Stop Taking Those Spiritual Gift Tests (The Path)

September 3, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

Confession time.  I do not like spiritual gift tests.  This is not to say that I don’t believe in spiritual gifts or their value.  Spiritual gifts are real and incredibly valuable to us and to what God is doing in and through us all over the world.  It’s the tests that are no good.  A typical question goes something like this:

32. I enjoy teaching God’s word to groups of people None      A little       Sometimes      Often      Always

Hmmm. I wonder what spiritual gift that is trying to evaluate.  It’s such a mystery.  It’s obvious that it is trying to “help” you determine if you have the gift of teaching. So, if you want to have the gift of teaching, circle always and blammo! You have the gift of teaching.  Spiritual gift tests are more passion evaluators than gift inventories.  I want to be a teacher and I can have the gift according to this test if I answer the obvious questions the right way.

However, there is a big difference between you having a passion for something and you having a skill in that area.  I would even say that there is a difference between having a skill in an area and being spiritually gifted in that area.  Passion means you love something.  A skill means that you are good at it.   A spiritual gift means you have God’s power behind it.

You see, spiritual gifts have spiritual effects.  You can call yourself a teacher, but if no one is learning than you are not a teacher, you are a talker to people.  People can learn information from you and even a new skill and then you are a teacher.  However, when are you a spiritually gifted teacher? You are a spiritually gifted teacher, when you teach and God’s spirit shows up in a big way and people’s lives are changed.  When do you have the gift of hospitality? Not just that you want people to come over to your house.  They also need to feel welcomed and then that hospitality is having a spiritual effect in the lives of the people.

You don’t have the gift of teaching if no one is listening. You don’t have the gift of hospitality if no one enjoys coming to your home.  You don’t have the gift of encouragement if everyone feels worse after talking to you.  You don’t have the gift of discernment if you are always wrong.

So rather than doing a self-evaluation survey. You should give one to your friends for you. You should ask them what they see in you.  Ask them how they have seen God use you in the lives of other people.  See then if that agrees with what you think.  The best evaluation tool is to ask the question, “Where have I seen God move when I minister to others?” Again, knowing what your passionate about is a great thing to know.  That’s a great blog post for another day, but spiritual gifts have spiritual effects.

I believe that I am good at communicating the gospel to lost people.  I understand the theology of the gospel.  I have great illustrations.  I also am a pretty good communicator.  Does that mean I have the gift of evangelism? No it doesn’t.  In fact, I know that I don’t.  Why do I know this? Because people do not very often come to Christ when I share.  I remember in the summer of 1995, my wife and I were on a mission trip to Ukraine.  This was fairly soon after the old Soviet Union opened up to travelers and to missionaries in particular.  Our group was doing a lot of evangelism and people were coming to Christ in large numbers.  Except there was one guy on the team who was not leading anyone to Christ.  Would you like to guess who?

It was very frustrating and discouraging. In the team meetings there would be these great stories and I wouldn’t have one.  I feel like I was sharing very well and explaining the gospel well but nothing.  One afternoon I went out with another team member and they were sharing with someone we had met.  The presentation was a mess.  The gospel was poorly communicated.  I began to doubt my own salvation because I wasn’t sure I understood the gospel anymore.  I looked over at the Ukrainian student and they are crying.  They say they want to receive Christ.  I ask them to explain to me what that means and they proceed to explain the gospel better than it was explained to them .  At the time I was dumfounded.  Now I recognize spiritual gifts.  They have spiritual effects.  My friend had the gift of evangelism.

I on the other hand got to speak at a large group gathering one night and it was amazing.  You could feel the presence of God.  I spoke on the need for Christian fellowship.  I was talking about the early church in Acts 2.  It was an evangelistic message, using fellowship as a motivating tool for people to come to Christ.  After the service, students were talking to Christians all over the room and outside.  Dozens came to Christ that night, being led by people with the gift of evangelism after God had used someone with the spiritual gift of teaching to stir them.  Spiritual gifts have spiritual effects.

So look at the list of spiritual gifts and ask yourself and others, where and when have I seen God move in my life? What was I doing? How was God using me?  There is where you will find your spiritual gifts.

Why I’ll Never Write a Book or The Dangers of Comparisons

April 26, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

In the last 6 months I have had literally 100’s, no, dozens, no, pairs of people ask me if I’ve ever thought about writing a book.  Let’s all close our eyes and imagine what that would be like, shall we?  Well, first of all, an even mediocre author knows better than to tell readers to close their eyes and then describe something in writing.  Secondish, speling and the use of real words are very important (note, that sentence was ironical) 3rdly, have you ever noticed the sheer volume of pointless rambly parenthetical and/or voice in my head conversations on this blog?  “No of course I haven’t.  Whom in there rite mind would read this blog twice?”  Agreed.  (My top nominations for people who will get totally annoyed by the intentional misspellings and bad grammar–my wife and my mom.  The wildcard is Lisa Fischer from the Morning Rush in Central Arkansas on B98 She and the other host Jeff Matthews are the most famous people I know in real life.  Hmm, let me think about that.  I may need to make a list and see how that plays out)

See what I mean.  What would a book made up of that look like? Rambling inanity, insanity and vanity.  However, I would honestly like to do that some day.  I have two in my head–one on dad’s raising daughters and the other on having a theology that moves beyond overly simplistic catch phrases.  I think I would enjoy the challenge of doing that.  Maybe some day (sentence fragment, consider revising).

Anywho, so I’ve got a small group that I meet with on Monday.  We are reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  If you haven’t read that book, you should.  It is incredible.  He takes controversial topics that Christians debate and in about 5 sentences obliterates opposing arguments.  He does it with a writing style that is both incredibly intelligent and humorous.  He is an unbelievably talented author.  Every time I read a section of that book, I think, “There is no way I should write a book, not when there are authors like this out there.  My drivel would just stink up the place.”

When I think that, I am [mostly] kidding.  What is true is that I am overwhelmed by his talent and gifting and wish that I could write that.  I feel vastly inferior to him.  Truth be known, my writing ability is vastly inferior.  However, all of this kind of thinking is at best pointless and at worst destructive and dishonoring to God.

You see, God has uniquely gifted me and impassioned me.  He has made me what I am.  He chose to give me certain gifts and certain desires and passions.  My responsibility is to use those to be the man that God has called me to be, not to look around at other people that I wish that I could have been and try to be the best “them” that God has called “them” to be.

We waste a lot of emotional energy wishing that we had been made differently or wish we were as good at something else as someone else.  God has entrusted each of us with incredible gifts and talents.  He certainly is not wishing that I was as great a writer as C.S. Lewis or leader like Andy Stanley or visionary like Rick Warren (please don’t derail this by saying you don’t like either or both of those guys.  They have tremendous giftings as leaders and visionaries. You can rant on someone else’s blog about whether or not you think they are using those gifts in the right way.).

If he had wanted me to be any of those things, you know what he would have done?  Lean in. (Overly dramatic whisper voice) He would have made me that way.  God chose to give me certain gifts and not others. God has done the same for you.  There are no upper tier gifts and lower tier gifts.  You don’t ever get to say to me, “I’m just a ________.”  You are not “just” anything.  You are exactly what God made you.

Make the most of what God has given you.  Be the person God has called you to be.  Whether you be write gooder or not.