Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
Your Divine Design Resources on sale now.
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
You ready to really – you got your pencil out? Okay. Now we’re going to look through these gifts. We’re going to walk through, specifically, each one of these gifts, and here’s how we’re going to do it: I’m going to give you written definitions that you can see there. Then, I’m going to give you some quick characteristics. And by the way, don’t try and write these down. I’ll make you nuts. If you’re obsessive-compulsive just lean back.
And then, here’s what I want you to do: Underneath, in your notes, where it says “Prophecy,” I want you to write the words yes, no, maybe. And then, when I get done, just gut reaction, circle yes, no, or maybe. All right? So, I’ll give you the definition, I’ll give you a few characteristics, and then, we’ll do a quick application.
Prophecy: motivational gift from Romans 12:6 to 8: “The divine enablement to proclaim God’s truth with power and clarity in a timely and culturally sensitive fashion for correction, repentance, or edification.” It’s the ability to reveal God’s Word accurately. One of the good tests is, people with this gift, often intuitively, ask about almost every situation, “What went wrong? What caused this?”
By way of definition, as well, in the Old Testament, obviously, prophets were telling the future and forthtelling, or preaching. In the New Testament, we get some rare occasions where they are telling the future. But the primary nature of this gift – we’ll discuss this later, on this issue – is the forthtelling, or the culturally accurate preaching, of God’s Word. It’s the ability and consuming desire to reveal the truth of God that it might impact lives.
I found a little quote. You know those scholarly books, where they have the print that’s microscopic? I cut this out and pasted it in my notes. And this is by an older fellow named Darby, and I love his description of this.
He says, “By a special energy of the spirit” – doesn’t that sound like old school? “By a special energy of the spirit, it can unfold and communicate the mind of Christ where the Church is ignorant of it, though,” it says, “this treasure is already found in Scripture. It brings truth, hidden previously from the knowledge of the Church, in the power and the testimony of the Spirit of God to bear on the present circumstances of the Church, and the future prospects of the world. And thus, it practically is prophetic, though there may be no necessary new information or revelation.” It’s someone who has a sense of the culture and the needs of the Church, and God gives it where there’s an alignment, so when they speak, they speak to where the real issues are of what we need to address.”
Characteristics: They tend to be persuasive speakers. They can read people. They often are opinionated, very black and white. They often like large groups, rather than one-on-one. People with this gift often – I’ve been with people that, you fill a stadium, and you feel like you’re their best friend. And you sit next to them on the airplane, and you say, “Hey, how you doing?” “Fine.” And you’re thinking, But I just had this warm, wonderful experience with fifty thousand people in the stadium. “How’s it going?” “Great.” I mean, there’s just something about some people with this gift is, they don’t necessarily like the one-on-one stuff.
Some of the dangers of this gift: They can have a tendency to be proud of their speaking ability, depending on the speaking ability, rather than on the power of the Holy Spirit. And people with prophetic gift who want to make it right can be insensitive to the feelings of other people. Okay, how about you? Yes? No? Maybe? Does that kind of describe you? Just take a quick shot in the dark. Don’t overanalyze it.
Gift number two is service. It’s the divine enablement to attach spiritual value to the accomplishment of physical tasks within the body of Christ. It’s the ability to demonstrate love by meeting practical needs that releases other Christians for direct spiritual ministry. The question these people intuitively ask, because of their gift, is, “What can I do to help? What can I do to help?” The gift word here is our word diakonia. It is translated “deacon.” It literally means “to serve,” or, “to wait on tables.”
Some characteristics of this person: Doesn’t need much public recognition. These people don’t seek the limelight. They’re content to work behind the scenes. They often like manual projects. Unusual ability to detect people’s personal needs.
These are the kinds of people who walk in your house, or there’s little conversation, and they come back around later, and they give you something. And you’re thinking, “Well how did you even know about that?” “Well you mentioned it three months ago, when we had dinner.” And you’re going, “I didn’t even know I needed that.” They’re just really attuned to meeting the practical needs of people. They’re able to overlook personal discomfort, in order to meet other people’s needs, and will often use their own funds to make things happen. because they want to serve.
