There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:4)
Natural talents are gifts that are born with us. They include such things as artistic, musical and mathematical talents, or talents for public speaking, dancing, construction, or athletics. Skills such as these will always come more naturally to those who are talented, though they are possible for people who lack inborn talent in a certain area to develop some basic skills in that area.
Spiritual gifts are sets of supernatural skills that God gives Christians for the sake of witnessing in the world, and strengthening each other and the church as the Body of Christ. Natural talents are not spiritual gifts, although God often integrates the two. An exciting part of being a Christian is discovering and using your spiritual gifts.
Below are several principles and resource lists concerning spiritual gifts. I am indebted to Charles V. Bryant and John I. Penn in their book and related workbook, Rediscovering Our Spiritual Gifts.
- God-given. Although we may want and pray for certain gifts — Paul certainly thinks we should – we can’t demand them. Every gift is chosen and tailored by God to the individual.
- Universal. All Christians are given spiritual gifts. Sometimes people don’t know their gifts, but that may be because their gift feels so natural to them they don’t recognize it for what it is!
- Service. Gifts are used to serve God in the church and to help the church reach out to the unsaved.
- Church health. As both ministers and lay personal use their gifts, the church is reborn into health and spiritual power.
- Variety. There are many gifts, more than the ones listed in the Bible. God designs and combines gifts for each individual Christian’s talents, purpose, and values.
What the Spiritual Gifts Are Not
- Not acquired skills or natural talents. Spiritual gifts are only granted by God to believers, and then only in response to specific situations and needs in the church. For example, although a woman may be a talented lecturer she doesn’t necessarily have the spiritual gift of teaching.
- Spiritual gifts are not roles. Every Christian has certain roles to fulfill simply by being a Christian: witnessing, pastoring, hospitality, giving. However, when these roles are unusually blessed by God they may be spiritual gifts as well.
- Spiritual gifts are not offices. Just because a person is an ordained pastor doesn’t mean that she has the spiritual gift of pastoring! That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to be a pastor without the gift of pastoring, since a pastor may have strong gifts of administration or leadership. But it does mean that the church should not automatically turn over all its spiritual leadership and responsibilities to ordained leaders.
Spiritual gifts are not the fruit of the spirit. The fruits of the Holy Spirit include, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Gal. 5:22.23) The fruit of the Spirit is what we are. The gifts of the Spirit are what we do.
- Spiritual gifts are not for personal gain. Spiritual gifts can provide great personal fulfillment, but they can be destructive if they’re used to gain praise and recognition. This is a special danger with the more upfront gifts such as preaching, teaching and prophecy. None of us are perfect and we will never have perfect motives, but Christians practicing these gifts must reply on God’s grace.
Spiritual gifts are not the same for everyone. We may pray for all the gifts, but it’s unlikely that we’ll get them all. The idea of the gifts is to work together with other gifted individuals in the church, each one contributing to the Body of Christ.
What the Spiritual Gifts Are
- Spiritual gifts are job descriptions for ministry. With the spiritual gifts working together, whole congregations become orchestras full of individual musicians and instruments with God as the conductor.
- Spiritual gifts help you discover God’s will for your life. Once you identify your spiritual gifts, you’ll know better how to happily serve in the kingdom of God. This results in greater fulfillment and growing knowledge about the leading of God in other areas of your life.
- Spiritual gifts help provide effective and efficient service. The gifts result in effective service when all church members are using their gifts together in the church, working interdependently like a healthy body or a skilled orchestra. The gifts result in efficient service when they’re used in the right place at the right time.
- Spiritual gifts result in healing and growth. Using your spiritual gifts has great healing properties for all aspects of your life and the life of the church. As its members grow healthy by using their spiritual gifts, so does the Body of Christ.
- Spiritual gifts reveal the presence of Christ. The presence of Christ grows and strengthens in a body of believers as individuals come together to practice their God-given gifts.
- Ask God for guidance in recognizing your spiritual gifts. Read through the below lists as they appear in the Bible, and check the ones you think you may have and the gifts you would like to pray for.
Administration (1 Cor. 12:38)
Building and maintaining the church’s structure to encourage vital ministries. From the Greek work kubernesis, it refers to a ship’s pilot guiding the ship expertly along its course. You can also think of it as divinely-inspired project management.
Apostle (Eph. 4:11)
A church leader, teacher and evangelizer, planting and building up multiple churches. The difference between an apostle and an evangelizer is that the apostle is planting churches in addition to bringing individuals to Christ.
Creativity and the Arts (Ex. 35:30-35)
Visual and dramatic arts, writing, music, and related gifts. All of us are born creative, but some people are extraordinarily gifted by God to use their creativity in the church.
Discernment (1 Cor. 12:10)
Sensing the nature of a spiritual teaching, theology, doctrine or plan, understanding whether it’s from God, human or even demonic forces. Discerners help the church hear the “still, small voice of God.”
Evangelism (Eph. 4:11)
Bringing the message of God’s love and mercy, of Christ crucified and resurrected. Some evangelists work in public such as Billy Graham, but many gifted evangelists work quietly within their own families, workplaces and communities to share the good news of Christ.
