5 Insights Gained from Teaching
Spiritual Gift Development
There is an old (and true) saying about teachers: they learn more than their students. Simply put: in the process of studying for any class, the well-prepared teacher has to dig deep and do lots of study. He/she seldom gets to share everything he/she has learned in his/her study. These same teachers are challenged to change previous held views. We call this growth.
In the process of preparing for and teaching our spiritual gift development classes, I’ve learned many new things, changed my thinking on some things and have many newly discovered insights that will hopefully motivate you to re-evaluate what you’ve always believed about spiritual gifts and encourage you to start developing the gifts within your congregation.
The definitions of the gifts speak loudly of their importance and purpose. Teaching is serious business as is pastoring. Exhortation is a strong usage of biblical principles used in private and public and is greatly needed in the church today. Prophetic utterances would stop most churches in their tracks. Each non-miraculous gift meets real needs in and out of the church. These definitions are ‘heavy’ terms and call for great responsibility. All of this tells me that God is serious about these gifts and He wants them to be used (lovingly) in every church. This is NOT a matter that is to be taken lightly or be overlooked by church leadership. I am thoroughly convinced that most churches remain weak and/or small because members and their gifts have not be developed as God originally ordained. Christians and churches struggle because they are not empowered by these gifts.
Discovering, developing and deploying (using) these gifts should be a part of the maturation process for every member of the church. There is a lot of immaturity in the body of Christ (e.g. our lack of involvement, our lack of love for the lost, our self-centeredness, the division among us, the worldliness in the body, anxiety, bigotry, poor stewardship, covetousness, etc.). I am convinced that one of our most promising means of maturing Christians is assisting them in discovering how the Lord has uniquely designed them, helping them develop their gifts and then putting them to work. Mature Christians are serving Christians.
Using gifts requires courage. We live in a culture that says, “Live and let live” or “I’m OK, You’re OK.” The fact of the matter is that none of us are OK; we are all sinners in the need of God’s grace. When we appeal to living lives that have been touched by the grace of God or need to be touched by the grace of God (cf. Titus 2:11-14) we are required to courageously confront folks in and out of the body of Christ. Most of the gifts involve communicating truth to others—whether in or out of the church. Even though we follow the instruction to speak the truth in love, many folks are easily offended by such. When you use your gift (e.g. teaching, prophecy, exhortation, evangelism), you have to be brave. In the areas of the gifts of giving, compassion and service, courage is required because you are called to serve the disenfranchised or you are called to give to controversial ministries. In the areas of leadership, and pastoring, you are called, many times, to make unpopular decisions and plans that upset folks. Using one’s gifts calls for great courage and strength. As such, we become more dependent upon the Lord for wisdom and strength to serve well.
The church (in general) does not manifest these gifts at all or when they are manifested, they aren’t manifested fully or well. The churches of Christ, generally, do not believe in present-day spiritual gifts in any shape, form or fashion*. The result is obvious: the church suffers greatly and the lost remain lost. We seldom if ever see or hear of true full-blown exhortation. We seldom hear a prophetic admonition; in fact, it is highly discouraged unless it comes from a pulpit minister or an eldership. Exhortation has been reduced to saying “Good morning, how are you?” Pastoring is done, in many congregations, exclusively by the preacher. Any administrative/leadership is seldom recognized or appreciated. Many churches continue to aim at nothing and hit it with great accuracy.
Much of our lack of spiritual and numerical growth is a result of our ignorance of or a lack of instruction in a practical application of the whole counsel of God in this area.
Relationships and biblical submission are paramount. Many of our church relationships at best are surface/shallow relationships. However, exhortation, pastoring, leading, prophecy and teaching can only be done in true in-depth koinonia/fellowship. I am personally convinced that many fall away simply because we do not practice biblical fellowship and we do not use our gifts to get people saved and keep them saved (by maturing them into true servants). Our priority (in many local churches) could be summed up by the following: assembling on time, getting started on time and finishing on time. Fellowship and relationships are seldom if ever addressed. In depth training and teaching are neglected. Ephesians 5:21 takes on a whole new meaning when we study how to develop our gifts and use them for His purpose.
What if we developed and used non-miraculous gifts as they were designed? All gifts are designed to edify or strength the church. Hopefully, the faithfulness and involvement of the membership will rise in number. People who use their gifts grow and mature and serve. Those not growing are challenged by those who manifest their gifts.
We are in the soul saving and soul developing business. Our goal is to get people into Christ and get them to Heaven. This is not an easy ‘anybody can do it’ effort. It takes dedication, commitment and serious effort including constant training, and following God’s plan.
My new book Maxing Out Your Spiritual Gifts will hopefully be available at the Church Involvement Conference in January, 2017.
*Recommended reading: Doug Hamilton of Sunset Institute Press has a newer book entitled Spiritual Giftedness. On pages 39-56 Doug discusses why the gifts of Romans 12 are non-miraculous gifts (he would refer to these as passionate endowments). The point? Christians still have gifts today–at least some gifts–and as such, they should be taken seriously. We can show that we take them seriously by discovering them, developing them and deploying them in every member of the church.
March 21, 2016