I used to be big on Spiritual Gifts. I got training in them, read books on them, and led training on them. I have kind of dumped that to a large extent. Reasons?
1. So much of doctrine of Spiritual Gifts is simply made up. How many spiritual gifts are there? When do you get them? Do they stay with you or come and go? Does God bring in new gifts and retire old gifts over history? How many spiritual gifts do each Christian get? Are they specifically necessary for a specific ministry role? How do gifts relate to offices? How are spiritual gifts different from talents?
If you have absolute confidence in the answers to any of these questions… you did not get them from the Bible. You got them from somewhere else. Yet so many are giving dogmatic answers to these things. This does not give me much confidence.
2. It is such a small part of the picture of God’s work in preparing us for ministry. Why is it emphasized? I really don’t know. Maybe it is a correction for too little emphasis in the past. Yet many of the other items listed below have never really been emphasized either. Maybe spiritual gifts seem more miraculous. Not sure they are more miraculous and not sure that miraculous should be seen as more “God-given.”
What are some of these other areas that God has given us that are to be used to serve God (be it church, home, missions, work, etc.)?
- Talents. Traditionally, talents (I am including what is sometimes called attributes) are considered to be given by God to all people in one form or another, while spiritual gifts are deemed to be given to Christians only. This may or may not be strictly correct, but it is a bit pointless. We are to use spiritual gifts to serve God, and we are to use talents to serve God. Therefore, any test that is meant to measure “spiritual gifts” while ignoring talents is extremely limited. It is okay to take a “spiritual gifts” survey (based on one of the proposed lists and definitions for these gifts), but a talents survey should immediately follow.
- Passions. God gives us passions. For me this is interests tied to temperament. It is true that some passions may be unhelpful. I remember as a teen being told that our emotions lead us astray. Certainly they can. But God gave us emotions and gave us temperament and gave us desires. These need to be taken seriously. Certainly we should get away from the mindset that serving God means doing what you don’t want to do.
- Skills. Skills are generally seen as things that we have picked up through training/education and practice. Consider this. I have relatives who are able to play the piano or guitar pretty much by ear… without formal lessons. I know others that have become proficient through hard work and practice. Suppose two individuals were equally good with the piano although they reached excellence by these two very different paths. Which one should serve God with his or her music? Which one should not? Its silly. BOTH should serve God with music. It is a flawed thinking to assume that skills (that come from circumstances) is less from God than the other.
- Resources. Resources here refers to special things that a person has that can be expended on ministry as a faithful steward. These can include monetary wealth, material goods, time, health, and so forth. Again, God gives all good things (is it safe to say bad things as well? I will leave that to you) so we must consider what resources God has given us.
- Connections. We all live in a web of relationships. For each of us, this web is unique and each web exists in both time and space. Each of these unique webs give us unique service opportunities.
- Circumstances. Just like connections, each of us have unique circumstances. Circumstances in this case apply not only to the snapshot of the present, but the whole photo album of our past. These circumstance not only give us opportunities, they in fact make us what we are. Even when our circumstances are full of mistakes and pain, they provide fuel and perspective for our role as a servant of God.
What have I missed? And what do YOU have going for you?