Some of the dangers: They can be bitter when their deeds are not recognized. They don’t need a lot of limelight, but when they get none, it’s kind of like, “Hey, does anybody care?”
And by the way, these are the most neglected people in the body of Christ in the Church. These are the people that, I’ll tell you what, when you go to your church this weekend, you don’t see them, but they really make it happen. Someone got in early. Someone turned on the lights. Someone cleaned things. Someone folded the bulletin. Someone typed something. Someone’s watching the kids. Someone fixed the buses. Someone’s helping the single moms. Someone’s doing repairs at night. These are the kinds of people that where the Spirit of God – where the rubber meets the road – practically, in my mind, these are heroes. In fact, Paul says, the more unseemly, less-visible members we need to exalt. That’s this gift.
Another danger is putting an overemphasis on practical needs, to the exclusion of spiritual needs. In my life, there’s a guy named Dick. Dick was a schoolteacher.
Dick retired. Dick found a group of eight or ten retired guys. And we had one who was a plumber, one who was a carpenter. And we fixed single moms’ cars. They fixed everything around the church. You know that verse that we overlook in James: true religion is caring for widows and orphans? Dick thought that was in the Bible, and we ought to actually do it. And he developed a team of people, and we just did practical. He was an elder. And in elders’ meetings, what I knew, no matter what we talked about, guess where Dick was going to come back to? Bang.
Because, see, here’s what you’ve got to understand about what you bring: In every discussion, every decision, it’s the lens you look through. I don’t care what we’re talking about. We can talk about money. We can talk about church. We can talk about families.
The lens I’m going to look through is, Hey, what went wrong? How can we make it better? How do we help people reach their full potential? That’s what prophets do.
Other people are going to be, the lens you’ll look through is, How can we serve them? How can we help them? Third gift – oh are you ready? Yes? No? Maybe? Circle it, or just write that word.
The third motivational gift is teaching. It’s the divine enablement to understand and give detailed explanation of Biblical truth. It’s the ability to search out and validate truth that has been presented. People with this gift are asking the question, “What is truth? Where did you get that? Why?”
The classical Greek word here is “to impart information, in order to develop talent, and potential.” It’s the motivation and power to present, with clarity, the truth of God’s Word. People with the gift of teaching – few characteristics here. They love to do research. They love to study. And they like to study down to the minutia. Stuff that you and I think isn’t that important, it matters to them. You know the people who make all those long charts?
If you’re a pastor, the people that come up and ask questions like – I remember one guy said, “Do you think Daniel was a eunuch?” I’m thinking, I’ve stayed up nights on that one, but I really haven’t come to a conclusion. And then, he said, “You know, last week I was on a business trip. And I took my laptop, and I put about twenty-five hours of research into it. And in the Mesopotamian culture, this happened. And then, of course, Daniel was over here in this other. And I’m looking at the history of a eunuch, and when I think about what was going on in the culture, and I’ve come to the conclusion, what do you think, Chip?” And I’m thinking – immediate reaction – I don’t care. I really don’t. And my second is: How could anyone spend twenty-five hours studying on: what’s a eunuch?
But that same guy’s name is Bill Carter. Bill Carter had the gift of teaching. Bill Carter was the first one, in his words, who opened up spiritual gifts to me to say, “Have you ever considered looking at it through this paradigm of motivation, ministry, and manifestation? You know, Chip I’ve been doing some work. I spent about one hundred and twenty hours–” He kept track. I don’t know why. I guess he’s got the gift of teaching. And he said, “As I’ve been tracing it through…”
And you know what? I just learned from him. He asked me questions he thought, because I went to seminary, I knew. I got to where, “Hey, Bill, that’s a really great question. But before I answer that, could you answer this one?” Because he actually knew the Bible far better than me.
When you have the gift of teaching, very content, very doctrine oriented. You love to research. You love to study. These are the kinds of people, too, when someone teaches – if you have the gift of teaching, your lights are going off like crazy when I’m teaching. Ding. Ding. Is this true? What about this? Where did he get that? What about this? What about this? And you know, that word, I’ve heard it means – could mean this, and that word – I mean, it is like, “Where’s the research? Show me the meat. Show me where you got that.” That’s the gift of teaching.
