I don’t like spiritual gifts. Perhaps I should say I don’t like “spiritual” gifts where “spiritual” is limited to certain kinds of gifts that God gives us to use in “spiritual” places. This kind of language prevents us from seeing other abilities, skills, and or training from being gifted to us as well. And it relegates these “secular” gifts to a different level of importance.
My problem is when we, in the church, limit the list of spiritual gifts to things like evangelism, exhortation, discernment, giving, mercy, service, healing, and tongues to name a few. I actually like all those things too. But my problem is that we tend to teach about these gifts in ways that largely limit their use to within our churches. A quick survey of existing popular spiritual gift assessments will reveal that they tend to focus on how the identification of such gifts can be used primarily to serve a church or ministry.
I do remember one assessment tool that listed a spiritual gift of “craftsmanship” and how radical an idea that was in the 1990’s. How is that a spiritual gift? Well, the justification for the category was that some people with these gifts were required for the building of the tabernacle (Exo 31:1-5). Interestingly, this too was a gift largely employed for a spiritual place or reason.
Today, I think that everything God has graced us with can and should be considered a gift from God. Craftsmenship, yes! But Excel spreadsheet wizardry as well. Moreover, these gifts are not given to use merely to use for our own enrichment (a salary), and not merely for use in a spiritual setting (church or ministry). Instead everything we’ve been graced with should be seen as gifts we’ve been entrusted with to steward toward God’s redemptive purposes in the world.
I was glad to see this Barna study, produced in collaboration with Lutheran Hour Ministries. It offers a new framework of abilities and skills to enable Christians to use them in everyday life. The research raises many wonderful questions for exploration.
This resonates with us here at Flourish San Diego because we think there is so much goodness that sits relatively latent in our churches. I believe a new (non-dualistic “sacred” vs “secular”) look at our gifts can help churches unlock more of the “human” resources currently under-mobilized in our calling to love our neighbors.
You can read more of their insights at the Barna site.
I also recommend a look through the links at the bottom of that page. I would also encourage taking the Every Gift Inventory (free) as an exercise of identifying skills, abilities, and talents as gifts from God. What would it mean to steward these abilities to love our neighbors to life?
Finally, I’ve purchased a “ministry kit” from Barna. So, if you are a pastor and would like to join me in a discussion on this content, let me know. We’ll get something on the calendar.