It is not that uncommon to run into a believer, sometimes already contributing to their Christian community, but who still doubts they really have what could be called a spiritual gift. 1 Cor 12-14 is indispensable in studying the subject, so I kept it in view as I pondered. It is a spiritual gift because of its source, the Holy Spirit. Thinking about this, I mused to myself as I recalled some of my own (overzealous) presumptions many years ago as a new believer. Below are some subtle misunderstandings that sometimes prompt some well meaning church members to not step up and fully embrace functions that the Head and Body have been a long time missing from them.
1. If it is my spiritual gift, then it must be something I find easy to do.
There has been a bit of a shift in the way some people have come to understand gifting or talents. It can sometimes be seen as the undertaken where we feel the least challenge. This has some truth to it in a general sense, but also, can leave room for a misunderstanding of how things work in real life. When an individual shows aptitude in a specific area, we tend to say that’s their strength. Well then, being strength powered by the Holy Spirit, ought we not be able to serve in those areas with little or no challenge to the human side of us? Not always. The best teachers will admit that they put much energy into understanding the matter, their audience, and even moving the material from raw to a final piece that effectively teaches their specific audience. Worship coordinators will admit no less. Even givers (everyone should be a giver – but here, specifically those for whom it is considered a special area of Christian service), will admit that they have given in spite of how difficult it felt under certain circumstances. In fact, the more likely it is your gift, the more likely tougher cases within that category will tend towards you. And because it is your passion and gifting, the more likely you are to put in what it takes to have it done efficiently. It may, therefore, be said to be easy in a different sense—it is an area in which you feel a sense of inner excitement and joy unraveling, resolving or serving. For this fallacy, do not ask yourself – is this going to be easy to do? Rather ask, is it an exciting type of challenge for me?
2. If it is my spiritual gift, then its outworking should be inexplicable by natural reasoning.
Some of us have not fully appreciated, or embraced, our gifts because they were ones that did not appear to require some mysterious spin to their explanation. Therefore, we did not think very highly of those as spiritual gifts. So then, we tend to see how a vibrant biblical teacher could have a spiritual gift but not a skilled church administrator. The term, spiritual, can be misunderstood at times. For sure, it is endowed by the Spirit (1 Cor 12), so it is definitely a spiritual gift. Let’s not forget the purpose, however, that though distributed by the Holy Spirit, it is to practically meet all sorts of growth and development need areas of the church. For this fallacy, please do not ask if this activity has a mystical spin to it to qualify it as spiritual gift. Rather ask, “Is this a valid need area in the church for which I can bring my skill, knowledge, or even honest effort?”
3. If it is a spiritual gift, then it should not require other formal means of enhancement.
In a group conversation once, a member asked candidly, “If the Holy Spirit gives you a gift, and you go try to pursue secular training, is that not tantamount to distrusting what the Spirit gave, or trying to help Him?” In my view, it is not tantamount to helping the Spirit. It is a way to be a better steward of the talents He gave you. Think how much a person with a natural gift for empathy and encouragement would do getting training on a related skill such as listening. A growing number of churches and church-members have realized the value of training and development for individuals that show strength in various areas of service. For this fallacy, please ask, “Will such training improve some of my human limitations, working toward more effective results in the use of my gifting?”
4. Since it is a spiritual gift, I should confine its use to the church or else it is misappropriated.
The Spirit gives gifts for the edification of the body of Christ, so what happens when we are outside of the walls of the church? God has made us as whole beings. One who is blessed with wise counsel or sympathy does not automatically become unsympathetic or full of foolish advice when they are, say, with a colleague at workplace instead of at church. The outworking, or delivery, may be different, wisely and appropriately suiting the scenarios, but we are nonetheless instruments of the Spirit. If gifts were only usable within the church, evangelists would have little opportunity to use theirs. For this fallacy, do not try unbecoming who you are, simply because you are not in religious company. Rather ask, “does the circumstance fully permit me to help; is there some glimpse of blessing a life; and will Christ be ultimately glorified?”
5. Spiritual gifts are simply about what we do.
Obviously, spiritual gifts require deeds to be done. But the ultimate purpose does not dead-end on doing. In the end, it is about who we are becoming. In a community where individual (and group) talents are appropriately harnessed, you soon notice that there is a becoming happening to the whole body. When we view it this way, it removes some of the undue attention and nervousness. We find that we are part of a family and that the Spirit invites our participation. Following Paul in 1Cor 12, there are two levels of the gifts’ reception: first, we are given various gifts as individuals; second, these gifts, altogether, are given to the Body. And, this is so the Body can be built into a stable, solid whole under one Head, Jesus Christ!