Exhortation (Rom. 12:8)
Encouraging and uplifting others. Like other subtle gifts such as service and mercy, some gifted exhorters don’t realize they’re using a spiritual gift at all since encouragement comes so naturally to them. But they certainly are, and it is a great gift to others in a critical and competitive world.
Exorcism (Luke 9:1)
Locating and casting out demons and spiritual forces. Some Christians exercise this gift on a steady basis, particularly on the mission field in third world countries. Many more Christians may experience the gift only once or twice in their lives in response to a particular situation. It’s not a pleasant experience, but it is incredible to witness the unmasked, shining power of God in the face of cowering evil.
Faith (1 Cor. 12:9)
Supernaturally strong faith response to specific situations. All Christians are called to have faith, but faith as a spiritual gift is given in response to specific situations of great need. These may include a deep need for healing, support during sorrow and crisis, and spiritual warfare.
Giving (Rom. 12:8)
Special delight in giving generously of time, money, and talents. All Christians are called to give in all these ways, but those with the spiritual gift of giving are gifted stewards of the resources of the Kingdom.
Healing (1 Cor. 12:9)
The ability to heal the body, mind and heart through the leading of the Holy Spirit. The plural form, “healings,” is the meaning of the Greek work iamaton: not only physical healing, but spiritual, emotional, and intellectual healing as well.
Hospitality (Rom. 2:13)
Welcoming friends and strangers to one’s home and to the church. People with the gift of hospitality have an air of welcome and inclusiveness about them that make others feel instantly comfortable.
Intercessory Prayer (Heb. 7:25)
Very effective regular intercession. All Christians are called to hold each other up in prayer to God. But those with this gift are fervent and persistent, and keep bringing the matter before the Lord until it’s resolved in some way.
Interpretation (1 Cor. 12:10)
Interpreting a message spoken in tongues. When the gift of tongues is used publicly, the person with the gift of interpretation shares its meaning with listeners.
Knowledge (1 Cor. 12:8)
Intuitive understanding of the gnosis, universal truths relating to God, His will and to His church. Those gifted with knowledge can communicate it to others, making it come alive to their listeners.
Leadership (Rom. 12:8)
One who leads, guides, or directs. A true Christian leader is able to motivate others and to help them develop their own gifts. People with the spiritual gift of leadership often have the gift of faith as well.
Martyrdom (1 Cor. 13:3)
Losing one’s life, reputation, relationships, or livelihood for Christ, as Christians in the east can attest. Martyrdom can also take the form of voluntary self-denial including long periods of prayer, fasting, and denying certain physical pleasures for spiritual gain. Like leaders, martyrs often have the gift of faith as well.
Mercies (Mt. 5:7)
Highly compassionate, reflecting the love of Christ for the suffering. Christians with the gift of mercy can communicate divine love to those who desperately need it. Many people with this gift also have the gift of intercessory prayer.
Miracles (1 Cor. 12:30)
Miraculous events breaking through into the world through gifted individuals. Often people with the gift of miracles do not know when their gift will operate, but they stay open to the leading of God. It is important for people with this gift to separate the gift of faith, which they probably also have, from human expectations. (Sometimes God chooses to work through miracles. Sometimes He does not.)
Missionary (Mt. 28:19)
The ability to go outside of one’s own culture and to love and adapt to a different culture for Jesus’ sake. The person with the missionary gift radiates the love of Christ in the culture to which they are called.
Pastor (Eph. 4:11)
Reflecting Jesus as the Good Shepherd, caring for and nurturing the church. The person with the gift of pastoring may or may not be ordained, since pastors not only operate as ministers and priests but also work in small groups and Christian organizations. Pastoral elders see to the multiple spiritual needs of the congregation or group, including maintaining community, bringing peace, and encouraging the discovery and use of spiritual gifts.
Prophecy (Rom. 12:6)
An extraordinary ability to instruct and guide in spiritual and moral matters. The person with the gift of prophecy acts as a mouthpiece for the Holy Spirit, saying to others what God is clearly commanding him or her to say. Sometimes prophecy includes foretelling.
Singleness (1 Cor. 7:32-33)
The gift of remaining single in order to devote extra time to ministry. People with this gift specifically use their extra time and energy for ministry and would rather be single and celibate than married. Sometimes God grants this gift for a time and a season, and withdraws it as He brings a partner into a person’s life.
Service (1 Cor. 12:28)
Gladly investing time, money, and energy in service to the church and its ministries, providing an environment where other gifts can flourish. This ability is a very important one for the life of the church.
Teaching (Rom. 12:7)
The ability to deeply study and understand the Bible and make it come alive to other Christians. Many churches with education programs ask members to teach based on their expertise or speaking ability, but neither of these skills guarantees the spiritual gift of teaching.
Tongues (1 Cor. 12:10)
Prayer-praise language, also the ability to witness in foreign languages that one does not know. The book of Acts seems to point to both manifestations. When tongues are used aloud in public, the gift should be combined with the gift of interpretation.
A radical gift that allows Christians to live an extremely simple lifestyle to illustrate the self-emptying of Christ, to identify with the world’s poor, and to reject the evil of materialism. This gift is often combined with the gift of mission.
Wisdom (1 Cor. 12:8)
A practical application of God-given knowledge to concrete situations. The Christian with this gift knows how to help suffering or divided people and situations with practical solutions modeled on the word and will of God.