Spiritual Giftedness Is Not an Excuse

Benevolence, Christian Education, clerical, communications, counseling, discernment, hospitality, outreach, prayer, service-oriented ministries, shepherding, speaking, staffing, staff-support, teaching, visionary leadership ministries, worship — 17 different ministry areas listed at: Ministries to Serve in Using Your Spiritual Gifts — And, within those areas, many different tasks need to be accomplished.

God Empowers Believers with Spiritual Gifts to Accomplish Different Kinds of Ministry

MAX Pak Spiritual Gifts Curriculum
Click image for curriculum and resources to help everybody do their part.

God has provided different spiritual gifts so all of these varying kinds of ministries can be accomplished effectively through His power. We each have a part to do, using our gifts.

Some then pose the question of whether that exempts them from ministry for which they aren’t gifted. Is spiritual giftedness an excuse for not being benevolent or hospitable, for not witnessing, etc.?

Spiritual Giftedness Is Not an Excuse for Exemption from Different Ministries

If we make a list of all the gifts found in the key passages on spiritual gifts (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4; 1 Peter 4), with the exception of tongues and interpretation of tongues, we can find counterpart commands for all believers to participate in activity similar to what would be accomplished through those different gifts. People with the corresponding gift, however, will usually be more effective, devote more time and energy, and see greater results in a given area than those without the gift. Yet, to an extent, as God gives opportunity, we are all to evangelize, teach, serve, show mercy, etc.

Consider evangelism as an example. Believers with the spiritual gift of evangelism will look for opportunities to tell others about Jesus. Their main ambition and priority in ministry will be evangelizing. Likewise, the primary focus of Christians with other spiritual giftedness will be on ministry using their gifts. Yet, because we’re all commanded to be His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:18-20 and witness (Acts 1:8; Matt.28:19-20), we still “make the most of every opportunity” (Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5) to share the Gospel with others. Spiritual giftedness isn’t an excuse to disobey God’s commands about evangelism.

So, yes, do look for ministries that provide the best fit according to your giftedness. Focus your time and energy there, relying on God’s power to work through you for His glory. But, also stay open to God’s leading to step outside of your gifting and do your part to meet needs. Trust His Spirit to guide and enable you in the moment rather than using your spiritual giftedness as an excuse for failing to follow His prompting.


How Many Spiritual Gifts Are There?

How Many Spiritual Gifts Listed in Bible

People frequently want to know how many gifts there are when learning about spiritual gifts. After researching it, they still may not be sure because different Bible scholars list varying numbers. Why?

How many spiritual gifts listed depends on the criteria being used.

1) Many look at the key passages on spiritual gifts (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4) and limit the gifts to the ones listed therein — 20 gifts. Go to: List of Spiritual Gifts

However, you’ll find discrepancy even within that listing. Some people say the gifts of administration (1 Cor. 12:28) and leadership (Rom. 12:8) are the same gift. And, some claim service (Rom. 12:7) and helps (1 Cor. 12:28) are the same gift. That would then change the total number of gifts.

Consider this: If you look at the original Greek words used for the gifts listed in the key passages, each has distinct meanings. Why would different words be used if God didn’t intend for them to be unique gifts?

2) Some people add in craftsmanship and music because of the skilled people God brought in to help with the Old Testament tabernacle. Exodus 31 says God filled Bezalel “with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts …” From passages similar to that one, people have concluded that craftsmanship and music are spiritual gifts. Others stick with the gifts listed in the New Testament.

Consider this: We do not find actual references to spiritual gifts in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit is not said to indwell people during that time like He does believers today. Yes, the Holy Spirit distributes spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:7-11) but just because the Spirit came upon the workers on the tabernacle doesn’t mean their skill should be considered a spiritual gift such as God gives to the Church today. Is it possible that those using craftsmanship to God’s glory are actually exercising the gift of service? Is it possible music is a vehicle for exercising the gift of exhortation?

3) Others will include intercession as a spiritual gift. One person who labels intercession as a spiritual gift does so because he can’t imagine it wouldn’t be since prayer is so important.

Consider this: God’s Word never identifies intercession as a spiritual gift. Could it be that prayer is a vehicle through which those with the gifts of faith, healing, or miracles operate?

