While all Christians are called to evangelize, give, serve, and pray (among other spiritual gifts), we are not all called to everything equally or gifted equally for them.
Not everything that comes from heaven has your name on it. But something does.
The question is: How can you discern your gifts so that you can then devote yourself to them?
Do you just read the list of spiritual gifts and wait until you feel a warm fuzzy feeling about one of them? Do you take one of those spiritual gifts tests, like a personality quiz but with Bible verses attached?
My friend Joby Martin told me that early in his ministry, he went into a charismatic church and was handed one of those quizzes. He didn’t even understand the questions. He remembers one of them being something like, “If your left foot was possessed by a demonic angel, would you cut it off or attempt to cast the demon out?”
Um … are these my only options?
When Pastor Joby got the results back, he was told he had the gift of martyrdom. Not the most encouraging result. What was he supposed to do with a gift that he could only use once?
Are You Called To Ministry?
There can be some value in spiritual gifts evaluations. But let me give you a tool I’ve found helpful that’s inspired by Jim Collins’ Good to Great. This Venn diagram shows how you can determine your gifting by finding where your ability, affinity, and affirmation meet:
Steps to find where your ability, affinity, and affirmation meet:
1. Ability. What are you good at?
If you’re young, you may not be quite sure what this is yet. That’s fine. If that’s you, pour yourself into school, or work, or whatever training is in front of you. And read the cues of your circumstances to figure out how God has wired you to succeed. Some of us are good at public speaking. Others of us would choose the flu over any public speaking engagement. Some of us have sharp, organizational minds. Others of us panic at the sight of a spreadsheet.
That’s the first thing: Know what you’re good at, and be content knowing you won’t be good at everything.
2. Affinity. What you are passionate about?
What needs are you drawn to? What kind of ministry feels satisfying to you?
For many people, reflecting on their past experiences will be really helpful because God allowed you to go through some painful chapter or unique experience so you could minister to others. I know many who have walked through cancer, the death of a child, or mistakes from their past who are uniquely gifted to minister to others in the same situations. They speak the language of lament more fluently and can minister to others in situations of deep pain.
Or, maybe you’re just aware of certain needs that others don’t see. When you see something that is lacking, instead of just complaining about it, you see it as God’s invitation to do something about it.
This is where people confirm God is using your strengths to impact their lives.
Where do people tell you God uses you? God gave his church to see what we can’t see—blind spots regarding strengths and gifts we may not know we have.
The church can also warn you when you’re not good at something you think you are. I’ve met church planters and pastors who are convinced they have the gift of preaching, but apparently, nobody has the gift of hearing them preach. Not many of us are good at self-assessment, which is why we need the church.
Sometimes that affirmation can occur supernaturally, too, through words of prophecy. The Apostle Paul, in his letters, refers to gifts that were put into people through the laying on of hands or called out in them when they didn’t know it.
I don’t see anything in Scripture indicating that this sort of prophecy has disappeared. Of course, you have to hold this in balance, because words of prophecy can be wrong. They aren’t as infallible as the Bible. But we shouldn’t be turned off of the miraculous gifts just because some practice it poorly. If we stayed away from spiritual gifts because they were misused, we wouldn’t practice any of them.
Take a look back at that Venn diagram again. The best way to determine your gifts is to look at the confluence of all three—ability, affinity, and affirmation.
If you really want to figure out those three things, then you just need to get busy serving.
The Summit’s college pastor, Wes Smith, regularly tells students, “Don’t focus on finding your gifts. It’s OK if you aren’t sure what they are yet. They develop and are revealed in the context of ministry. It’s more important right now to develop the pattern of service than it is to pinpoint the specific gift. Start being the body to one another, and the gifts will manifest.”