“Each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” 1 Corinthians 7:7
The apostle Paul was one of the most gifted evangelists of the early church. He planted churches from Nabataea (modern-day Petra) to Rome traveling thousands and thousands of miles to share the good news. But he did more than that. Paul stayed in touch with his converts for years and provided them with encouragement and spiritual direction—some of which have been preserved to this day.
In many of his letters sent to the churches he planted in Asia Minor and/or the people he trained to lead them, Paul mentions “spiritual gifts.” Paul offers a few lists of the gifts, but none of the lists are identical. That said, there are a few characteristics they each bear in common: they are given by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of unity and edification of the church.
Today in the twenty-first century, Christians are still encouraged to discover and develop their gifts for the same purpose: unity and edification of the church. The resources on this page will help you discover your own spiritual gifts. This is only an overview, but it’s solid.
Step 1: Download the Answer Sheet
I created an answer sheet to supplement the resources already available for this Spiritual Gift Assessment. It should be used in conjunction with the video linked below. Be sure to download the free Leader’s Guide which includes an overview of spiritual gifts as well as brief definitions of the eleven categories explored in this assessment.
Step 2: Take the Assessment
Step 3: Download the Guide
This free Leader’s Guide will provide basic information about spiritual gifts as well as basic definitions of each gift. I created the following PowerPoint to be able to share the definitions visually with my class.
Step 4: Differentiate
After taking a group through the spiritual gifts assessment, our discussion turned to whether or not spiritual gifts were actually a thing. Is a spiritual gift something a person is born with? Or is it received at baptism? Or some other time? Is it a one-time experience, or can a person receive more than one gift? At the same time or later?
Since Scripture doesn’t exactly explain the how or when spiritual gifts are given, the answer to these questions must be extrapolated from biblical passages that mention them. There are three main passages that include lists of gifts, and no two lists are the same.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 makes it clear that the gifts are given by the Holy Spirit.
Romans 12:4-8 uses the metaphor of one body “in Christ” and explains the gifts are given according to God’s grace.
Ephesians 4:11-12 states that the gifts were given by the one who ascended (a.k.a. Jesus Christ).
Based on these passages, it is clear that there are gifts are given to those saved by grace for the purpose of unity and edification within the church. In other words, yes, spiritual gifts are legit. They are bestowed by the Holy Spirit at and/or after conversion.
Aren’t Gifts the Same as Talents?
If you’re wondering whether or not gifts are the same as talents, you’re not alone. People have been asking this question for years. The answer is no, they are not the same. Talents are innate, possibly even inherited. Spiritual gifts come post-conversion as well as later when God equips a person for a specific task.
Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace skillfully lays out four distinctives in his excellent article, The Difference between Natural Talents and Spiritual Gifts. I’ve included these in the PowerPoint (below).
What to Do with Your Spiritual Gifts
So, now that we’ve established that spiritual gifts are legit, that they are different from natural talents, and that they are given for the unity and edifcation of the church, we need to talk about what to do with them.
Once again we will turn to the Scriptures for illumination. Gleaning what we can from a variety of passages, we can confidently act according to the following examples.
1. Develop Your Gift
Once you’ve identified your spiritual gift, it’s time to develop it. In 1 Timothy 4:14, Paul instructs his protegé Timothy not to neglect his gift, and in 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul reminds him to “fan it into flame.” ??? Clearly, Paul believes that gifts are given to be used: Developed.
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (NIV)
Sometimes gifts are given in “seed” form, and other times, gifts build off of one’s natural talents. Whatever the case, spiritual gifts are to be developed by using them. So practice, practice, practice!
Be brave and inquire about using your gift in your local church. If your church won’t allow you to use your gift or if there are “territorial issues” that make it impossible to serve well, then pray about your next steps. You need to decide if you should stay there and look for opportunities elsewhere it to use it; if you should push harder for the opportunity; or if you should seek out another church where you would be allowed to develop your gift.
What if they say no?
Keep in mind that being denied the opportunity to use your gift is not a sign that it’s not your gift. (Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.) Sometimes churches focus more on tradition than what Scripture clearly teaches. And sometimes there are other people already serving in that capacity who prefer to be in control of everything. Or maybe there are hidden biases at play that make you feel unwanted in that environment.
Seek the Lord’s guidance. He gave you at least spiritual gift for His purposes, and He will open another door somewhere your gifts can be used and be appreciated.
2. Desire the “Greater” Gifts
I almost didn’t include this part, because we’re so familiar with the biblical principle of considering others better than ourselves; however, Paul clearly states that those in Corinth should “eagerly desire the greater gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31). The purpose of desiring “greater” gifts has nothing to do with the individual and everything to do with building up the church.
Jon Bloom, co-founder of DesiringGod.org, rightly concludes that “we are to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 as a means to pursue the love Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13.” He explores what it means to “desire” the gifts and how to partner with God in pursuing them in his article “Why We Must Earnestly Desire Spiritual Gifts.”
?For an even deeper dive into the “what” and “when” of spiritual gifts, I encourage you to listen to the After Class Podcsast (episode 2.24): Eagerly Desire the “Greater” Gifts? The podcast is hosted by three Bible and theology professors who teach at Great Lakes Christian College: Samuel C. Long, Ronald D. Peters, John C. Nugent.
This presentation includes definitions, discussion questions, and a brief review of the differences between natural talents and spiritual gifts.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Giving Bread photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash
Replanting Small Plants photo by Daniel Hjalmarsson on Unsplash
Shadow Conversation photo by Jonathan Sharp on Unsplash
Young Band Playing photo by Andy Lee on Unsplash