1 Corinthians 12:4-6
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
We had just finished a faculty workshop on helping students identify their gifts when Kenneth Kantzer, distinguished theologian, seminary leader, and former editor of Christianity Today, came to the microphone. “I’ve never known what my gift is,” he said, to our astonishment. “All my life I’ve seen a need, been asked to fill it, and trusted the Holy Spirit to enable me to do it.” Maybe Kenneth is on to something.
As you work through possible definitions of spiritual gifts you may be frustrated that they are not more precise, especially if I questioned your favorite gift definition. I felt that way for years. I read books filled with precise definitions and self-evaluating checklists, searching for my personal gift. Could I ever really know my specific gift for sure?
I finally understood that the Scripture did not define the gifts precisely, and that imprecision was not by accident. I suddenly felt truly liberated. I recognized that I should focus on the tasks that needed to be done rather than worrying about my gifts or lack of them. We should ask God for the abilities necessary to accomplish what He has clearly told us are His purposes for the church. We can leave the combination of abilities, natural and supernatural, to the Holy Spirit to decide-”as he determines” (1 Cor. 12:11).
We can tell when that custom-designed pattern of gifts is from Him: the outcome will demonstrate the supernatural power of God. I conclude that we should focus more on roles for another reason. Each of the biblical gift lists are different. No one particular gift appears in all of them. Teaching and prophesy appear in three, apostle shows up in two, and the others occur only once. None of the lists is exhaustive; they’re just representative or suggestive. Perhaps other gifts are not listed. Tasks may need to be done in your church which Paul didn’t include in any of his lists. Can you think of any?
You might list music, a major ministry of the church. If your church uses drama, you list that; you don’t want your dramatic efforts to be purely human talent. You want the strong anointing of the Spirit to produce eternal outcomes. You may have listed other activities that don’t clearly fit under any of Paul’s categories, for example, children’s work. Many other activities might either be listed as separate gifts or be combined as forms of “teaching” or “prophetic proclamation.” Writing, for example, might fit under one of those. You may have listed counseling. I would consider that the activity of one gifted to “pastor,” which literally means “shepherd.” The Bible doesn’t define “pastor.” Today we use it as the over-arching identification of the chief church leader, and certainly the shepherd was called to lead the flock. But the original idea was more like what today we call discipling, counseling, or nurturing. “Encouragement” in the Romans list of gifts might fit here, too.
“All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” (1 Corinthians 12:11) Many Christians are like Barnabas, good at “coming alongside” and helping others through the tough times. The ancients called counseling the “cure of souls.” Professional counselors who have the gift of curing the whole soul, who see supernatural results in the counseling process, might be said to have the gift of pastoring. If the Spirit anoints the professional’s natural talent and training, he or she can be especially effective in healing the soul. Other possibilities exist for linking contemporary tasks with biblical gifts. Leading, administration, wisdom, discernment, or helps, for example, are capable of wide application. Just be sure not to be too dogmatic in claiming that your understanding of a gift name is the only meaning it could have. Always identify the touch of the Spirit by spiritual outcomes.
The 5 purposes of the church are united worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism. Let’s think about how these five purposes of the church can help you identify and use your spiritual giftedness. The Holy Spirit gives gifts or abilities so that the purposes of the church may be fulfilled. Think about how the spiritual gifts empower the church to fulfill its purposes.
Is God calling you to seek some gift to help fulfill the purposes of the church? There may be other roles in your church that don’t easily fit into the above categories. If you have a gift or desire a gift that could be used in that way, be sure to add it to your lists above. If you have a strong desire to see some of the gifts used more in your church, this would be an excellent topic to discuss in your next group meeting. Do you have a strong desire to be used more than you have been? Paul says to “earnestly desire” the higher gifts. That’s a command! So if you don’t feel strongly about something you’d like to accomplish for God, now is the time to pause and ask God to give you such a holy desire. If you already have a longing for a particular gift, pause now and ask God for it! Write out your petition in your journal.
 Rather than using the extensive lists as they appear in the Bible, unexplained, let us consolidate and describe some of the key gifts Scripture points toward-abilities clearly needed to fulfill the purposes of the church. The description of eight key spiritual gifts includes the abilities to: 1. teach the Bible in such a way that lives are changed 2. win people to faith 3. help the physical and social needs of the community in such a way that people are drawn to God 4. discern a person’s spiritual need and give wise counsel in such a way that they grow spiritually 5. lead people to worship in spirit and in truth 6. proclaim (preach) God’s truth with life-changing authority 7. understand the way God wants the church to go and get people to go that direction 8. help in practical ways like financial management, feeding people, seeing needs and meeting them.