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About this series
Your Divine Design
How to Discover, Develop, and Deploy Your Spiritual Gifts
Do you know how God has uniquely wired you? Every believer was created to play a strategic role in the body of Christ, with the gifts God has given them. But many of today's Christians face one difficult question: How do I discover my spiritual gifts and then use them effectively in my church? This series will unpack key passages from Romans, Ephesians, and 1 Corinthians to explore the role of spiritual gifts in the believer's life, while helping you to pinpoint your own. With biblical insight and practical steps, you'll learn how to discover, develop, and deploy your spiritual gifts so you can live a life of greater impact.More from this series
Spiritual gifts. You knowing your spiritual gift, you developing your spiritual gift, and then, you using your spiritual gift is serious business. I’m going to say that for a couple reasons, but I think what has happened is, we view, in the Church, many times, spiritual gifts as, like, a dessert bar. You know? The real meat and potatoes are, you walk with God, you pray, you obey, you do the best you can. And then, yeah, some people really know their gifts. But it’s kind of like dessert: You don’t really need it for the meal. It’s a nice addition.
And what I want you to know is that it’s a part of the core of God’s meal for growing His Church. There’s been an empirical study done, worldwide, over six continents.
They did it in hundreds and hundreds of churches. They did it in multiple languages. They did it in every kind of church – a sociological study. This was not an opinion poll. It was an empirical study to find out what caused churches – what were the core elements of churches, whether they were charismatic or non-charismatic, whether they were denominational or nondenominational, whether they were state run, small, large, or mega.
And they came back with about eight characteristics, biblical characteristics, that were common in all churches that were growing, both qualitatively and quantitatively. One of those eight characteristics – in fact, one of the most important – was a gift-oriented ministry, churches that trained people in their giftedness, and then allowed them to serve in their giftedness.
Christian Schwarz, in his book, Natural Church Growth, as a result of this study, writes, “When Christians serve in their area of giftedness, they generally function less in their own strength, and more in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, ordinary people can accomplish the extraordinary.”
And then he writes, as a researcher, “The interesting corollary result of our research was the discovery that probably no factor influences the contentedness of Christians more than where they’re utilizing their gift. Our data demonstrated a highly significant relationship between gift orientation, my personal ministry involvement matching my gifts, and people’s joy in living. None of the eight characteristics showed nearly as much influence on both the personal life of the believer, or the impact of the church, than gift-oriented ministry.”
I’ve got five reasons you need to develop your spiritual gift. Before we dig in – because I want to convince you. I want to take about four or five minutes and convince you. I don’t want this to be a sheet of paper where you know more about gifts. I don’t want you to even get a model or a paradigm, where you can say, “You know, I know there are motivational gifts. I know there are ministry gifts. And I know there are these manifestations.”
I don’t want you just to get more educated. I want you to be willing to do the hard work, to do the research, to look inside your soul, to jump in the water of ministry, to do whatever it takes to discover how God wired you. Because you are His workmanship. You have been created in Christ Jesus, to do – what? Good works. What good works? The works that He preordained that you should walk in them.
And I want to tell you, you are that paintbrush. The grace of God, using your gift, painting the Spirit of God’s work through the Word of God in community to change people’s lives. And you need to know what kind of paintbrush you are.
Let me give you five reasons. And these are purely to just get you motivated. Reason number one is direction and purpose for your life. When you understand your gift clearly, your key motivational gift, and then the ministry gifts where it operates, it will give you direction and purpose for your life.
Number two, freedom to embrace and enjoy who you are. Key word: freedom. We’re just people, and we grow up. And as you grow in the Lord, there are people that you associate with, or you admire. And we unconsciously try to be like them. You know how liberating it is to discover who God made you to be, and just say, “Wow. I don’t have to be like anybody else. I don’t have to talk like anyone else. What is holy, and wonderful, and winsome is the freedom to be the man or the woman God made me to be”?
Reason number three is joy, the joy that results from impacting lives, the joy when you meet needs by the good works God has called you to do. In fact, our word for gifts – charismata – you have the word charis, which is the root word for grace. Well, if you keep making that word smaller, the word is joy. Joy, gifts, and grace all come from the same word. When you are in your giftedness, you’re going to experience amazing joy.
