement in missions with Asian Outreach and is also a Bible College lecturer. Charlie and his wife Brenda are responsible for launching The Hunk and I into missions ministry around 23 years ago.

Related posts:

Spiritual Gift Questionnaires and Courses: Can We Do Better?

A Dialogue On Prophecy And Intimacy With God

God’s Multi-Layered Gift: Salvation, Holy Spirit Baptism, Spiritual Gifts And You

How To Overcome Blockages In Your Prophetic Gift: Identify Your Season

Give Yourself (And Your Gifts) Permission To Shine

© Helen Calder  2010   Enliven Blog

Enliven Ministries: in the David McCracken Ministries family

8 thoughts on “A Dialogue On Spiritual Gifts”

  1. Hi again, To answer your question about questionnaires and assessments for spiritual gifts. In the past I used them and supported them but now I do have a problem with them for a number of reasons, including the ones you listed above.

    Today many Christians focus of the gifts, seeking to identify them and from that try and work out their ministry. However I believe the order is wrong. It is not the gift that determines the ministry of a person but rather the “call”

    Again the call comes from intimacy with the Father, for each one He has prepared a purpose and call for us to walk in, as we grow in Him he leads us into a ministry and releases the gifts to fulfill that call on our lives.

    For too many they have discovered a “gift” and seen that as what identifies them and out of that tried to develop a ministry. It does not work. It is not the gift that makes us but the call of God on our lives, to grow in Him. We must first discover the call, when we first receive the call it may appear to be totally beyond us and impossible, and that’s what makes it so exciting because then through the Holy Spirit He releases the gifts and anointing to do it, it become a real walk of faith. When we limit ourselves to the gifts we know we have, then we limit ourselves to what we think we can do and miss out on so much on what God wants to do in us. So call first gifts after that

    Secondly in identifying the gifts we make them the focus of development rather than learning to walk with and in the power of the Holy Spirit. As 1 Cor 12:7 says: “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
    These gifts are manifestation of the Holy Spirit, as we learn to walk by the Holy Spirit it is His power that releases the gifts in us. We must be very careful about making the gifts the focus. Of course we also know there are false and even demonic gifts out there that manifest as the real gifts, some people may be so eager to have a gift they open themselves to other sources. Our focus must always be on Christ Himself and the power of the Holy Spirit to receive whatever he releases.

    You also pointed out one of the big problems with these questionnaires, and that is the range of gifts they look for. I believe we serve a mighty God and He has unlimited range of gifts and mixers and applications, more than we can imagine, no questionnaire can cover this adequately.

    Finally there are seasons in the gifts, by that I mean at times He will release a gift in us for a season and grow that in us, for that season that maybe the primarily way we function, but at another time He will bring another gift to the front, these questionnaires do not take that into account.

    In saying all this however there is still benefit in identifying the gifts we have and growing in them, but we must never make them the primary focus or limit what God will do in us and through us.

    1. Thanks for that, Charlie.
      I believe we are in agreement that:
      · There is a benefit in identifying gifts, but that we need to be aware of the limitations in doing so
      · We need to be very careful about making spiritual gifts a main focus; our primary focus should always be our relationship with God—Father, Son and Spirit.

      We may have strayed (as you have so rightly identified) towards being over-focused on gifts and under-focused on intimacy and call, but the right thing to do is to bring balance, not to pendulum-swing the other way.

      What would you do with Paul’s instruction to ‘eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy’? (1 Cor 14:1)

      The reality is that even in the New Testament ministries and gifts were intertwined. Christians and leaders alike were actually identified by their ministries/gifts. And this is not only true of the ‘fivefold’ ministries. For example you have Philip’s ‘four unmarried daughters who prophesied.’ Acts 21:9.

      I have a bit of difficulty with your concept of waiting on God for a call (ministry direction?) before expecting the gifts to be released in your life.
      Perhaps you could clarify what you mean when you use the term ‘call’ to help me out.

      The difficulty with ‘call’ is that it can be very ethereal—out there. Most Christians, especially in the early stages of their life with Jesus, have no clear idea of what their ministry direction might be (not everyone has a ‘Damascus Road’ experience). For most of us, a call unfolds slowly. This is a part of living by faith.

      I believe that the spiritual gifts the Father has invested in us are, in fact, clues to His call, just as our personalities and natural abilities provide clues to a suitable vocation in life.

      Identifying a gift can actually be one way of exploring the call of God. It helps many Christians who don’t yet have a clear sense of ‘call’ to take small steps forward to explore different ministries and get a feel for where they might fit—all the while listening to the heart of God for their lives. This does not mean that their ability to be intimate or to hear from God is inferior than someone who has a clear sense of ministry direction… does it?

  2. Hi again, to answer your question about the call:

    If you look at those effective in the NT they all had a clear call. I believe every Christian has a call, Eph 2:10,”For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” We are all created for a purpose, not just saved and one day hoping to get to heaven. The sad thing today is that we have the vast majority of Christians in the church who are saved sitting waiting for something to happen, knowing they have gifts, but for what purpose? There is no release of new gifts or power in what they have.

    For an example it could be like a man who has a shed full of nice new tools, each one is a gift from someone, he is very proud of them, loves to talk about them but he has no idea why he has them. What is the purpose of them?

    Part of leadership, pastoral ministry, must be to help people discover their call (not just keeping them in their church), the gifts will look after themselves when the purpose or call is known. Look at you and Malcolm, you discovered your call and then the gifts were released and developed and more is still happening. When the call is lost or not known the gifts just sit there, sometime used and admired but generally just sit there

    In the past I have had people come to me feeling they have no gift. I spent time with them helping them discover their call, emphasising that God created them for a purpose and has a plan for them, suddenly they are off and the gifts are released in them.

    Previously I only focused on the gifts, people discovered some of them but still did not move or develop as they should.

    The call is not always to fulltime ministry, a call in business or on other practical areas is equally valid and valuable but when someone knows their call and that God has a purpose and plan for them in this life, they start to live and function in faith in it and they are transformed, the gifts they have start to have purpose and new gifts are realised.

    As to 1 cor 14:1 this shows that we can receive and should desire more gifts but also that we can all prophesy, however the ability to prophesy does not make one a prophet, have a ministry of a prophet. Prophecy is the ability to hear what God is saying and to deliver it to those who it is for.

    This should be the heritage of all born again Spirit filled believers; it can and should function in whatever call we have. If I teach, if I lead worship, if I minister amongst the youth, with my business colleges, in the school room where ever I am if I have the gift of prophecy it would transform what I do.

    For me especially in the teaching area, I am very aware of this, I need the prophetic gift when I teach, totally relying on the Holy Spirit.

    In saying all this identifying and studying the gifts, growing in wisdom in how to use them etc does have benefit and is needed, but at the same time we should not forget the bigger picture, God’s call and purpose on our lives.

    1. Thanks Charlie, that’s great.
      Have you thought of writing about this and producing materials to help others in this process? Or could you recommend some resources?

      I agree that every Christian should have a sense of call and purpose, even if it lacks clear definition, and that should be affirmed and nurtured.
      The call of God doesn’t come with a set of clear maps and directions, it often unfolds slowly. ‘We walk by faith not by sight.’
      You mention how getting a sense of call can help Christians who do not know what their gifts are. This is great! For those who DO have gifts evident, however, identifying these can assist in the process of further defining an existing call. So I guess in summary, from my perspective, it’s a ‘both-and’ situation 🙂

  3. Yes I agree, knowing the gifts can help with defining the call, however the gifts you have should not limit the call as the Lord will release whatever you need to fulfil the call.

    I know of many books etc on gifts but not on the call so much. As to writing things down, I do write course etc but it is not something I like doing, so maybe one day.

    Just one other thing, Paul had a call, but 14 years later in the right time it was Barnabas who God used who went and activated the call. The call came when He was a new Christian (Acts 9:15) but Paul went through 14 years of preparation after the call came in Tarsus, waiting on the sidelines watching the church grow. Having and knowing the call and having the gifts are one thing there is also the issue of timing. Again learning intimacy with the Father, knowing His timing on things.

    We need men and women like Barnabas who can help people develop their call and giftings and then release them at the right time. This ministry is very lacking in the church. While Pastors seek to build their “church” rather than the kingdom and God’s people this will continue to be a problem.

    If we help people develop their gifts and release then into their call, there is a real possibility we will lose some of our best from the churches we pastor, maybe a loss to us but great blessing to the Kingdom and the greater body.

    For me it is a great joy to see people stepping out into new ministries, I want out church to be continually releasing people out like this, not holding onto them.

    Agree, disagree? Anyone else with comments on this?

  4. Hi again Charlie, love your heart.

    Yes we do need more men and women with Barnabas’ heart and ministry. I pray you inspire other church leaders around the globe to share your vision in this!

  5. Helen Calder
    I had a vision on Saturday night where i saw butterflies in front of me. What does this mean?

    Lots of Love and God’s Blessings Your Favorite Girl/Precious Girl Catherine xo

    1. Hi Catherine 🙂
      It may depend on what you are praying about at the time, but I think butterflies can represent hope, new life and resurrection, because they have come through the chrysalis stage of their life.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.