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Spiritual Gifts

“Not only do spiritual gifts grow the Church and provide evidence for Christian fellowship, but they also provide encouragement and unity within the Church.” By Katie Laidlaw
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If you are like me, you absolutely love receiving gifts. It’s not about materialism, or simply receiving, but rather about the thought and care conveyed through gift-giving. Whether it’s a random cup of coffee on a hard day, or the longstanding item on my Amazon wish list, gifts bring me great excitement. 

A few years ago, after starting graduate school, I found myself extremely busy; I could not find time to exercise due to the extreme demands of full-time ministry and full-time graduate school. That Christmas, my best friend decided she was going to find a way to gift me a treadmill to keep in my small apartment for easy access. I could not wait to receive this perfect gift—I was ecstatic! But then, when I received this gift, not only was the treadmill toddler-sized, it was missing the very piece that was supposed to give it power. 

“Every good and perfect gift…” (James 1:17). Every believer, or Christ-follower, has been given gifts to grow God’s kingdom—gifts to serve as a testimony of God’s love and faithfulness to His people. The church describes these gifts as “spiritual gifts.” Not only do spiritual gifts grow the Church and provide evidence for Christian fellowship, but they also provide encouragement and unity within the Church. The Church thrives most when its members are unified through diversity. Unity and diversity should serve as a balancing act within the Church—both are necessary. Not only did God gift us with individuality and uniqueness, He also gifted us with the need to embrace and celebrate others. Despite different gifts, talents, race, social status, gender, family or wealth, we are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28). We can find maturity and peace within our faith by celebrating the unified diversity of the Church. We desperately need each other.

“Not only do spiritual gifts grow the Church and provide evidence for Christian fellowship, but they also provide encouragement and unity within the Church.”

Types of Spiritual Gifts In the Bible

There are passages focusing on spiritual gifts located in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. In each passage, the lists differ depending on the writer’s context. If one were to combine the various lists of gifts, they could find about 17-21 different spiritual gifts beneficial to the Church. Due to the differing responsibilities and purposes of each gifting, spiritual gifts are often sorted into categories, and each type of gift is broken down into sub-categories. 

  1. Motivational gifts: gifts that motivate the believer to relate with others in order to create a deeper Kingdom impact.
  2. Ministry gifts: gifts that provide the resources and guides to build the Church through equipping individuals with practical faith tools and knowledge.
  3. Supernatural gifts: supernatural demonstrations of God’s power given for the benefit of others while portraying the glory of God.

The Breakdown

1. Motivational Gifts

Service: believers who are in-tune with the needs of others, therefore motivating them to accomplish tasks or providing help to others.

Encouragement/Exhortation: believers who feel led to offer truth through uplifting kindness, admonition or authoritative warning.

Giving: believers who serve the Church through gifting their time, money, material possessions, talents, creativity, etc. 

Administration: believers who focus on organization, precision, diligence and leadership in ministry. 

Mercy: believers who possesse a deep tenderheartedness for others shown through kindness, simple forgiveness, and understanding of the circumstances and emotions of others. 

2. Ministry Gifts

Teaching/Preaching: God’s people are motivated (often in the practice of another spiritual gift, such as mercy, prophecy or service) to provide education on specific subjects related to the believer’s motivation. 

Evangelism: believers who are empowered with boldness to proclaim the gospel through various methods with authority, despite location, audience or circumstance.

Prophecy: believers who are empowered to speak out against evil, untruths, injustice, with a motivation to confront heresy, false conclusions and hypocrisy, especially when it affects the body of Christ.

Discernment: believers who are able to determine and distinguish the presence and influence of evil with the ability to recognize the spiritual and moral status of individuals, groups or gatherings. 

3. Supernatural Gifts

Miracles: supernatural gifts including healing, deliverance, prophecy (dreams, images, visions) given to believers to show the power and glory of God through the empowerment of believers to carry out the work of Christ. 

The Role of The Holy Spirit

Remember my treadmill? While the gift itself was exciting and potentially useful, it was worth nothing without the missing piece that was supposed to give it power. Without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, our spiritual gifts are useless. We were given the Holy Spirit as a power source to motivate the accomplishment of God’s will (Acts 1:8). We cannot work on our own. Self-reliance within ministry is not God-ordained. The Holy Spirit plays several roles within the pilgrimage of our faith. The Holy Spirit speaks, intercedes, heals, comforts, encourages, leads, convicts, challenges—ultimately drawing us nearer to the very heart of God.

Oftentimes, we are given gifts that do not make sense to us or might even terrify us! With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can begin to embrace our gifts and see them develop according to God’s will for our lives. God never gives a gift without a plan to see it utilized in our lives for His glory. 

The Apostle Paul, author of several New Testament texts (including all three passages about spiritual gifts), describes the image of a physical body in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. When the Church celebrates unity and diversity in the practice of utilizing spiritual gifts, the body proves healthy and functional. However, if just one part of the body strives to function on its own strength and will, the whole body suffers (1 Corinthians 12:26). 

Just because we can do everything, does not mean we should. Even the most gifted individuals require the support and fellowship of the body of Christ. Honor your brothers and sisters in Christ through the recognition of their gifts that allow them to serve. A thriving church does not solely rely on its pastors, but wholly engages a wide variety of its members. 

“Without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, our spiritual gifts are useless.”

What Now?

If you have not already, take a spiritual gifts inventory assessment. This will help identify your spiritual gifts, and also provide information about your specific giftset. Take time and space to hear the Lord. Spend time in His presence through prayer, study and worship each day to understand your results.

Actively search for an avenue to practice your spiritual gifts. If you are unsure about how to approach this, speak with your corps officer/pastor/youth pastor—I am sure they would love to help! Find others who possess the same gifts as you (in addition to those different than you) in order to share and encourage while fostering a relationship of accountability.

Do not let your gifts be wasted! Do not rely on your own strength. Embrace the power of the Spirit with full submission to joyful service in the name of Jesus.

For Further Study

Books

  • Ministering Through Spiritual Gifts by Charles F. Stanley 
  • Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer
  • The Holy Spirit by Billy Graham

Podcast

  • Emotionally Healthy Leader Podcast with Pete Scazzero: What Will You Do With the Treasure of Your Life? 

Learn More

  • Spiritual Gifts Survey
  • Spiritual Gifts List and Definitions
  • 5 Steps to Discovering and Developing Your Spiritual Gifts

Scripture

  • Romans 12:3-8
  • 2 Corinthians 3:1-18
  • 1 Corinthians 12:1-31
  • Ephesians 4:11-16
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Katie currently serves as the Youth Ministries Director at The Salvation Army Norridge Citadel Corps in Illinois. With her Master of Arts in intercultural studies/ missiology from Wheaton College, Katie’s greatest passion is helping individuals encounter the truth of Christ. When not learning and researching, Katie appreciates fluent sarcasm and watching re-runs of her favorite shows.

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