I have been around churches and ministries for long enough to have seen some misuse—and even abuse—of spiritual gifts. Although spiritual gifts are biblical and essential for healthy ministry, anything can be misused in a fallen world. Here are two abuses of spiritual gifts that I’ve witnessed…
Although spiritual gifts are biblical and essential for healthy ministry, anything can be misused in a fallen world. Check out this blog to read about two common ways that can happen. Click To Tweet
We are often tempted to lift one gift above another. When we do this, it not only devalues some gifts, but also becomes a status symbol to have other gifts. When this happens, spiritual gifts tend to become ends in themselves. Instead of being used to serve others, they are used to glorify the one performing them. The Corinthian church fell into this error, leading the Apostle Paul to write them this corrective:
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (I Corinthians 12:21-26)We are often tempted to lift one gift above another. When we do this, it not only devalues some gifts, but also becomes a status symbol to have other gifts. Click To Tweet
This is the assumption that—if we really loved God—our lives would look just like the lives of certain heroes of the faith. Example: If I were really holy, I would do what Mother Teresa did. Now, Mother Teresa is an amazing example and we can all learn a great deal from her life. Yet that doesn’t take into account that God has made each of us differently, with different gifts and different callings. As great as Mother Teresa was, we were not all meant to be exactly like her. Often we fall into this error of gift-projection by hearing stories about great people of the faith that are followed up by the implied lesson: “If you loved God that much, dear reader, you could do the same thing. If you are not able to do the same thing, you now know the reason why. There is something deficient in your relationship with God.”
The problem is that biographies of the saints usually focus on a particular gift that individual had, but most of the time, the presence of a particular gift is not recognized or acknowledged in the story. I remember being particularly frustrated by reading about the life of George Muller, a man who had the gift of faith and spent hours a day in prayer (gifts and abilities I do not share). He saw miraculous and amazing answers to prayer, but ended his story thus: “Let not Satan deceive you in making you think you could not have the same faith, but that it is only for persons situated as I am… I pray to the Lord and expect an answer to my requests and may not you do the same, dear believing reader?”
We have much to learn from the lives of those who have gone before us in their lives as disciples of Jesus, but God doesn’t expect us to have exactly the same ministry. Be sure as you move into the integration of spiritual gifts into the life of your church that you do not repeat the errors of Corinth by exalting some gifts above others or by projecting some gifts onto everyone.
The Discipleship Difference- This book lays out an intentional, holistic, and relational approach to discipleship that is individualized to meet each person wherever they are. Available in English and Spanish.
The Discipleship Cycle- This FREE downloadable resource will help you create an action plan to help you determine your next steps to grow and multiply disciples using the Discipleship Cycle in your ministry.
Map of Discipleship- This map is a FREE downloadable resource that will help you assess where someone currently is in their journey of discipleship as well as where God may be prompting them to grow next.