Reason number four is affirmation of your victory with Christ. This is a real theological one, but we covered Ephesians 4:7: “What does it mean that He ascended, except He descended into the lower parts of the earth?” – Ephesians 4:7. And that entire passage is talking about Christ’s victory over sin, Christ’s victory over death, Christ’s victory over Satan.
And the evidence is, He gave gifts to men. When you operate and know your gift, each time you use it, you ought to get a sense of, I have this gift because I am a co-victor with Christ. And it affirms your value to God. It affirms that you’re on the winning team. It affirms that life is difficult; it is a fallen world. But I have a supernatural ability that reminds me, Christ is the victor. And I’m a coheir with Him.
Reason number five is accountability, as you will be held responsible for the stewardship of your gift. The first four were kind of exciting. Rah! Go! I mean, man you can’t afford not to miss it. But number five is, there is a day when I will stand before what’s called the Bema Seat, or the Judgment Seat of Christ, and I will be judged. And this is not a judgment for salvation. That’s taken care of at the Cross, when I trust in Christ. But I will be judged, as a believer, for my rewards.
And the stewardship will be, not: did I do as much as Billy Graham, or not did I do as much as this pastor, or that missionary, or some great layman. God will ask me, “Chip, what did you do with what I gave you? I entrusted you with ‘X’ amount of time on the earth, ‘X’ amount of wealth, ‘X’ amount of energy, and these spiritual gifts. What did you do with what I gave you?” And I don’t know about you, I don’t want to look up at the Lord and say, “Could You go over the gifts part one more time? Because I never really quite figured out what mine was.” And I think the Lord’s going to say, “Chip, it was right there in My Word.”
Now, are you motivated? Are you willing? Because when we get to the end of this, I’m going to give some specific applications that are going to take you out of your comfort zone. It’s going to take some work. It’s going to take some energy. The last thing you need is one more colored notebook on a shelf that says, “There’s the spiritual gift one. I remember when I took that.”
So, with that said, for you to not just discover, but really develop your spiritual gift, I think three things need to happen. Number one is clarity. Developing your gifts begins with clarity. And this is a little review. There are three types of spiritual gifts. First, every believer has one primary motivational gift – Romans 12:6 to 8. We are to concentrate on discovering and developing this gift. Remember our little story about the waiter, and he dropped the tray? One of those seven motivational gifts, I believe, every one of us in this room has. It’s our primary motivation.
Second, that motivational gift, that drive, that ability, can express itself through a variety of ministry gifts. And we looked at that second column in Ephesians chapter 4, and 1 Corinthians 12:28.
Third, when we exercise our motivational gift, through our ministry gifts, the Holy Spirit determines what manifestations, or effects, will most benefit people. So, as we understand, Here’s my core motivation. And then, I’m going to minister in these ministry gifts, God chooses, as He wills, to manifest gifts and impact in lives of people.
Now you say, “Where do you get that?” 1 Corinthians 12:4 to 6, we get the paradigm. It says, “There are many different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. And there are different kinds of workings, but the same God who works all of them in all men.” And remember, this isn’t from Mount Sinai. This is from Chip. Okay? And I’ve studied, and I’ve looked at this. When I look at 1 Peter 4, and it says, “Let every person exercise the gift” – singular – “that they have,” when I look at Romans chapter 12, “If you have the gift of teaching” – singular – “exercise it” – “exhortation,” singular – “let him exercise it,” I think there’s good, biblical evidence.
But what we know is, there’s a broad base of teaching on spiritual gifts. But what you have are all these gifts. What we have, these three columns you have, is one way – I think an effective way – one way, a model, a paradigm to break down the gifts in such a way that help us put them into practice.
Now, let me give you an example of how this works, in reality. I have a friend who is a business person. He’s high up in corporation. He’s got a leadership gift, natural ability in leadership, and he is in a financial area. So, guess where they put him, in every church? They want to make him a member of the board – right? – they want to put him on the finance committee, and they want him to make all the decisions, removed from people.
And so, he did that for years and years and years – good, godly man. Gets up, reads his Bible. Prays. Wants to be the man, the husband God wants him to be. Didn’t know anything about spiritual gifts. He was the kind of guy always buying an extra commentary, and reading, and looking, and digging in, and asking questions that made people crazy – because that’s what people with the gift of teaching do. They care about those things.
