I almost didn’t take it.

I’ve been a Christ follower for over a half-century now. Why should I take a Spiritual Gifts Discovery test when I’ve been an active, committed member of several gospel-centered churches during those years? Who needs it at this age?

I did. I do.

Mike and I just completed a six-week membership class at our new church here in the Smokies. We are grateful to have found a church home that does not take membership lightly.

During our weeks of study with Tim, pastor of Congregational Care, we discussed discipleship as the spiritual adventure it truly is: “An invitation to a new way of living in which we learn to love God with our whole hearts, minds, and strength and to love others the way we have been loved by God.”The focus here, as with our former church in the Midwest, is not on making members for the church but rather on making disciples of Christ.

We talked about prayer and Scripture meditation, corporate worship and small-group community. Our class looked at money matters – the stewardship involved in generous living.

We discussed invitational evangelism – the way of witness – reminding one another that as in a courtroom, “the role of witnesses is not to argue the case or to judge the outcome but simply to tell what they have heard, seen, and experienced.” 2

Evangelism, sadly, is a good word with a bad reputation in our secular culture. As devoted followers of Christ we need to take it back from those who have abused the term and recover its essence – the sharing of good news.

When it came to unpacking spiritual gifts and gifts-based service, Tim offered us a tool of 85 statements we were to answer based on our life experience, both past and present, not as we would wish to be but as we are.

I’ve spent decades serving alongside Mike in pastoral ministry as well as individually in areas God called me into regionally and nationally. Honestly, I thought I knew what my spiritual gifts were:

     Hospitality– making others feel welcome and comfortable.

     Teaching– imparting scriptural truth through instruction and practical application.

     Mercy – ministering to others with compassion.

These are the areas I not only gravitate toward but am passionate about. When we serve in the realm of our giftedness it has little to do with natural ability but everything to do with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

And funny thing – after the test was scored, my top three spiritual gifts were revealed to be exactly these same three.

But here’s why I’m telling you this: of the 20 gifts included in this particular tool, how many do I have? Three.

And how many do I not have? Seventeen!

My lowest scores were in the areas of apostleship, administration and evangelism. No wonder God has never called me to plant churches, run an organization or travel as an evangelist!

The late Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, says this: “Each gift is an invitation and provides the means to participate in the work of Jesus…We are being invited into a working relationship in the operations of the Trinity.”

In other words, friends, when we join the family of God we’re joining the family firm as well.  

When God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit call us into service they also give us what we need to accomplish the work.

There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone (I Cor. 12:4-6 NRSV).

So the next time you’re beating up on yourself for everything you’re not or wishing for skills and talents that you lack, take a Spiritual Gifts inventory. Seriously. It’s a marvelous reminder that you’re not called to do everything, but God has equipped you for work in this world that will not get done without you.

1 Thessalonians 5:24. This verse has sustained me through a lifetime of ministry challenges.

I almost didn’t take the test, but I’m glad I did. I needed the reminder.

And when God asks if you’re willing to take that area of service for which he’s gifted you, I hope you’ll say it too.

“I will. I do.”

1 James A. Harnish, A Disciple’s Path: Deepening Your Relationship with Christ and the Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2012), 7-8.

2 Harnish, p. 70.