Every Christ-believing member of the local church has been given by God specific spiritual gifts to be used for ministry.
What is a spiritual gift, and how does it differ from natural talents and abilities?
Every person has talents, special things they’re good at and enjoy. But a spiritual gift is different. It is given by God to the believer in Christ to glorify Him and uplift and build the church.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms,” according to 1 Peter 4:10.
The Apostle Paul defines spiritual gifts when he writes: “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” (1 Cor. 12:4–6).
Paul acknowledges that these gifts serve a particular purpose: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7).
The writer of James confirms that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father …” (James 1:17).
Paul compares these various spiritual gifts to the parts of a body: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body,” he writes, “so it is with Christ [and] in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be … . Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:12, 18, 27).
Paul tells Timothy: “Do not neglect the gift that is in you” (1 Tim. 4:14).
The power of spiritual gift
What might happen in churches today if leaders helped each member identify, dedicate, develop and use their spiritual gift(s) for the benefit of the church and its ministry? No doubt, the church would be blessed, its ministry more productive, its community outreach greater, its witness for Christ going far beyond its walls.
Not only would the church be blessed, but members would be as well. People who use their spiritual gift(s) for ministry, for helping others, for witnessing of Christ, have a greater sense of service, purpose and fulfillment. They know they are an important part of the church, a needed worker, one who contributes to outreach, evangelism and ministry.
How can the church help members use their gifts?
- Identify members’ spiritual gift(s). Some Christians today have no idea what particular gift(s) for ministry God has given them. What are some ways to identify those gifts?
- Host seminars and invite guest speakers to explain the individual spiritual gifts, teaching members how to pinpoint theirs.
- Preach on spiritual gifts, helping members better understand their biblical purpose for ministry.
- Small group Bible studies can bring members together to discuss and help each other identify their gift(s).
- Teach members how to personally develop and dedicate their spiritual gifts to God through ministry.
- Leaders can meet with members individually or in small groups, confirming and encouraging spiritual gifts.
- Help each person better understand how his or her gift can best be used in church ministry.
- Help members develop spiritual gifts through classes and hands-on practice. Researcher George Barna reports more than “half of practicing Christians (55%) select ‘church’ as the most desirable place to develop their giftings.”
- Offer classes to teach members the value and purpose of their gift(s), and how to use and strengthen them for greater effectiveness and purpose.
- Give members opportunities to practice their gifts in the life of the church.
- Members seeking to develop their gift(s) can team up (like an apprentice) with experienced workers who already are using the same or similar gifts, learning how to best serve the Body of Christ.
The final stage to identifying, dedicating and developing spiritual gifts is to put them into service for the church.
- Talk to members, asking where they would like to use their gift(s) in ministry.
- Show members the various positions and jobs that need to be strengthened, expanded or filled.
- Give members opportunities to create new positions and find new ways to serve with their spiritual gift(s), always listening to ideas and encouraging creativity.
- Cover ministering members with prayer, asking God to keep them strong, cooperative and constantly growing as they use their gifts for Him.
Understanding Spiritual Gifts
- Leadership: helping and encouraging others to build God’s Kingdom, setting goals and motivating workers
- Administration: organizing and executing plans to reach goals using church resources efficiently
- Teaching and Discipleship: instructing others, explaining God’s Word
- Evangelism: leading others to salvation in Christ, building up the church
- Service: helping with practical needs/assistance
- Mercy: extending compassion
- Hospitality: welcoming people, making them feel wanted, appreciated, valued
- Wisdom: discerning the work of the Holy Spirit
- Prophecy: boldly proclaiming God’s Word
- Shepherding: helping others with spiritual welfare
- Exhortation: enthusiastically motivating others in the faith
- Discernment: recognizing truth
- Intercessory Prayer: praying for others
- Giving: contributing material resources to help the church bear fruit for Christ