4) And, some people add the possibility of a few other gifts — celibacy, hospitality, martyrdom, missionary, voluntary poverty — because the Greek word for spiritual gifts, charisma, can be found within the context of passages pertaining to them.

Consider this: Though not found in the primary passages about spiritual gifting, could the context of passages where these possible gifts are found open the door to them being gifts? Or, could it be that the word charisma appears in those passages for other reasons?

The exact number of spiritual gifts may not be known.

We must be careful about getting dogmatic on the number of gifts. God leaves it a little open-ended. If you look at the list of gifts in the three main passages, no list is the same. There is some overlap but each list has some gifts not listed in the others. No one list is comprehensive. Since no one passage is complete in itself, could it suggest that there are other gifts as well?

Rather than get consumed with the exact number of gifts, let’s make sure that whatever we do, whether using a spiritual gift or natural talent, that we do it through the strength and wisdom God provides and for His glory.


Why Learn about Spiritual Gifts?

Learn about Spiritual Gifts in the Bible

God stresses the importance of spiritual gifts as evidenced by the amount of space given to this topic in the New Testament. If something matters to God, shouldn’t it also be important to us? If that doesn’t convince you of why you should learn about spiritual gifting, there are some other reasons.

3 Good Reasons to Learn About Spiritual Gifts

  1. Spiritual gifts are part of God’s design for the growth of the church.

God designed the church to grow as everybody does their part according to Ephesians 4:16. Click below to read more about this verse:

  1. Spiritual gifts are God’s power source for us to do ministry.

When we use the gifts we have been given, God is at work (1 Cor. 12:6). “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. …” (1 Pet. 4:10-11) Click below to read about God’s power needed to effectively serve.

  1. Spiritual gifts have pragmatic value.

Needs are met when we serve one another through the use of our spiritual gifts. Effective ministry therefore demands that we understand and use our gifts. Click below to read more about the practical side of everybody doing their part in this way.

Check Out: Resources to Learn about Spiritual Gifts


Understand the Spiritual Gifting of Your Pastor

A previous post, What Do You Think About Your Pastor?, presented the reality that not everyone appreciates their pastor. Here we want to step back and look at how our expectations of what a pastor should be like affects our opinions. Face it, we all come to church with preconceived ideas of what a pastor should do.

The very title, pastor, engenders some expectations. Maybe we think they should be doing what someone with the spiritual gift of pastor would do. But, as noted in Shepherding Ministry Venue: Pastors, not everyone in the position of pastor has the spiritual gift of pastor which could conflict with our expectations. Or maybe we do have someone with the spiritual gift of pastor but we think the person in this role should be visionary or administrative, maybe more concerned about the unsaved, or perhaps a better preacher.

How People with the Spiritual Gift of Pastor Serve in the Position of “Pastor”

Those with the spiritual gift of pastor are the “pastors” who get involved in the individual lives of the flock — meeting needs, caring for them, protecting, guiding, and feeding them — the full-orbed work of a shepherd.

For more:

How People with Other Spiritual Gifts Might Serve in the Position of “Pastor”

Some in the position of “pastor” have the gift of leadership.

They are the “pastors” on the cutting edge who are constantly developing new means of ministry. More than tending to the daily and routine needs of the sheep, they are mapping out ways to take the sheep to greener pastures.

Some in the position of “pastor” have the gift of evangelism.

They are the “pastors” who are very seeker-oriented. More than building up believers they are into rescuing lost sheep.

Some in the position of “pastor” have the gift of administration.

They are the “pastors” who tend to emphasize smooth running programs and schedules. More than relating to the sheep, they tend to look after the pasture itself, the water, and the fence to make sure everything is in good condition for the proper care of the sheep.

Some in the position of “pastor” have the gift of teaching or prophecy.

They are the “pastors” who concentrate on good preaching. More than caring for the sheep’s total well-being, they focus on feeding.

(The above points are included in the Shepherding Ministry Manual where it looks at pastoring as a shepherding ministry venue.)