The danger of this gift is to concentrate too much on content, to the exclusion of application. A danger is boasting or getting proud about their knowledge. Knowledge puffs up. Another danger is being inattentive to the response of students. See, if you’ve got the gift of teaching, the truth is so wonderful. They just swim in the truth. The truth is so wonderful. They can get up, and study and study and study. And they can give it. And, like, the back row can be asleep. So what? They’re just missing out. The truth – and did anybody apply it? Who cares. I’m going to go back and study. That’s why we need the body.
Okay, what? Yes, no, or maybe? You got the gift of teaching? Could it be? Could that be your primary motivation?
Next is the motivational gift of exhortation. It’s the divine enablement, or power, to come alongside another in need of encouragement, to reassure, strengthen, affirm, and – notice – challenge those who are discouraged, or wavering in their faith. It’s the ability to stimulate the faith of others. People with this gift ask, “What must be done to fix this?” These are fix-it people. And then, next, “How can we move this person to wholeness?”
This gift of exhortation – the Biblical word – you know when it says, “Another comforter will come,” the Holy Spirit? The word is para – alongside – kaleo. Kaleo – called alongside. Parakaleo. This word, exhortation – same word. This person is called alongside other people. And the best way to get the definition of this, it’s interesting, because it’s like a coin with two sides. Their goal is to bring wholeness, and fix things. And, often, it’s comforting, loving, affirming. “Oh, you’ve been through –” They’re great counselors. “Oh, you’ve been through a hard time.”
But if the people don’t change, or if they’re messing around, they also – the flipside of that coin is not just all the comfort, it’s challenge. And they’ll get in your face and say, “You know something? We’ve been meeting for eleven weeks now. And you’ve been telling me, ‘I’m in a terrible marriage. I’m in a terrible marriage. I’m in a terrible marriage. I’m in a terrible marriage. I’m in a terrible marriage.’ I got the part about your terrible marriage. Now, you know what? We gave you some assignments. You did half of the first one. You did part of the second one. We prayed the last three, because you cried through those. Okay? If you want to have a session twelve, honey, you’d better get off your terrible marriage, and ask what God wants to do in you to make this marriage better, than what needs to happen in him. Do you understand?”
And people with the gift of exhortation will do that. They have a long fuse. They’re very loving. Very affirming. But their goal is to help you get whole. And if you don’t want to get whole, after a while, they’ll cut you loose. Characteristics of this person: They’re gifted in counseling. They see practical application from Scripture.
I remember I shared in another message where I went for counseling, early in our marriage, because we both came from pagan backgrounds, and didn’t know how to communicate. And a guy named Richard Meyer, he was a senior pastor for twenty-some years. And then, he went back and got training in counseling. He had this gift. He helped my wife and I see different things. And then, he would give us a biblical passage. But then, he would give us very practical, specific things, from that passage, to work on.
And it’s a phenomenal gift. People with this gift see, practically, how to put the Scripture and the truth, apply it to your life. They call us to godly living. They initiate. They implore. They request. They entreat. These are great people to have as friends.
The dangers of this gift: They spend too much time with people who only want temporary solutions to their problems. See, they care so much, it’s like, maybe they should have said that at session six, instead of session eleven. “I’m in a terrible marriage.” Well, okay.
Another danger is, they can become discouraged from lack of results from people who they’re ministering to. These people, they’ve got to see people’s lives change. And if people lives don’t change, they get really discouraged. Like, What’s the deal? Am I doing something wrong?
So, how about you? Gift of exhortation? Are you motivated to ask, “Hey, how do I fix this? How do I bring this person to wholeness?” Yes, no, or maybe.
The next gift is the motivational gift of giving. This is the divine enablement to earn money, manage it well, and wisely contribute to the work of the Lord, with cheerfulness and liberality. It’s the ability to entrust personal assets to others for the furtherance of their ministry. People with this gift ask this question, “What can I give to meet the needs? What can I give to meet the needs?”
