Spiritual gifts can either seem like something for the early Church in ages long past . . . or like something so hard to pin down, they’re more to be accepted than understood.
But after exploring which spiritual gifts are listed in the Bible (an inventory, if you will), taking steps to discover your gifts, and perhaps taking an assessment or two, you’ll be much further down the path toward serving in your strengths.
Here’s what we’ll explore today:
What are spiritual gifts?
The Lexham Bible Dictionary (available free) defines spiritual gifts as “ministries or abilities that the Holy Spirit gives to Christians for the edification of the Church.”
It continues, “Spiritual gifts should be understood as primarily events (e.g., a healing) or activities or functions (e.g., the act of teaching or role as teacher) in the Church, and only secondarily as the abilities or empowerments to perform them.”
Another short definition is from Vern Poythress’ What Are Spiritual Gifts?:
The Bible indicates in several places that God equips and empowers people for service within the Church, which is the body of Christ. Since God is the source for our abilities, these empowerments may be called “gifts” from God.
In The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, Sam Storms answers not only what spiritual gifts are—but also what they’re not:
Spiritual gifts, or the charismata, are God’s answer to the human question “Why can’t we do that?” They are the manifestation and power of God the Holy Spirit through, which he intends to lead the Church into the fullness of its ordained end. . . .
Spiritual gifts are not God bestowing to his people something external to himself. They are not some tangible “stuff” or substance separable from God. Spiritual gifts are nothing less than God himself in us, energizing our souls, imparting revelation to our minds, infusing power in our wills, and working his sovereign and gracious purposes through us.
Spiritual gifts must never be viewed deistically, as if a God “out there” has sent some “thing” to us “down here.” Spiritual gifts are God present in, with, and through human thoughts, human deeds, human words, human love.
Which Scripture passages mention spiritual gifts? (Spiritual gifts inventory)
Lexham Bible Dictionary lists these specific gifts Paul references in key passages:
In 1 Corinthians 12:8–10, 28
|Word of wisdom||Prophecy and prophets||Teachers|
|Word of knowledge||Tongues||Deeds of power|
|Faith||Interpretation of tongues||Forms of assistance|
|Healing||Apostles||Forms of leadership|
In Romans 12:6–8
- Showing mercy
In Ephesians 4:11
In Dr. Craig Blomberg’s video course on 1 Corinthians, he explains more about the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in that book:
One person may have a gift of wisdom or knowledge—two words that are very similar, but wisdom typically referred to knowledge applied in the woof and warp of life.
Some have the gift of faith. Every Christian must have faith even to be saved, but this is a special measure of faith to believe God and see him respond for things the average person doesn’t envision.
There are gifts of healings and miracles, the only place in the list where Paul changes the nouns to plurals, which may suggest different kinds of healings or miracles or may suggest different occasions for them. Another interesting difference of these two gifts from the rest of the list is they are not the kind of thing that people necessarily have as ongoing abilities or responsibilities but require the Spirit’s choice to work in a particular moment in a way that he doesn’t necessarily in every single instance.
The gift of prophecy . . . speaking a word that came from God however long a person may have meditated on it or prepared how to say it, or however spontaneous it may have been given, and the gifts of discerning, prophecy determining its origin: Is this from the Lord, is this of human manufacture, or something worse?
Tongues and Interpretation
Tongues and their interpretation—why is it last on the list? Not because Paul is necessarily making it the least of the gifts in all situations, but we will discover that it is the most problematic gift at Corinth, and so he perhaps deliberately waits and puts it at the end.
“Tongues,” a Greek word that again has a very broad semantic range and can mean everything from the literal part of one’s anatomy fit in one’s mouth to any human utterance in some linguistic configuration, known, unknown, or a collection of syllables that God uses to provide meaning to someone in a particular context.
Are there other gifts of the Spirit?
Bible scholars say yes, there are other gifts of the Spirit.
Blomberg says in the course Book Study: Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians that Paul presents “a sampling of the gifts of the Spirit.”
Storms also touches on this in The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts: “I’m inclined to believe there are potentially as many gifts as there are needs in the life of the Church and in the experience of individual Christians.”
Lexham Bible Dictionary agrees and explains that the gifts used for everyday service in the Church matter just as much as gifts recognized as miraculous:
Paul doesn’t suggest that the various gifts in these passages encompass all of the possible gifts given by the Spirit. Furthermore, it seems that Paul doesn’t categorically differentiate between the miraculous, transcendent, or spontaneous gifts with those that are more mundane, indicative of a regular function performed in the Church, or that overlap with latent talents possessed by members of the Church.
How do these gifts of the Spirit work?
Blomberg says that “Every person, every Christian believer, has at least one spiritual gift, and they’re not designed for personal use; they’re not designed for the benefit of the secular world but for the common good, which, as we will see, Paul specifies even more particularly later on as the upbuilding of the church.”
So these gifts work through each Christian as believers serve their church body.
