Gifts of the Spirit: Discovery

Part One: Discovering the Spirit’s Gifts

  • Spend some time on your own and with a group of people who know you well (a small group or friends/family) reflecting on these questions.
  • How am I called to participate in God’s mission of redeeming the world? How might I live out God’s call to love God and love my neighbors in this season of my life?
  • In what ways am I already currently serving as a gift of the Spirit? Which parts of this ministry give me energy, joy, satisfaction or stretch me in life-giving ways? Where do I sense that I am currently most fully participating in God’s mission of love in the world?
  • What am I naturally good at? What do I love to do?
  • Where do I see God at work in the church, community or world in a way that is compelling to me?
  • What have I experienced in life that might give me a unique perspective, skills or wisdom?
  • What am I passionate about? What keeps me up at night? What dreams do I have for God’s
    people and the world?
  • What are the limitations or commitments in my life that shape the boundaries of where, how, and when I am able to give of my time, energy and abilities in this season of life?
  • What needs do I see in the church, the community and the world that I would like to help meet?
  • What strengths do others see in me? What limitations or challenges do others see in me?
  • Are there any roles within the five-fold ministry paradigm (see page 2) that seem to describe my strengths or preferred roles well? Are there any that I know do not describe me?
  • The New Testament puts a great deal of emphasis on the importance of mature and Christ-like love as the motivation and underlying character of all spiritual gifts. Are there next steps that I or others can see in my life for growing into more mature and Christ-like love? Are there examples or role-models of mature Christ-like love that I feel drawn to adopt for myself?
  • We often come to know ourselves best through actively engaging in the life of a community. Are there new roles I’d like to try out to see if they might be good ways for me to serve? Are there people I’d like to get to know or skills I’d like to develop?

Additional tools for self-reflection:

Five-Fold Ministry: One paradigm for ministry expressions in the church

Based on the roles named in Ephesians 4 and adapted from The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating Apostolic Movements by Alan Hirsch and A Shared Understanding of Church Leadership: Polity Manual for Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.

Apostles (catalysts/visionaries) extend the gospel. As the “sent ones,” they ensure that the faith is transmitted from one context to another and from one generation to the next. They are always thinking about the future, bridging barriers, establishing the church in new contexts, developing leaders, networking trans-locally. Apostles who focus solely on initiating new ideas and rapid expansion can leave people and organizations wounded. The shepherding and teaching functions are needed to ensure people are cared for rather than used.

Prophets (challengers/truth tellers) communicate God’s truth. They know and communicate both the hard and encouraging messages of God, so the church can discern its context and respond by obeying God’s will, speaking the truth, and following God’s way. They are particularly attuned to God and God’s truth for today. They bring correction and challenge the dominant assumptions we inherit from the culture. They call the community to faithfully live out God’s calling. They question the status quo. Without the other types of leaders in place, prophets can become belligerent activists or, paradoxically, disengage from the imperfection of reality and become other-worldly.

Evangelists (communicators) invite and gather. These infectious communicators of the gospel message recruit others to join in God’s mission. They call for a personal response to God’s redemption in Christ, and also draw believers to engage the wider mission, growing the church. Evangelists can be so focused on reaching those outside the church that maturing and strengthening those inside is neglected.

Shepherds (pastors/spiritual care-givers) nurture and protect. Caregivers of the community, they focus on the protection and spiritual maturity of God’s flock, cultivating a healthy faith community that nurtures and equips growing disciples who join in God’s mission in the world. Shepherds can value stability to the detriment of the mission. They may also foster an unhealthy dependence between the church and themselves.

Teachers (reflective practitioners) understand and explain. Communicators of God’s truth and wisdom, they help others remain rooted in scripture and the conviction of the church in order to better discern God’s will, guiding others toward wisdom so that the community remains faithful to Christ in its life and witness. Without the input of the other functions, teachers can fall into dogmatism or dry intellectualism. They may fail to see the personal or missional aspects of the church’s ministry.

Part Two: Dwelling in the Word

Choose one or more of these scripture passages to read with your small group or on your own.

