Pastor, I want to serve God, but I don’t know where I fit in. I’m just not very gifted in the usual church sort of way.” Joyce, a member of the church I pastored, seemed almost apologetic as she asked the question. And she isn’t alone. Many members have expressed the same sentiment to me. But when you hear the rest of Joyce’s story later in this article, you’ll be amazed at how God can use each of us when we surrender our spiritual gifts to His service.
The apostle Peter wrote, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). We each have been equipped to fulfill a special role in God’s rescue mission just as surely as God gave our bodies different parts to help us function.
If I were on a committee selecting church members for ministry, I would elect as the teacher of a Bible study class someone who has the gift of teaching. The role of elder is one of spiritual influence. The majority of the elders in the churches I’ve pastored have served with the gifts of leadership or administration, and often with a mixture of speaking gifts. However, in one of my churches that had 13 elders, 2 of them served successfully without the traditional gift of public speaking. When given a choice, neither of them chose to be on the platform.
One of them had the gifts of wisdom, discernment, faith, and mentoring. He had served God in the mission field and had a deep, trusting relationship with God. His counsel was invaluable to our whole group in the leadership of the church. The other elder was a woman who had the warm heart of a counselor. She served as a mother to the congregation, visiting, encouraging, connecting individuals with others in the church, and coordinating our visitation teams. Both of these individuals were exceptional spiritual leaders, but they weren’t gifted as public speakers.
Joyce and Stu
Joyce Neal, whom I mentioned at the beginning of this article, lost her high-school-age daughter, Shanna, in a car accident, but the tragedy brought her back to Christ and fellowship in my church in Centralia, Washington. The Neals soon began attending my church, and she asked me one day how she might tithe the future insurance settlement from the accident.
Joyce and Stu became Grandma and Grandpa to our two girls, celebrating holidays, enjoying tea parties, and teaching them sewing. She was the quintessential homemaker: cooking, gardening, sewing and quilting, and hosting others in their Victorian home. As Joyce healed from her loss, she wanted to give more to others. When we needed banners for Christmas, Joyce’s gift of quilting immediately came to mind. We worked together to design a series of banners that she sewed for the church for Easter and Christmas. Each beautifully crafted banner was a stunning masterpiece.
When my church offered spiritual gifts testing during a church workshop, Joyce used the opportunity to search for a gifts ministry she could use for God. We first tried to match her nurturing gift with a children’s Bible study group, but it didn’t bring the fulfillment she had hoped it would. So we talked about what she thought her dream ministry would be, and she said she would love to teach quilting, but she didn’t see how she could make that a church ministry. I suggested that we try it.
One thing I suggested was that she add a short devotional at the beginning of each quilting class. She ran with it and far exceeded our original vision. She developed spiritual talks around the different aspects of quilting. Her class attracted a group of ladies who came not only from our church but from the community. She showed them how to use a pattern to cut out the squares, and she stressed how important it is to be intentional about following the pattern perfectly. Then she drew the spiritual application that we need to follow Jesus as the pattern for our lives. Joyce developed a unique spiritual lesson for each of her quilting sessions.
When the insurance money came in from their daughter’s accident, Joyce and Stu wanted to use the entire amount for ministry in memory of their daughter. They purchased a little home directly across from our church’s elementary school. It was an older home, so they remodeled it, painted it pink, added a white picket fence around it, and named it Grandma’s house.
After working through a lot of red tape with the city, they enlisted the support of their church to provide afterschool care free of charge to public school, elementary-grade children. Instead of the usual “day care” environment, from the moment parents and children walked into Joyce’s and Stu’s day care, they felt like they had gone to their grandmother’s house.
The kids had their own aprons and cubbies with their names on them. They heard stories from the Bible and other character-building books; they were taught how to cook, bake, sew, draw, and care for plants; and most of all, they had fun! When the children visited Grandma Joyce and Grandpa Stu, they were immersed in a living Christian “Mr. Rogers” type of experience. Several of the families also brought their children to church. Imagine the level of preparation needed for operating a Vacation Bible School type of program five days a week for the entire school year!
gifts used creatively
People can use their God-given spiritual gifts in a variety of ways, both inside and outside of the church. Some members may hold an official church office, while others use their gifts to help in the community, and for this, they usually don’t need to be elected to their duties by the church.