But all the while, people kept putting him in his natural abilities. Then, he learned about gifts. And he realized that his motivation is the gift of teaching. He also realized that he’s best in a teaching environment, not even pastoring. And he got in a large Sunday school class. He got out of his board responsibilities – because you can only do so much, right?
He said, “Yeah, you know what? I do run a big company. And I do understand financials and P&L statements. But you know, when I come to church, that’s about the most boring, uninteresting, non-motivating thing you could ever ask me to do. Am I good at it? Yes. Do I want to do it? No.”
And he began to free himself up from church activities, and teach. And then, he teamed up and realized he needed a team of people – because that’s the way gifts work – and he began to build one of the largest Sunday school classes, with multiple small groups. And he began to each God’s Word. And he said, “The joy I experienced…”
And then, the manifestation. What began to happen is, wow, people were getting wisdom, and knowledge, and understanding, and marriages were being healed because they got the knowledge of what God’s Word said about it. And business people would come because he had high respect in the business community. And people would get their finances in order because – what? He would teach on finances, but God gave him a platform.
Do you see how, once you understand your gifts, it really begins to give you direction, focus, purpose, joy, affirmation from God? And that there are these three categories?
And then, notice – I love this last verse. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
Let’s remember, I mean, ultra-remember, this is not about a little inward query of looking down at your spiritual naval and saying, “Oh God, oh God, oh God. Show me my gift. Show me my gift. Show me my gift.” It’s a grace gift. What’s the goal of the gift? God has deposited a supernatural enabling in you, in order to serve other people.
I like to think of it as a grace-giving gift, is that what you’ve been given is something that it’s really no good, unless you give it away. And the preoccupation is not all about you, and, What’s my gift, and how does it work, and how many inventories and tests can I take? The real issue is, Lord, how can I understand how You made me? How can I understand the environment or ministries that I best can be used, so that more people, or in deeper ways, can experience Jesus at a fresh and new level? Do you get it?
So, I think number one is clarity. You’ve got to get clear on that. And by the way, if it’s still a little bit foggy, you know how it really works? It happens in real life. We’re going to go over this in just a little bit. But this is the cognitive side. Really discovering, developing, and deploying your gift – you’re going to have to get in on the game. You’ve got to be involved in a ministry. You’re going to have to be involved in relationships. And God will show you, as you are in that process.
First is clarity. But the second thing I think needs to happen is this: To develop your gifts, it demands a basic understanding of the New Testament gifts.
And so, if you will fasten your spiritual safety belt and some people have said that I talk fast. This could possibly be true. But you have not heard me talk fast, until you see me go through all these gifts. But here’s what I want you to do. It’s in print. What I want to do is, I want to, as best I can, give you a quick snapshot of these. Because what will happen – I’m praying that, even in this room, the Spirit of God – as you begin to narrow down your motivational gift to maybe the top two, then you’ll begin to see, as I describe some of these, Maybe this is an arena for my ministry gift. Maybe this is why these certain effects happen.
So, with that, are you ready? And some of them, by the way, are controversial. I want you to know, I’ve done a word study on all these. I’ve done a lot of research. But my name is Chip. It’s not Moses; it’s not Jesus. This is my very best understanding. And there are very godly people who have done, also, a lot of work, and may look at these things just a little bit differently.
My prayer is that you will be more noble than the Thessalonicans. And, like the Bereans, you will examine the Scriptures daily, to see whether what I’m saying is, in fact, so. If you have the gift of teaching, I know you’ll do that. It’s those other people I worry about. So, are you ready? Are you ready?
Apostleship – definition: It’s the divine enablement to start churches, or other ministries, and oversee their development. It’s the ability to minister cross-culturally, with the goal of planting churches. Now, note the distinction between the office of apostle, and the gift of apostle. Ephesians 4:11 says – okay, Jesus gave – “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastor/teachers.” He gives four offices, and they are also gifts. That’s Ephesians 4.
Move the camera back to Ephesians chapter 2, and he’s talking about the birth of the Church. And he says, “Now, the foundation was laid” – by whom? – “the apostles and the prophets, Jesus being the chief cornerstone.” To be a New Testament apostle, to hold the office, you had to be with Jesus from His baptism, and you had to be an eyewitness of the resurrection.