Adjust Expectations by Understanding the Spiritual Gifting of Your Pastor

When “pastors” have the spiritual gift of pastor, don’t expect them to have time to fully attend to the big picture vision and/or administrative duties of the Church. They’re very busy tending to the nitty-gritties of people’s lives. Their focus is on the sheep themselves not so much smooth running programs, being on the cutting edge, etc.

When “pastors” have gifts other than the gift of pastor, don’t expect them to spend as much time visiting and counseling individual members. They may care about the sheep but their gifting takes their primary focus elsewhere.

You might also be interested in reading: The solution for churches whose “pastor” is not truly a pastor by gifting

Faithful Stewards of God’s Grace

Faithful Stewards of God's Grace Using Spiritual Gifts

The best book on spiritual gifts? God’s Word!

Just one verse alone can teach us so much as we saw in the previous posts looking at 1 Peter 4:10.

From that verse we learn what spiritual gifts are (expressions of God’s grace in its various forms), who has been given spiritual gifts (each one of us), how important it is to use it to serve others (each should serve using “whatever gift”), and how gifts should be used (faithfully). In this post we want to focus in on being “faithful stewards of God’s grace.”

Being Faithful as Stewards of God’s Grace

Using spiritual gifts expresses God’s grace, in its various forms. Serving others, therefore, isn’t merely about what we do, and it isn’t even just about helping others, but rather most importantly about showcasing God! Regardless of what our gift may be, whether we are upfront teaching or leading, or behind the scenes helping, we demonstrate God’s grace. Each expression of His grace contributes to a more complete understanding of who God is.

When we understand how using our spiritual gifts takes us beyond merely accomplishing some kind of task, to helping people better understand and know God, we should all the more want to serve. And, we should want to serve faithfully so we consistently and accurately represent Him. Grace elevates serving.

Stewards of and because of God’s Grace

Not only are we to be faithful stewards “of” God’s grace but also “because of” God’s grace. Spiritual gifts are given on the basis of grace not because of who we are or what we have done. As recipients of His grace, we have been given an entrustment which substantiates our role as stewards and gives us all the greater reason to be faithful. Stewards take care of that which isn’t their own, and so we have a sense of accountability as managers of His grace toward one another.

When we understand how we have been entrusted with God’s grace through the spiritual gifts we’ve been given, we should all the more want to serve faithfully. We got something we don’t deserve, making it a privilege not merely a duty for us to serve. Grace increases motivation and passion for serving.

Significance Because of God’s Grace

Sometimes in serving we compare ourselves to others and feel either insignificant as though our gift doesn’t matter or proud as though what we do is more important than others.

Significance in Ministry Due to God's Grace

1 Peter 4:10 teaches that spiritual gifts are expressions of God’s grace. We also find in Scripture that God gives spiritual gifts on the basis of grace. Consequently, we have significance in ministry because of God’s grace, not the spiritual gift.

1 Peter 4:10 also teaches that we use our gift(s) to serve others, not to elevate ourselves. Understanding spiritual gifting in terms of grace enables us to serve without need for applause. Our main concern becomes that others experience God’s grace in its various forms which means our individual parts are significant.

Significant Enough for God to Command Us to Use Our Spiritual Gifts

Using our gift, whatever it might be, isn’t an option. The NIV doesn’t do justice to the original language in wording it as “you should use whatever gift.” God isn’t saying it’s something we ought to do but rather that we should definitely do it. What God commands must be important. And, He will hold us accountable for using our gift to serve others as seen in in the qualification that we use our gift “as faithful stewards” — the topic of the next post.

Significance Because You are Needed

There’s a practical side to God commanding us to use our gift which makes each one of our contributions significant. As previously noted, each person, doing their part using their spiritual gift(s), adds in to a more complete understanding of God’s grace. We need each other, no matter what our gift may be. We find this concept in God’s analogy of the Church to the human body. He says, “As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!'” (1 Cor. 12:20-21)

Significance Based on God’s Grace Means No Comparing or Competing

Because of God’s grace we don’t have to compare or compete with others in ministry. They have been given spiritual gifts to serve based on God’s grace and so have you. Whether a leader or a secretary, whether a teacher or a teacher’s helper, whether a youth pastor or a nursery worker, whether paid staff or a lay person, everyone’s contribution matters.

You might find the following articles helpful if you struggle with significance in ministry: