There is a lingering fascination with spiritual gifts in the modern church, but that doesn’t mean there is anything close to a unity concerning spiritual gifts and how they are to be practiced today. Churches run the gamut from a full rejection to a full embrace (some would argue an unhealthy embrace) of spiritual gifts. The truth may lie somewhere in between. Any serious study and pursuit of a biblical practice of spiritual gifts has to deal with these five nagging questions:
1. How many spiritual gifts are there? Are there eight? Fifteen? Twenty-four? There isn’t a uniform answer to this because the New Testament authors never give us a clear answer. We see lists given in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, but the word for “gift” is used elsewhere, prompting some to expand the list. Others go with Romans 12 as the only legitimate list for today, rapidly narrowing the field of available spiritual gifts. How many spiritual gifts does the Bible actually list?
2. Are all the spiritual gifts still valid today? This is the big one that continues to divide Christians today. Many are uncomfortable with the idea of the ‘miraculous’ gifts (like healing and tongues) and exclude them from validity today. Others embrace the ‘miraculous’ gifts and build entire Christian ministries off of those gifts. Are all the spiritual gifts still valid today?
3. Does the Bible exhaustively list the only spiritual gifts available to Christians? This is a good question with (again) no definitive answer. Does the Spirit give other gifts not listed in the Bible, and if so, what are the criteria to recognize those as spiritual gifts? Music and song leading is a gift that many people recognize today as important to the modern church, but singing or leading worship is never listed in the New Testament as a spiritual gift.
4. Why do many of the spiritual gifts seem impractical or irrelevant today? This unspoken question naturally rises when a deep study of spiritual gifts is done. How do words of wisdom practically benefit the church today? What about discernment or discerning between spirits? Several of the gifts listed in the New Testament seem foreign or even irrelevant to today’s church. Most modern church ministries (i.e. kids ministries, worship ministry, outreach ministry) are built and staffed with little to no regard for spiritual gifts. Why is that?
5. What does it look like for a modern church to biblically leverage all of the spiritual gifts given to her? This is the question that is continuing to drive me as a pastor to explore spiritual gifts. I believe the answer to our effectiveness in today’s culture is tied to the exercise of spiritual gifts. Namely, we need a mighty move of the Spirit to effect change in hearts and lives today. When we leverage our spiritual gifts we are manifesting the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7). I would argue that a modern church that biblically leverages all of the spiritual gifts given to her is a modern church that will change the world.
QUESTION: What other nagging questions about spiritual gifts do you still have?