Some people may have more than one gift (1 Cor 14:13, 18).
And some gifts overlap with others: “for example, the gift of apostle probably encapsulates the gifts of teaching and leadership.”
Regardless of which gift(s) each person has, they all come from just one source—the Spirit (1 Cor 12:4–6). And the Spirit empowers each person to use their gifts.
Spiritual gifts assessments
Want to discover your spiritual gift? An assessment can help . . . but it’s not where you start.
First, take a look at whether you meet these prerequisites, outlined by C. Peter Wagner in Discover Your Spiritual Gifts:
1. You have to be a Christian.
2. You have to believe in spiritual gifts.
3. You have to be willing to work.
4. You have to pray.
Before you continue, you might want a little more clarification on prerequisite three.
Here it is, from Wagner:
God has given you one or more spiritual gifts for a reason: He has a ministry assignment that he wants you to accomplish in the body of Christ, a specific job for which he has personally equipped you. God knows whether you are serious about working for him. If he sees that you just want to discover your gift for the fun of it or because everybody else is doing it or because it gives you some new status, you cannot expect him to help you very much. If, however, you promise to use your spiritual gift, whatever it may be, for the glory of God and for the welfare of the body of Christ, he will definitely help you.
Next, you can take these five steps Wagner recommends for finding your gifts:
1. Explore the possibilities through studying the Bible, reading, finding out your church’s position on gifts, getting to know gifted people, and talking about gifts with others.
2. Experiment with as many gifts as you can, starting by looking for needs.
3. Examine your feelings.
4. Evaluate your effectiveness.
5. Expect confirmation from the body.
Finally, to help nudge you in the right direction, you might take a spiritual gifts assessment.
Here are a few online assessment options:
You’ll also find a complete assessment in Discover Your Gifts. As you might expect from Wagner’s steps to finding your spiritual gifts above, he asks readers not to rely too heavily on the assessment—to see results as a starting point for prayer and meditation.
A final thought about searching for your spiritual gifts
As you reflect on what your gifting might be, consider this advice from Storms in The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts:
If we spend less time searching to identify our spiritual gift(s) and more time actually praying and giving and helping and teaching and serving and exhorting those around us, the likelihood greatly increases that we will walk headlong into our gifting without ever knowing what happened. God will more likely meet us with His gifts in the midst of trying to help His children than He ever would while we’re taking a spiritual gifts analysis test. . . . So, look for a need and meet it. Find a hurt and heal it. Be alert to the cry for help and answer it. Listen for the voice of God and speak it. Identify someone’s weakness and overcome it. Look for what’s missing and supply it. When you do, the power of God—the energizing, enabling, charismatic activity of the Holy Spirit—will equip you, perhaps only once, but possibly forever, to minister hope and encouragement to those in need. So, if you’re still wondering what your gift(s) might be, act first and ask later.
Helping church members use their gifts
If you’re a church leader, you may be wondering how you can help your members use their gifts.
Here are a few ways:
1. Teach about spiritual gifts and how they can be applied today. You could even invite your church to read a related book together.
2. Do a sermon series on spiritual gifts and ask members to share their gifts with you as they discern them.
3. Ask members to take a spiritual gifts assessment and share their results with you. (Of course, assessments aren’t always spot-on, but they still give you somewhere to start.)
4. Keep record of your members’ gifting in church management software, like Servant Keeper. (With Servant Keeper, you can easily track not only spiritual gifts but also skill sets, areas where people are willing to serve, and their level of experience in those areas. Read more about what you can do with Servant Keeper below.)
5. Identify which types of service equate with which types of gifting. For example, the gift of teaching would be excellent for small group leadership.
6. Ask for volunteers according to their gifting. Your church management software may be able to help you do this quickly and easily.
7. Take note of ways people are already serving the body, and help them to identify their own gifting.
8. Equip your disciplers and mentors to identify giftings and encourage those they’re in relationship with to exercise their gifting.
How Servant Keeper can help
The steps above are quick to read, but actually doing them could take more time than it needs to. Here are a couple of ways you can complete them quickly with Servant Keeper—powerful, easy-to-use church management software to help with volunteer management, attendance tracking, and much more.
1. Quickly pull groups in Servant Keeper based on the particular gifting you’re looking for. Then with just a few clicks, send a personalized email or text, or create a personalized letter asking each member of that group to help.
2. When you notice someone’s gifting (say they consistently exhibit exhortation at prayer meetings), you can make a note inside Servant Keeper. Plus, you can share that note with other church leaders—for example, “Keep seeing examples of Kim’s gift of leadership. Let’s discuss her possibly taking over XYZ ministry at the next elders’ meeting.”
3. You can track relationships in your ministry like discipler/disciple and mentor/mentee. From there, you can give your mentors and disciplers resources (books, gift assessments, one-on-one studies, etc.) to assist them in helping those they’re mentoring to exercise their gifting.
Servant Keeper starts at less than $10/month. Find out more today!