The word here is “to share,” or “to give.” It’s not necessarily money, but, primarily, it shows up in people’s finances. But this is a person with generosity. And notice, in Romans 12, “Let he who gives, give it liberally.” The word is haplos. It’s the word for “having a single eye.”
The characteristics: These people don’t like the limelight. These people like to give anonymously. These people like to have a single focus. These people want to know what the ROI is on their gift. “Hey, you know what I want to know? So, okay, I gave you a hundred thousand dollars to do this, and do this. Did this, this, this, and this happen? And if not, I’m going to give my gift, next week, somewhere else.”
These people hate high-pressure tactics. They smell manipulation in a New York minute. They can tell when people are trying to con them and put them on. And what they have is an ability to earn money, manage it wisely, and they see opportunities. And they see, You know what? With this much money, this is what could really happen. Those are the basic characteristics of someone with the gift of giving.
They do not have to be wealthy. Obviously this gift is operating in the third world. You can have the gift of giving in Haiti. And you may not have but two coconuts, but you’re willing to give one and a half of yours away.
The danger of this gift is, there can be a tendency to be proud of it, as is evidenced by, “This gift was given by Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so and So-and-so. And here’s the plaque. And…”
See, for every great gift, there’s always a danger. And there can be a danger that you want people to know what you gave. And in a nice sophisticated Christian way, you don’t want people to know too much, but you want them to know just enough. Not that you’re proud, but that you’re wonderful.
Another danger is overemphasizing material needs, to the exclusion of spiritual needs, and judging others, spiritually, by their bank account. See, again, you look at others through this lens. And it’s so easy for you to make money. It’s so easy for you to do stuff. It’s like, My lands, I mean, the guy’s got the gift of service, and he’s been working at that job for eleven years. I appreciate the guy. That’s the most beat-up, dumb truck. His kids are still riding in the back, and that’s dangerous. My lands, save so much. Start with tithing. Do this. Set aside some. Get yourself…get your finances in order! What’s wrong with you?
They just go nuts when they see financial mismanagement. Because, to them, it’s just so natural, how you ought to operate your life. How about you? Yes, no, or maybe?
The next motivational gift is that of leadership. It’s the divine enablement to, notice, see what needs to be done, set goals, and then attract, lead, and motivate people to accomplish the work of the ministry. It’s the ability to coordinate the activities of others for the achievement of common goals. People with this gift are asking, “What’s the goal? Where are you trying to go? What’s the target on the wall?” And the other thing they’re always asking, “What are the results? Okay, this activity, fine activity. You’re saying you’re doing this, doing this. Show me, what did you accomplish? What’s the goal?”
It’s interesting, in terms of definition. This is a person who gives vision and direction, can mobilize other people. It originally has the idea of someone who stands in front. It’s the ability to lead and delegate. They take charge. They enjoy responsibility. This is the guy that wants to take the shot, the last shot in the game. And if he misses, he misses. But he wants the ball in his hands.
When there’s a vacuum, and nothing’s happening, a person with the gift of leadership is just frustrated to death. It’s disorganized. It’s going nowhere. What they want to do is say, “Look, if no one else is going to do this, okay, look, I’ll tell you what. You seem to be good at this, good at this. Let’s come up with a plan. There’s a target on the wall. For the next six weeks, let’s go for it. Does everyone agree?” And everyone goes, “Oh, yeah. I don’t know why we didn’t know how to do that. It just makes sense.” And so, that’s what they are. They stand in front.
It’s a person who has the ability to see how things fit together, what needs to be done, how it can be accomplished. And they have a way of doing it, where people are attracted to them, and they see the big picture, and they mobilize people, and get them in their strengths.
The danger is, they can use people to achieve their goals. The danger is, they can get proud or pushy with the power that’s given to them. We’ve all been around leaders that know God, but we wish they knew Him a little better, and that they get a little grace with all that drive and intensity.
And sometimes, they forget the purpose of the project. It’s, “Got to get it done! Got to get it done! We’ve got to build this building, got to build this building, got to build this building, got to build this building! Come on, what’s wrong with you? You need to give more. Why aren’t you giving more? Come on, these contractor, hey! We’re already ten, twelve percent over budget. What’s wrong with this committee? You know, we start on time; we get this thing done.”
