God made the universe in such a manner that even if you’re a twin no one looks exactly like you, thinks your thoughts, or feels your feelings.
There is no other person in the world equipped and gifted like you, with your track record of faith through life’s ups and downs, sharing your particular passions and if you are a Christian, nobody else has your uniquely designed pattern of spiritual gifts.
There are tests you can take to try to get an idea of what they are, and some of them may even be helpful to give you some idea of whether you’re more of an apostle or evangelist or teacher, but I have found that discovering our place in the Body or our spiritual gifts is not something we do alone by going online to take that kind of test, like a true-or-false quiz or Myers Briggs.
So how do we work that out then?
First of all it requires us to recognise that it’s not about me – it’s about Jesus.
Jesus moves in this world through his Body, and I am a part of it, so I must submit to the authority of the Head of the body, Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of the Church and has a glorious plan to save the cosmos through it, that he has invited me into. I need to take Scripture study and prayer seriously to discern what he wants me to do with what the Holy Spirit has gifted me in and how and where he wants to place and use me today and tomorrow.
But to the extent that I overthink about ‘my spiritual gifts’ I am in danger of forgetting I am nothing and can do nothing apart from him and his grace. I can’t be independent of God.
It takes time. It takes thought.. It takes interaction with other Christians. Above all,
Second, rather than an individual pursuit or meditative rumination alone, I need the rest of the Body to help me find where I fit.
As I write, my wife has started watching Greys Anatomy, yes, that old series, from the start, because it was recommended to us. She’s a nurse and gets excited by medical stuff and surgery and so on. I get grossed out by them especially when it gets to operations where I have to watch with my fingers half covering my eyes but I still see that, guess what, none of the parts work when they are not attached.
The latest episode had a major focus on and organ donation, and it strikes me how sad it would be for some parts of the body to only be available post mortem!
If you want to know whether you have a spiritual gift or not, other parts of the body can help you find where you best fit.
Third, rather than waiting to find your ministry and gifts – get on with doing it and using them.
I mean it. Christians provide us with a good “reality check” for our spiritual gifts. Maybe you’ve wondered, “Should I serve here or there? Do I have a certain spiritual gift, or don’t I?” Here’s a great test: Do others see that gift in you?
I found over time people quite unsolicited inviting me to serve in different ways. Others said “We’d like you to help out by serving in this ministry, we think you might have a gift for it.” Guess what – you might have that spiritual gift. The fact is if you have any humility it may well be that others will see that gift in you long before you do! You can’t do it alone, and one of the best things you can do for another Christian—and for the life of the body as a whole—is to help another Christian discover his or her spiritual gifts and get them using them. I love doing that and I never get tired or inviting people to serve with the rest of us.
In his latest book Craig Groeschel writes,
“We hear a lot about having a “personal” relationship with Jesus, which is important. But when you read Scripture, you see that God is actually calling us to a “shared” relationship with Jesus. God wants you to share it. And yet for so many, the goal is to be independent. These well-intentioned people fail to realize that to be independent is to be distinctly non-Christian.
Did you get that? Many people pursue a goal that is opposed to God’s plan. God designed you to be interdependent. He wants you depending on him and on his people. If you want it, you’ll experience it best when you live in authentic community with God’s people….
Have you recognized this independent mindset bleeding into the church? Many people want to come to church services anonymously…. Yet the New Testament is peppered with “one another” reminders. While Scripture says to love one another, encourage one another, offer hospitality to one another, be kind to one another, many people are content tolerating one another, if not ignoring one another. My…Bible search fails to find those one-anothers anywhere in the Scriptures.”Lead Like It Matters: 7 Leadership Principles for a Church That Lasts
The church is primarily and fundamentally a body, and it needs you to find your place and fulfil your purpose by using the gifts which the Spirit has uniquely bestowed upon you, in the place where he has put you or is calling you to. Don’t miss it by aiming so low to only be an independent Christian.
People have so often asked me about what happened that I would leave a career in the police, then get ordained as an Anglican minister, move various times then move again to lead Ivy – and how do we discern where are meant to serve?
And really, ultimately the answer I’ve found is – by serving.
Ministry is not a job some do, it’s what we who follow the Servant King are called to do every day when (paid or unpaid) we realise and become fully aware that – wow – God Himself has uniquely equipped you, with spiritual gifts, and that – wow – He has been leading you so far right up to now and he has strategically placed you today, exactly where he wants you, to make a difference for Him.
And you really can tell whether you’re in the right place today.
How? Because there are people there who don’t know Him you can love for Him.
And people who do know him you can serve with.
So you have opportunities – to the extent you have willingness to be used by that wonderful Father and beautiful Saviour to love and lead and live in such a way that your life makes a bigger difference because of what you are part of interdependently with Him and others than anything you could ever do alone and independently.
I talk to people who tell me sometimes about the things they wish they had done, the places they wish they had been, the ministries they wish they had started, the jobs they wished they had applied for because they’re sure they’d have really loved, the leadership roles they wished they had taken. But they wouldn’t make a decision or let fear stop them.
Particularly as people come to the end of their lives, I have heard regrets from people, sometimes those who seemed to have it all, but they not having more purpose, not living life, not serving more and not leaving a legacy. It seems to me such a terrible shame when such great issues face us, in a world full of injustice, greed, helplessness – and lost people, a world God loves so much that desperately needs to see his love and hear the gospel, when church is meant to be a place that provides such unique and powerful challenges to find someone, somehow, somewhere and then to learn what you are really meant to do – by doing something.
Something. To try and grow and contribute in ways and places that make a difference not just for today – but forever.
We want change.
We want the world to change.
Some of us want the church to change – so it can really change the world!
We want change in our families, our friends, our cities, our world.
But guess what – it won’t happen unless and until we ask God to change us first – to break the strongholds in our minds that prevent us from taking leadership roles to effect the changes we want.
These strongholds are made up of the lies that we have no power, no capabilities, insufficient experience, that we are not deserving or unworthy, or that we have to wait to be asked specifically before we can get started serving or that others are preventing us from succeeding.
That’s how we remain unconnected, isolated and ineffectual – maybe we attend or are members of a church, but we know that just coming to services isn’t enough to really matter or qualify as being the church or playing our part in the body.
When I hear that kind of regret from a person, or start to wonder the extent to which I might end up having the same kind of regrets too, a quote comes to mind that I read snippets of in various leadership books but later found it’s from the great playwright George Bernard Shaw.
It reminds me of how I can live a bigger life than my own – despite my failures and even with my weaknesses, by leading, by contributing, by serving with others for God than I can ever do to waste my life or let it just slip away by self-focus.
This is the true joy in life,
the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one;
the being a force of nature
instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances
complaining that the world will not devote itself
to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community
and as I live it is my privilege—my privilege
to do for it whatever I can.
I want to thoroughly be used up when I die,
for the harder I work the more I live.
I rejoice in life for its own sake.
Life is no “brief candle” to me.
It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment,
and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible
before handing it on to future generations.Man And Superman
William Vanderbloemen (who has dedicated his life to helping people find their right spiritual fit) in his fabulous book Culture Wins says the way to build the kinds of churches and organisations that really make a difference (the way he found it happened in his company), is to find and bring on board “people who wanted – really wanted – to do this kind of work…the way we were doing it, and with these kinds of people…”
I love that!