Spiritual gifts and ministries
God bestows upon all members of His church in every age spiritual gifts that each member is to employ in loving ministry for the common good of the church and humanity. Given by the Holy Spirit, who apportions to each member as He wills, the gifts provide all abilities and ministries needed by the church to fulfil its divinely ordained functions. According to the Scriptures, these gifts include such ministries as faith, healing, prophecy, proclamation, teaching, administration, reconciliation, compassion, and self-sacrificing service and charity for the help and encouragement of people. Some members are called of God and endowed by the Spirit for functions recognised by the church in pastoral, evangelistic and teaching ministries particularly needed to equip the members for service, to build up the church to spiritual maturity and to foster unity of the faith and knowledge of God. When members employ these spiritual gifts as faithful stewards of God’s varied grace, the church is protected from the destructive influence of false doctrine, grows with a growth that is from God, and is built up in faith and love. (Acts 6:1-7; Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 27, 28; Ephesians 4:8, 11-16; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Peter 4:10, 11.)
“Answer according to who you are, not who you would like to be,” the website tells me. The banner above this statement announces a quiz that will help me discover my spiritual gifts. All the personality tests I’ve completed in the past usually just remind me of some of my deeper characteristics. This test, however, is all about how you can apply who you are to the mission of God.
The test not only quizzes me about my personality, but also various aspects of my spiritual life and how people respond to my relationship with God.
I find myself disappointingly lacking at times—I hover my cursor over the enticing “definitely” button, only to restrain myself and instead click on either “usually”, “sometimes” or even “never”. It’s probably best if I’m honest with myself. The test then asks me about the 5-7 best things that have ever happened in my life and why they are meaningful to me. I’m stumped. I find it hard to narrow down on singular “big moments” of happiness. Ultimately, my answers end up being about the times when I’ve succeeded after devoting a lot of time and effort towards a goal. The test helps me realise I enjoy bringing happiness to other people. It means more to me to give someone a birthday present and see their face light up, than being given one myself.
I know I care about other people, particularly those going through hardship. In the past I’ve talked to many non-believers about Christ, but I don’t know if all of those deeply impacted anyone towards a personal decision for Christ.
As I finish off the test, thoughts swirl in my head. “How can I apply who I am as a person for God?”
But then it dawns on me: spiritual gifts are different for everyone.
Spiritual gifts: the talents and skills that God gives us to further His mission on earth. The Bible describes their role—“Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11,12). Romans 12 outlines that spiritual gifts include prophesy, service, teaching, encouragement, giving, leading and mercy. They’re entirely different from the fruits of the Spirit, which are an evident result of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. Spiritual gifts are specifically appointed qualities.
They are bestowed so that each person has a function in the collective goal of getting to know the Lord better.
Often we get caught up in looking for the obvious gifts—the ones we think make the most impact—like leadership. Just like the control centre of the body is the brain and head, so the mission of Christ needs leaders. Acts 6:1-7 in particular mentions how seven men “. . . well respected and . . . of the Spirit and wisdom” were called to serve the Lord, and as a result, “. . . the number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted too” (Acts 6:3,7).
"Ultimately, Christ gives us spiritual gifts to reach others; it’s up to us whether we use them."
I see my father as a practical example of a great leader. Born and raised in a non-Adventist home in Communist Poland, along with my grandmother he became a Seventh-day Adventist—a big decision in what is a majority Catholic nation. Becoming a minister, he travelled all around Poland before being called to Australia to continue his ministry. His time on earth was cut short in 2005 when he tragically passed away, but his legacy has remained in those who remember him. With a charming sense of humour and delicate caring nature, he had a charisma that I always admired. When I visited Poland for the first time in 2015, almost everyone I came across in the Seventh-day Adventist community lovingly remembered him.
When I was a child, my brother and I went into Dad’s room on a Sunday morning and quizzed him about why he became a pastor. “I received a call from God,” he said. In my mind, I imagined it being like a vivid dream where out of the darkness a bright light and a deep booming voice told my dad what he was meant to do, and that was where it all started. Epic.
My brother has since received the same call and is now a pastor in Mackay. He has many of the same spiritual gifts that my father did.
But spiritual gifts aren’t just prescribed to leaders and pastors. The Bible says that in the combined effort of God’s mission, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2). And just like the body of Christ described in Ephesians requires a head for guidance, it also has many different parts. That’s where we all come in.
Spiritual gifts aren’t about which ones are more useful in glorifying God. Being a missionary, conference or division president are all necessary and important parts of God’s body, but so are people who encourage and give. They exhibit God’s character and that is just as important to the cause. Pastors with the gift of running big evangelistic campaigns can impact lives as much as people who are able to go to their neighbour’s house to encourage them.
In high school, I had many conversations with a friend who had recently lost her father. I now see that God put me in that situation to encourage her. She ended up choosing baptism. I don’t know where she’s at now, but in that moment God helped me use the spiritual gift of encouragement to serve His goal.
But that doesn’t necessarily always happen. At the marketing agency where I worked before joining Adventist Media, a few of our clients had high demands. When we distributed their promotional videos as Facebook ads, their expectations were that immediately a horde of people would come running through their door. Many times my boss would patiently tell them on the phone about the “intangibles”—the immense value of putting something out there that might one day contribute to someone making a purchase.
It’s the same with our spiritual gifts. Just because I don’t see the effects immediately, doesn’t mean they are insignificant. A big factor in this is the Holy Spirit. “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
Ultimately, Christ gives us spiritual gifts to reach others; it’s up to us whether we use them.
“Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). Are you able to heal, prophesy, proclaim, teach or administer? Use it for God. Has God given you the gift of compassion, self-sacrifice, service, charity or encouragement? All gifts our Father has bestowed on us contribute to His ministry.
While I did not end up receiving my results from the online test—possibly a technical glitch—the process of thinking about how I can use my spiritual gifts was already God showing me the way. God doesn’t expect me to be pushing myself trying to work on spiritual gifts that I haven’t been given. I probably wouldn’t be able to run an evangelistic campaign or teach a multitude. But I can encourage and give, and that matters just as much.