Now, unless you are very, very, very old, you are not a New Testament office apostle. Okay? However, the word apostle literally means “messenger.” It just means “messenger.” And it means “someone who is going to fulfill something.” And there are other places in the New Testament where people are called a “messenger,” or an “apostle,” and it’s clear they’re not one of the twelve.
Now, what we know is, from Jesus, these twelve are going to have a moral responsibility, and there’s going to be judgment that they have. But I believe that the gift of apostleship, currently, is here, but the office of apostleship – because it’s gone. Because what did the apostles and the early prophets do? They brought new revelation. When the Church was birthed, there was no 1 Corinthians. There was no Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There was no Revelation. But when we get to the end of Revelation, what’s very clear? “If any man, or any woman, adds to this Book, all the curses in this Book will be upon them.”
So, the foundation is what you lay of the Church. And once you lay the foundation, then those gifts of offices, of giving new revelation, are done. But this gift of apostleship…I like to think of these people as the spiritual entrepreneurs of the Church. These are the people that launch things, start things. These are the people that see what could happen. They plant churches. They see what’s happening in the life of the Church, and something in them looks at, Okay, there’s ministry to kids, ministry to children, ministry to the elderly. We have an outreach program.
And they look at all that, and they say, “That’s great. But I want to launch a ministry to unwed mothers.” “That’s great, but I want to launch a ministry to the Hispanic community.” “That’s great, but I want to start Bible studies all over.”
Do you resonate with that? Could that be one of your ministry gifts?
The second gift, here, is prophecy, the divine enablement to proclaim God’s truth, with power and clarity, in a timely and culturally sensitive fashion – notice the focus – for correction, repentance, or edification. It’s the ability to reveal God’s Word, accurately. Now, notice, this can also be a motivational gift. This can be a primary motivation. But you could have the motivation of exhortation. Or you could have the motivation of, even, mercy.
I know a worship pastor whose primary motivation is mercy. His heart just goes out to people. It’s compassion. He’s always helping the underprivileged and the hurting people, and the people that are out there on the fringe, the real artistic types. But when he puts together a worship set – and he’s also an artist. When he paints, he wants to, with power, prophesy and proclaim, “This is who Christ is.” And he wants to create this environment, and this event. It’s his ministry gift.
Now, the office of prophet, like apostle, is gone. I mean, we’re not getting new revelation. We don’t have, like, 2 Revelation, and 3 Revelation. We don’t have 3 Corinthians. But as a ministry to proclaim, this is still very, very much around.
Evangelism is the third gift. It’s the ability to be an unusually effective instrument in leading unbelievers to a saving knowledge of Christ. Some with this gift are most effective in personal evangelism, while others are more used by God in group evangelism, or cross-cultural evangelism. These people are motivated, and they’re empowered to share their faith in such a way that two things happen: Lost people come to Christ, and they want to help all the rest of the Church become better evangelists.
Many of you do not have the gift of evangelism. But if you get around an evangelist, two things will happen. One, your spiritual temperature and concern for lost people will go up. It really will.
I remember being in Spain. I had a good buddy I went to seminary with. His name’s Manny Fernandez. And he started this evangelistic church-planting ministry, first in Spain, and now around the world. And a buddy of mine – we went to Madrid, and we wanted to see his ministry. And as a church, we were supporting it. And there was this open, huge, open – I don’t know what – quadrangle. That’s all I can think of to call it.
And there were buildings all around, and people, and fountains. And Manny was walking across it, like this, and he stopped me, like this, in an archway. And there were thousands of people.
And he looked at me, he said, “Chip, look. Just look.” And I’m thinking, There are people. Okay. “No look.” And I’m thinking, My eyes are open. I can’t look any harder than I’m looking. And he said, “Do you realize, less than one and a half percent of those people know Jesus? It’s true, all over Spain.” And tears just started coming down his eyes. And when I was with him, I think he was going to share his faith with statues. Just in case.
Lost people matter to people with the gift of evangelism. I remember, they interviewed Billy Graham. And they asked him – they looked back on his life and said, “How do you explain – of course it’s God. How do you explain this massive, amazing impact that God has allowed you to have on the world?” And they were expecting, “Well, it was my training.” Or, “It was my parents.” Or, “I had this wonderful spiritual experience.”
