We hear a lot about “serving” our church. But what does that actually mean? When I say “serve your church,” my intention is not to tell you about all the programs and ministries our church offers, and where there might be an opening for you to get plugged in. You may very well be the most “active” person in the church, performing the greatest number of tasks than any other person, while using your spiritual gift the least. And as such, you are not serving your church well.
The hypothetical is unlikely, but certainly a possibility. We would therefore do well to ask ourselves, “Is this ministry distracting me from using my spiritual gift, or is it providing me with an opportunity to use it?” Only when all the members understand the nature of their gifts and how they fit in to the corporate body will we truly see how the Lord can bless our church. That to say, this is an important issue for the health of our church – or any church. Of course, if you want to know how to serve our church by using your spiritual gifts, you’ll need to know what those gifts are – that’s the nature of this post. It answers the question, “what are spiritual gifts,” so you can ask the question, “what is my spiritual gift,” so you can ask the question, “How can I utilize my spiritual gifts at my church?”
Now, we need to recognize that there has been a lot of confusion about the nature of spiritual gifts. A LOT of confusion, so let me clear a few of them up.
- Spiritual gifts are not for your benefit.
It may seem obvious, maybe even redundant for me to point out, but spiritual gifts aren’t for your benefit. Every believer has them, but the intention is that these gifts serve the body of Christ. In other words, they are for the body of Christ (the church) – to build it up. They are not for your personal edification, but for the edification of the church. That is not to say you won’t benefit from using them. You certainly will, but your benefit is not the objective – and if it’s become your objective, then my guess is that you’re not serving the body, but your body. It comes with thoughts like, “What am I gonna get out of this?” or, “How will this take away from what I want to do?” For others, this attitude might be better reflected by the way you answer this question, “Why am I doing this?” If it’s because it makes you feel good, or because it makes you feel important, then I’d say it sounds like you’re using your spiritual gift to serve your body. Again, this isn’t to say there won’t be personal benefit. There will be. Not only do you store up for yourselves treasures in heaven as you use your spiritual gifts, but you also nurture a deeper love for the church, resulting in greater joy as you serve. Not only that, but you’ll also increase in spiritual maturity as you use your gifts. Case in point – my primary spiritual gift is that of preaching and teaching. Do I gain a personal benefit from using my spiritual gift? Certainly! I count myself doubly blessed! There is great joy in studying God’s Word and I am regularly refreshed by it as I prepare for each Sunday’s message. But that’s not why I study. I study for the benefit of the flock. Any gift used for your personal benefit rather than the benefit of the body prostitutes and perverts that gift. We are given gifts to serve others.
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving on another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Pet. 4:10).
- Spiritual gifts are not talents.
This may be one of the more misunderstood elements regarding spiritual gifts, if not the most misunderstood. We hear it often. “I have the gift of music.” “I have the gift of singing.” “I have the gift of media,” and the list goes on but you get the idea. A spiritual gift is something that’s supernatural – you wouldn’t otherwise have it except that it was given to you by the Holy Spirit – hence why we call them “spiritual” gifts. They are also imparted solely by God’s grace – hence why we call them “gifts.” These two statements are further strengthened by the two words used in the New Testament for spiritual gifts. First, there’s pneumatikos which means “spiritual,” and has its root meaning from the word pneuma meaning “spirit.” This is how Paul uses the word in 1 Corinthians 12, “Now concerning spiritual (pneumatikos) gifts.” He then goes on to say, “Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit (pneuma),” and “the same Spirit (pneuma) works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (vs. 4, 11). Secondly, there’s charisma. This isn’t talking about that certain je ne sais quoi that certain people carry themselves with. It means “gift,” coming from the root charis, meaning “grace.” That being said, we should understand spiritual gifts as just that – spiritually bestowed gifts of grace for the specific purpose of serving the body of Christ. Where a talent is something you’ve been born with, a spiritual gift is something you were supernaturally given by the Holy Spirit upon your conversion. There might be overlap in their use, but they are distinct nevertheless. That means while you might be using a talent in your church, that does not necessarily mean you are using your spiritual gift(s) in your church. In fact, your talent might even be distracting you from appropriately using your spiritual gift.
Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly (Rom. 12:6a).
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing e? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body ,just as He desired… Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it (1 Cor. 12:14-18, 27).
Now, there are two categories of spiritual gifts in that exist in the church today – gifts related to teaching, and gifts related to serving. 1 Peter 4:11 says, “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Of course, the question at hand is obvious. Are you serving the body of Christ, utilizing the gifts you have been given by the grace of God to serve your church?