- 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 :
- 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.
 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.
© Helen Calder 2010 Enliven Blog
Enliven Ministries: in the David McCracken Ministries family