And I’ll never forget his answer. He tilted his head, and he said, “Well, I don’t know that I can really explain it, other than maybe one thing.” He said, “I feel like God has a love for people who don’t know Him. I think God has a passionate, deep love for people who don’t know Him. And I just feel like God took His love for those people who don’t know Him, and He just placed it in my heart. I just love them. I just love them.”
And by the way, this is a good example, too, of some gifts. Imagine a gift, rather than as the color blue, or this gift the color red – imagine a gift as the color blue, but with a variety of shades of blue. So, dark blue might be mass evangelism, big groups. And real light blue might be personal evangelism. One of the greatest evangelists I ever met was a guy named John Saville. John came to Christ late fifties, maybe early sixties, had a CPA firm in Dallas, very shy man, except the supernatural gift of evangelism. And John would go into prisons once a month, or more, with Bill Glass, and go to death row, and share Christ.
But John shared Christ everywhere. I’d go to meet with him at lunch. I still remember, we get on an elevator. I mean, I don’t know, forty-five floors, and glass buildings, and really nice, very sophisticated people in their business suits. Really looking cool. And John turns to this nice, young lady, “Hi, how you doing?” And she goes, “Fine, thank you very much.” And he had this smile. It was just contagious. And he’s an older guy, so she knew he wasn’t coming on to her. And then, he looks at her. He said, “Do you know that Jesus loves you?”
And I’m thinking, Oh, John. There is a way to do this, and this is not seeker sensitive. Oh. I’m thinking, John, what are you doing? And I’m waiting for her to take her purse and whack him, or something.
And he turned to her and said, “You know something? I just have to tell you, I wasted most of my life.” We’ve got less than two minutes on the elevator. “And Jesus has made all the difference. And I just can’t help believe that He just wants you to know how much you matter to Him. If you ever want to talk about Jesus, you know what? Here’s a business card, and our company’s up on the something-something floor.”
And I’m expecting her to take it, throw it on the ground. I don’t know anybody who could do this. She melts in his presence. Looks at him, takes the card and says, “You have no idea what I’m going through right now. Thank you Mr. Saville. Would it really be okay to come and talk?”
And you know what? It’s called the gift of evangelism. It doesn’t have to be in a big group. But this is a gift that God gives people, to care, and to reach out to lost people. Maybe that’s you.
Notice, as we move on, next gift is pastor/teacher. It’s the only dual gift in the New Testament. “He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as” – there’s only a singular article. It’s not “some as pastors and some as teachers.” Literally, it’s “some as” –singular article – “the pastors/teachers.”
Let’s find out what it is. Pastor/teacher is a person with this spiritual gift, who has the ability to lead, nourish, protect, and personally care for the needs of a flock of believers.
Not all people – listen carefully – with the office of pastor – or even an elder, or overseer, have a need for the gift. In other words, you don’t have to have the gift of pastor/teacher to be a pastor. You can pastor, that office, out of an exhortational gift. For me, it was a prophecy gift.
And then, notice, it goes on: And many with this gift do not need or have the office. In other words, you’ve met some people who pastor, and shepherd, and love people, and they love being small group leaders, or, some of those Sunday school classes where they have teams.
This is the person that is always wondering, Well, I wonder how Betty is. She’s not here. I wonder how Bob is. “Hey Bob, how are things going? Last week you shared…”
They shepherd. That’s what this word means. The word pastor comes from the root word to shepherd. It means “to give oversight.” This is the ability to promote spiritual growth. It’s a dual gift. It not only has a caring. It means you can nurture, care. And what does a shepherd do for sheep? A shepherd protects, leads, guides, and feeds. And this person has that mix, and also the ability to teach God’s Word in such a way to help the person grow spiritually.
And this does not have to be – I think this has not been taught. A lot of people with this gift get lost in the body of Christ, because they think, I’m not called. I don’t have any calling from God to go to seminary, or Bible school, and be a pastor. But I want to shepherd people. And by the way, this is not gender specific. The spiritual gifts – see, we have gotten so used to the office of pastor, we think of the pastor as a role, or an office. This is a gift.
How about you? Are you a shepherd? You a teacher?