“By your Spirit make us one with Christ,
One with each other,
And one in ministry to all the world.”
These words from the United Methodist Communion Service remind us that, ultimately, the goal of using spiritual gifts goes beyond the church doors.
“Spiritual gifts are gifts given by God to be used on behalf of others,” Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball said. “ … It’s about Christ, and Christ calls us to minister to and be in ministry with the whole body of Christ, all God’s created people.”
Spiritual gifts strengthen the unity of the church, and in doing so, they help the church make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
“All of our gifts, regardless of whether it’s prophecy or service or compassion — whatever the gift may be that we happen to have — it all ties in with bringing about God’s kingdom,” said Rev. Brad Davis, who spoke recently about his spiritual gift of prophecy. (See how Davis and others around the conference use their spiritual gifts by clicking here.) “As the people of God, we are to use our gifts to give a glimpse of that coming kingdom in the here and now, the way that God intends the world to be, the life that God intends for all of us to live.”
And that, Bishop Sandra said, “can benefit the communities in ways beyond your imagination.”
“Spiritual gifts are not about self-improvement,” she added. “You can self-improve; if you live out of your spiritual giftedness, you will become more of the person that God created and designed you to be, … but spiritual gifts are those gifts that are to be used on behalf of others. So if you’ve discovered a spiritual gift and you’re letting it languish, you’re really hurting the whole community by not contributing your gift to the whole body of Christ.”
Keep in mind, though, added Rev. Sheri Kernik, that as the needs of the community change, so may your gifts or the order in which your spiritual gifts inventory presents them.
“You should do a spiritual gifts inventory at least once a year, because God takes your gifts, and he moves them for where he wants you to go,” Kernik said. “Your gifts are always shifting and changing as God sees a need. It’s up to us to take what God has intended for us and use it.”
“God gives us the gifts we need at the time that we need them,” Bishop Sandra said.
Dawna Johnson, a lay member of Spruce Street UMC, compared spiritual gifts to recipes — those that have a few main ingredients in common but can be used in various combinations for entirely different results.
“God may make one of your other spiritual gifts come to the surface when he needs it,” she said. “If I say I’m going to make chicken, my specialty may be chicken noodle soup. But I know that I can also make bruschetta with that chicken. The chicken is still in there. It’s still the base. For me, my gift of faith is like that. It’s the one ingredient that I can see in every gift that I have received.”
Whatever those gifts may be, it’s important to use them not only within a church but to take them outside the church, for the transformation of the world.
“I think it’s important that churches have an opportunity to be in relationship with each other and do life together — not just sit in a pew,” Rev. Bev Colombo said as she spoke about her gift of apostleship.
For Paula McCoy, a certified lay minister and school nurse with the gift of discernment, spiritual gifts apply not only in church, but in daily living. “It’s about how we use this information to serve Christ better, now, in our time,” she said, “and it applies in pretty much everything I do.”