I’ve been a member of a couple of larger churches and a few smaller churches over the course of my life. I’ve also seen how churches function in other countries, since I’ve spent half my life overseas. Smaller churches (and overseas churches) have a larger proportion of people using their spiritual gifts because people can see that there is a need, and they fill the need in their area of strength, if they are allowed to do so. (In overseas churches especially, even new converts are actively using their spiritual gifts to the edification of the church.) On the other hand, many larger churches here in the States seem self-sufficient. In these larger churches, it’s sometimes impossible to be put into certain positions because there are too many leaders. For example, many women have told me that I have the spiritual gift of teaching, but unless you’re an elder’s wife in the large churches, you’re not really allowed to use your spiritual gift.
Many people don’t like some of the spiritual gifts and avoid Christians who are gifted in discernment or in exhortation. People don’t want to know if they are in error, because it makes them uncomfortable. And if they are sinning, they don’t want someone to confront them. I don’t have these particular spiritual gifts, but I know people who do. Instead of seeking after holiness, most Christians seek their own comfort, and they label people with these spiritual gifts as being divisive. So these spiritual gifts are silenced in the church for the sake of unity, even though Jesus confronted people all the time with clear words. Mature believers with the gift of discernment or exhortation usually have a deep knowledge of Scripture and how it applies to given situations. You almost have to be in a position of leadership for these two gifts to be used at all. Unfortunately, most of these people are not type A personalities, so they are never considered for leadership, even if they have a mature walk with God.
If people have the gift of mercy but leave immediately after the church service, they never know the spiritual needs of people who are suffering. I have the gift of mercy as one of my secondary gifts. (It’s actually the opposite of my personality because I’m a blunt and honest person and don’t care that much about feelings. It just shows that God can manifest Himself in your life in ANY of the spiritual gifts at any given time, if you are willing.) On this one occasion when a woman from my church was dying, I was called. My presence in the room of the dying woman gave everyone a deep spiritual comfort that was tangible. I had an exquisite joy that can only be found while giving comfort and hope to those who are experiencing sorrow. Basically, if you have the gift of mercy and are not using it in the church, you are allowing other people to scream in anguish with no one to help them.
So are you ready to find out what your spiritual gift is? Print out your inventory here:
The danger of taking a spiritual gifts inventory is that you will pigeon-hole yourself into one spiritual gift and get a big head about it, when in reality, the gifts of the Spirit are fluid and constantly changing depending on the circumstances that God has placed you in. Back in my college days, I took a spiritual gifts inventory that blasted the top off the faith category, but had zero in the area of mercy. There are seven people in total that God has taken me over and displayed the gift of mercy to. I crossed over and became them, I felt their pain as if it were my own, and I was able to be a deep comfort to those seven people over the course of the last decade. But if I see someone hurting or sick or poor, I feel nothing. So I don’t have that spiritual gift in general, only when the Holy Spirit comes upon me because He has chosen me to minister to a specific person only. That’s why I say it’s a secondary gift.
I believe that most Christians have multiple gifts, and that they should be open to being used by God in ANY area. Gifts are referred to as “manifestations of the Spirit,” so don’t cram yourself into a box, and don’t limit what God can do in your life. Also, don’t be proud of your gift, as if you did it. The more you let God use you for His purposes, the more He will surprise you by using you in your areas of weakness so that He alone is glorified.