Reflection questions

  • How do you see the grace and gifts of the Holy Spirit supporting and sustaining the life and work of the church in this passage?
  • What do you notice about unity and diversity within the church in this passage?
  • How are spiritual gifts described in this passage? What do you notice about the giver of the gifts, the receiver of the gifts, and the purpose of the gifts?
  • What parts of this passage might be specific to the particular congregation being addressed?
  • What parts might be applicable to the church in all times and places?
  • What reservations, concerns, questions or disagreements do you have with the perspective
    represented in this passage?
  • How does this passage speak to the role of members within the church who may appear to be weaker or to have fewer skills, talents or capacities to serve, such as people living with
    significant disabilities or illness, babies and small children, or those at the end of life? How might those members be a gift of the Spirit to the church?
  • How does this passage speak to the role of members within the church who may appear to be stronger or to have more skills, talents or capacities? How might those members be called to receive and empower others as gifts of the Spirit within the church, as well as to offer themselves as gifts of the Spirit?
  • What parameters or cautions are given for how we should live in relationship with each other, as people who are (or have) differing gifts, within the community of faith?
  • How does this passage speak to your own sense of calling to serve as a gift of the Spirit and to receive the service of others as a gift of the Spirit within CMC?

Some observations

What are spiritual gifts?

  • Since the 1970s, the term “spiritual gifts” has been commonly used to refer to supernatural
    phenomena (such as speaking in tongues) or latent special abilities given by the Spirit that we need to discover within ourselves. But many New Testament scholars argue that spiritual gifts in scripture are more accurately thought of as community tasks, roles or functions. They could be called “Spirit-given ministries.” The gifts God gives the church are both the many diverse ministries God entrusted to the church and also the members of the church who God calls to participate in God’s mission in the world (that’s all of us!)
  • Many New Testament scholars would argue that the lists of spiritual gifts in the passages above are not comprehensive lists of all possible gifts of the Spirit, but ad hoc samples of roles, functions and abilities that existed in particular congregations. They might be better thought of as ancient gifts discernment rosters than as universal paradigms in which we must each place ourselves.
  • These lists contain both ordinary human skills and supernatural empowerments, such as speaking in tongues and prophetic speech (which were also common within the non-Christian religions practiced in Corinth), but the emphasis is on the ordinary ministries of the church.
  • Scripture emphasizes that our roles in receiving, being or using spiritual gifts must always be permeated by and motivated by Christ-like love. The test of a spiritual gift is whether it contributes to conveying and giving witness to the love of God.
  • When we talk about spiritual gifts, we are talking about God’s generous invitation to Christian communities to participate with God in Christ’s redemption and re-creation of all of creation through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The emphasis is on God and God’s generosity, not on individual people and their particular gifts. All of the ways the Spirit is made known within the church for the sake of the common good could be regarded as gifts of the Spirit.

What does the concept of spiritual gifts tell us about our life in a community of faith?

  • All members of the believing community have important contributions to make, and none of them are less important or valuable than the others. One implication of this is that those of us with physical, mental or spiritual limitations are no less called and gifted to participate in the body of Christ, and that the church is called to empower all of us as valued members of the community.
  • The Spirit calls and empowers in ways that are consistent with the people God has created each of us to be. All of who we are – including our natural talents, bodies, skills, interests, differences, culture, relationships, personality and life experiences – can be used by God for the purpose and benefit of the church. In fact, God seems to delight in using our particularity and uniqueness.
  • Paul repeatedly expresses concern for the unity and maturity of the community, and
    emphasizes that members must function interdependently for the good of the whole. Paul also emphasizes both unity and diversity within the church, which mirrors the unity and diversity of the relationships within the Trinity.
  • The end goal of participating in the body of Christ is communal transformation into the likeness of the loving, reconciling, self-giving death and resurrection of Christ. (How’s that for an ambitious goal?!)

What do we know about our individual calling within the body of Christ?

  • When God calls us to a particular task, function or role within the faith community, God also
    equips and empowers us to accomplish the task. The focus of discerning gifts is on identifying ways in which to actively participate in God’s mission in the world.
  • Spiritual gifts should never be used for self-advancement or building up our own status or
    security – they are given for the good of the community. Using our gifts, or serving as a gift to the community, is a way that we participate in God’s grace and love in the world.
  • The well-being of communities of faith depend upon all the members contributing what the
    Spirit offers through each of them for the good of the whole. No matter our limitations, all of us within the community of faith are gifted by the Spirit to contribute to the good of the whole.
  • We need to know ourselves in order to discern where we could best contribute to the good of the whole, and we come to know ourselves most fully within relationships with others.