And someone says, “And why are we building this building?” “Because we’ve got to love people.” Huh. And maybe we ought to start in this committee. Okay. See, it’s just one of the dangers. How about you? Leadership. Yes, no, maybe?
The final one is the gift of mercy. It’s the divine enablement to minister cheerfully and appropriately to people who are suffering, or undeserving, and to spare them the punishment or the consequences they justly deserve. Isn’t this a wonderful gift?
These are those people that, you’ve blown it, and you’ve really blown it. And you can blame others, but it really is your fault. And something in them not only wants to help you, but they don’t want you to have to suffer the consequences that you really ought to get. Kind of like God, huh? It’s a gift of mercy. It’s a gift of wanting to withhold just consequences from those who deserve it. They’re always asking the question, “How can I make them feel better?” There’s a high identification with people’s hurts, and people’s needs, and what they’re going through.
The definition of this word – at the heart of it is an emotion that is aroused by the affliction or the needs of others that gets translated into action. There’s just something in the heart – this compassion, this sympathy and empathy – that wants to reach out and help people.
The characteristics: They are able to detect and discern people’s feelings. Have you ever been there? Where you’re with someone with the gift of mercy, and, actually, you’re talking, and you go through the meeting, and you think, Wow that was a good meeting. And you walk out, and you walk out with someone with the gift of mercy, and they say, “Hey man we really need to pray for that guy.” “Why? I thought it was a good meeting.” “You didn’t pick up on it?” “Pick up on what?” “Man his marriage is in trouble.” “What do you mean, his marriage is in trouble? We weren’t talking about marriage; we were trying to get a building built.” “Didn’t you pick up on the signals? He said this; he said that. When you asked about his family, quickly, when we went around and shared, his countenance fell.”
These people man, they’ve got this antenna. They’ve got this radar. And when there are needs, and when there are hurts, and when there’s – they pick up on it. And then, they’re drawn to it. And they want to help, and they want to care.
And the characteristics, here: Not only do they detect and are discerning, they’re very sensitive. They’re sensitive to the point of action. They want direct, personal ministry. The gift of mercy – they don’t want to delegate this. They are moved highly by the World Vision or the Food for the Hungry commercials. And they’re glad to give, but they want hands-on helping people with very specific needs.
The dangers here: They tend to have a hard time being firm when necessary. They look at life – especially in their parenting. You’ve got the gift of mercy – being a disciplinarian is pretty tough with the gift of mercy. Resentment for those who don’t have this gift.
People with the gift of mercy, and people with the gift of leadership, can have significant problems in the body of Christ. And God’s goal is that this person does this out of his grace, and this person does this out of his grace. And the leader becomes more merciful, and the merciful person learns to lead with clarity and direction and apply their gift much better.
They often are misunderstood by people of the opposite sex. If you have this gift, you’ve got to be careful. Because someone’s really hurting, and you’re a woman – or vice versa, man, woman – and you reach out to help them. And the guy or the gal goes, “Hey, he’s pretty cool.” “I think she’s coming on to me.” Or, “He’s coming on to me.” No, no. It has no – “I see your need. I see your pain.”
People often, with this gift, end up in very dysfunctional relationships. Because they’re trying to rescue people, and they get involved, emotionally, in helping people they shouldn’t be helping. What you need is to find another sister to help that gal, or a brother to help that brother on these kinds of issues. Yes, no, or maybe?
Well, those are the seven motivational gifts. And someone has, I think rightly, said, often, a picture is worth a thousand words. And I got this from a buddy, and I don’t know where he got it. But I’ve got it on a little page that they do in their spiritual gifting networking class in California. And he tells the story about a waiter who is at a Christian banquet.
There’s a big Christian banquet, and there’s a big front table up here. And, believe it or not, there are exactly seven leaders. And each leader has a different one of the motivational gifts. And it’s a big, Christian banquet, and they’re all godly, so they operate in their gifts, controlled by the Spirit of God. And it’s a huge banquet and they’re raising a lot of money, and doing great things all over the world.