One of my members used her gift of encouragement to create a ministry for grieving families in the community. She went beyond any expectation and hand-delivered a bereavement card in person along with a home-baked pie to grieving families in the community, and she offered to pray with the people at the door.
A man who wasn’t an official member of my church was very active in the church. He used his gift of craftsmanship as a mechanic and offered free vehicle repair for the pastoral staff and low-income members.
An accountant with a gift of teaching offered classes on managing finances at the church, and he also gave personal counseling for people in debt. A nurturing empty nester offered to give couples a break by watching their children so they could enjoy a parent’s night out. A quiet wallflower of a woman adopted several pews in the church and sent a card to anyone who missed attending more than one Sabbath in a row.
A retiree used his skills as a repairman for the church and school, spending countless hours each week maintaining the aging facilities free of charge. A young woman used her gift of hospitality in a welcome wagon ministry for the church, welcoming new people in the community, making them aware of community resources, and inviting those without a church to make our church their new church home.
I can assure you that God has given you a spiritual gift that He longs to have you use in His service. And in case you’re wondering how to find out what your spiritual gift or gifts might be, work through the checklist below.
HOW TO DISCOVER YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS
The following four suggestions can help you to identify your spiritual gifts so you can better serve God and your church.
1. PRAY. Ask the One who gave you your gifts to reveal to you what they are. Then go to the Bible and check out the gifts it mentions. Romans 12:6–8 lists a group of spiritual gifts that include prophecy, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and mercy. First Corinthians 12:8–10 lists wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning, speaking in other languages, and interpreting the languages spoken by others. In Ephesians 4:11 you’ll find apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, teaching, and pastoring.
And none of these should be considered exhaustive lists. Any God-given ability that you can use to build up your church family is a spiritual gift. In the Old Testament, a man by the name of Bezalel was “filled . . . with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills” (Exodus 31:3, emphasis added). If it were not for this one text, we might overlook the fact that woodworking, building, stonework, and arts and crafts come from the Holy Spirit as spiritual gifts.
Other talents given by the Holy Spirit that I have seen God use as spiritual gifts of my church members include mentoring others, hospitality, building community, and nurturing, both of which are considered an extension of pastoring. It’s easy to narrowly limit spiritual gifts, but God uses the Holy Spirit to meet every need in the church. He filled Samson with superhuman strength to meet the needs of the church in his day (Judges 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14). And David’s beautiful music actually had spiritual power for Saul’s struggle with severe depression (1 Samuel 16:23). I know people who’ve used music to minister healing, hope, and encouragement in God’s name. While some people have to work hard to learn how to play a musical instrument, others seem to have music as a natural gift from God.
2. CONSIDER YOUR PASSION. The intense drive I have to use the talents God has given me is my passion. Fulfilling the mission for which I was created feels as natural as plants stretching toward the sun. Such service to God and His community gives me a deep sense of satisfaction and joy. A leader naturally steps forward in a group to guide the group toward a specific goal, whether or not the leader is elected. You don’t have to ask a person with the gift of service or helps to assist you. They’ll willingly come to your aid. The godly things that make us happy may be our key to discovering our specific gift.
3. SOLICIT AN OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVE. You may not be able to look at yourself objectively, so ask others for their perspective on your gifts. This can provide you with an additional perspective. Ask someone who knows you well. A trusted relative or close friend may be able to help you identify your hidden gifts.
4. TAKE A SPIRITUAL GIFTS SURVEY. Another way to find out what your spiritual gifts are is to fill out one of several spiritual gift surveys. You can access one such spiritual gifts test at giftstest.com. You can also ask a friend who knows you well to take the test and answer the questions according to what your friend sees in you.
Remember that God has gifted you for the benefit of His children!
James Berglund is the pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Killeen, Texas. He is an occasional contributor of articles to Signs of the Times®.