And they’re clearing away the tables, and as they’re doing it, the dessert is coming out. And there’s a very nice waiter who’s been serving them. And he comes, and he’s got this huge plate of desserts. And as he comes here, someone’s clearing a table. They bump. It goes. Splat! Goes everywhere. It’s in front of everyone. Microphone goes over. Bash! Every eye looks up. The waiter’s there. He’s got ice cream, and chocolate, and sundaes all over him. The main speaker looks like he’s been dressed for a dog to lick chocolate off his vest. And then, the gifts go into action.
And so, the person with the gift of prophecy gets up and says, “I could see this coming. It was a mistake from the very beginning. Tell you what, you cannot take away plates and bring dessert at the same time.” Motivation is to correct his life.
The person with the mercy jumps up and says, “Oh don’t feel so badly! It could have happened to anyone. It’s okay.” Motivation: “How can I relieve the embarrassment?”
The person with the gift of serving goes, “Oh, let me help. Let me help. Can I wipe this off?” And she’s picking up, or he’s picking up, what’s fallen down. The motivation is to fulfill a need.
The person with the gift of teaching backs off. They always think their gift is most important in these situations. And they step back and say, “The real reason this happened was not as you thought, that they were taking away the plates and bringing in the dessert. The real reason – I’ve analyzed this. And what you see is that you have seven desserts one side, and five desserts on the other side, the equilibrium and the balance – if you wear those kinds of shoes on this type of cloth – will cause a tilting.” And the goal is to motivate, and to discover why it happened.
The person with the gift of exhortation just jumps up and says, “Hey, next time, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you just serve the dessert with the meal?” And his motivation is, “We’ll just correct this for the future.”
The person with the gift of giving looks and goes, “Okay, I’ve got a suit that’s ruined. I’ve got a microphone that’s broken. I’ve got carpet that’s destroyed. We’ve rented the church.” And he goes, “I’ll tell you what, guys. I’m not sure what we need to do on this, but I’ll tell you what. If you’ll go ahead and speak, here’s my jacket. And I’ll buy you a new suit. And you know something? This is a nice church we’ve rented. This carpet has needed replacing, probably, for years. I’ll tell you what. I’ll throw in the first five thousand dollars if the rest of you will jump in with me.” And his motivation is to give to relieve a need.
And then, finally, you have the person with leadership. And as people were doing this, he steps up, and he goes, “Hey, Jim, could you get a mop? Sue, would you please help pick up Mary? Get one more dessert. I’ll tell you what, let’s make an announcement. Bobby, I’ll tell you what, you know that song you did earlier? Do it again, and do it again, right now. Okay, we’re going to clean this up, right now. Thanks. You get the jacket. Okay. Everybody, in about fifteen minutes we’ll be ready to go.”
I believe that God has given everyone in this room one primary motivational gift. Which one of those seven did you most resonate with? If you were at that table, what would you naturally jump up and want to do, or want to solve? Top one or two.
Because what I’m going to say to you is that you are a workmanship. You are a piece of art. God has given you gifts of different natures and hues that He wants to paint, out of His grace, into the lives of other people. And if you think you’re this, and God wants you to be this, not only are you frustrated, but think of what’s happening in the body of Christ, who needs your gift of leadership, or your gift of mercy, or your gift of exhortation.
And when you understand that there are primary motivations, and then that motivation will play out in different ministries, at different times, at different seasons in your development, and the development of the ministry that you’re called, then what we’ll learn is how you develop those ministry gifts, and how all those other manifestation gifts operate in the body of Christ. Because I’ll tell you what, God wants you to walk in the good works that He before ordained, from the foundation of the earth, that you should do those good works. And I’m going to tell you, when you do, you’ll get the double “F” in your life: unbelievable fulfillment, and unbelievable fruitfulness.
Did you get maybe just a tiny little inkling that we learned some things about God’s Word, but one guy in the room had a lot of fun? Unashamedly. I just had a blast. You know why? Because I just did what God made me to do. I’m not special. I’m not smarter. I’m not more important. I’m not more holy. I just understand this is what He made me to do. And my dream is that you’ll discover what He made you to do.