“Some people have all the fun,” my kids would say. “Why don’t we get to have fun too??” When we look at gifts in others, a similar question can creep into our hearts. “Why do they get all the spiritual gifts?” God gives His gifts generously. He told us to desire the gifts of His Spirit. Five of those gifts are described in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
In my last article, I wrote about the dangers of ministerial titles. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul mentions five important ministry gifts.
And He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as [a]pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the [b]saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the [c]knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature [d]which belongs to the fullness of Christ.– Eph 4:11-13 NASB
I also like the way Eugene Peterson translated this in the Message Bible.
He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.– Eph 4:11-13 The Message Bible
Identify Your Primary Spiritual Gift
It can be quite helpful to identify your primary spiritual gifting. Our list of spiritual gifts for ministry can not be limited to Ephesians. Many varied gifts have been given to the body by Christ. Other lists are found in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. If you are unclear about what your spiritual gifts are and want to explore that, you can take a test here.
The Ephesian List Is One of Gifts, Not Positions
We need to remember that these are gifts given, not a description of full-time positions. It says “He gave…” not “He appointed…”
When we use this as a justification for ministerial positions and the use of titles, we are not following a proper method of interpreting scripture (hermeneutic).
Their Purpose is to Equip the Saints to Minister
We must remember the clearly stated purpose of these five gifts. These are equipping gifts. Why settle for less?
If God has given you a pastoral gift, then you need to be equipping and training others who also have that gift. If you are apostolically gifted, raise more apostles. If you have a prophet gifting, find others you can train. The list and principle go on.
We must be trainers of trainers. Passing on what we have been given, causes our own gift to multiply and grow. When we hold onto a role or title, we not only violate the purpose established by God, but we will reduce the anointing to operate in that gift. Soon we are only in a position with a title, rather than moving and flowing in the Holy Spirit’s gift.
What Are the Five-Fold Gifts?
This gift is listed first. It is a necessary gift for Disciple Making Movements to begin in new areas. If you don’t have this gift and want to start a movement, you will need to find others who do. Cast vision and include them in your team. Apostles pioneer and break new ground. They often have quite a few other gifts as well. Those working in new areas need to operate in many things as the first churches are getting established.
It is this same Greek word apostolous, that is used for the calling of the twelve disciples. He called and commissioned them to be His ambassadors (see Luke 6:13). He didn’t stop there. Before going into Heaven he commissioned all his followers to do the same (Matt 28:18-20).
C. Peter Wagner called this the missionary gift. Not all missionaries work in pioneer areas, but many do, especially those focusing on the unreached.
I like what Jeff Carver says about this gift. “The mission for those with the gift of apostleship today is to plant new ministries and churches, go into places where the Gospel is not preached, reach across cultures to establish churches in challenging environments, raise up and develop leaders, call out and lead pastors and shepherds, and much more.”
This should not be confused with the Old Testament office of prophet. In the New Testament and particularly in Acts and the Epistles, we see that prophetic ministry was common. The Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost and this spiritual gift was given to the Church. Peter, when he stood and preached, quoted from the Prophet Joel when he said,
“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.”Acts 2: 17-18 NIV
Peter told them that this scripture had been fulfilled on that day.
The prophetic gift is for today. Unfortunately, it is often abused or misunderstood. It was designed to operate together with the other gifts, not apart from it. It is a gift to build up the saints, not tear them down.
Space is not enough for me to give lengthy teaching on the prophetic gift. I refer you to Graham Cooke and Joy Dawson as ministers operating in this and training other prophetically gifted people around the world.
The prophetic gift can do both harm and good. It was intended for good. If God has given you this ministry, operate within boundaries. Give friendly accountability a place in your life. God will use you. We need prophetic gifts to see God’s Kingdom advance and DMMs begin.
This is a gift I wish I had. I’ve asked God for it, and sometimes feel He has answered. Other times, evangelism is simple obedience for me. It’s not my main gift. That doesn’t let me off the hook! Every Jesus follower needs to learn to share their faith. For some of us that will flow naturally. For others, we have to practice and work on it.
In DMMs, we sometimes call those with a supernatural gift of evangelism super sowers. They lead people to Christ wherever they go. Evangelistic messages and spiritual conversations flow out of their mouths easily.
Perhaps the most famous person with this gift, in recent history, was the late Billy Graham. He knew how to give an effective invitation to follow Christ. When he did…thousands responded!
Encourage and affirm this gift when you recognize it in the disciples you are training.
It’s common for people to carry the title Pastor, but not actually be very pastorally gifted. The pastoral gifting is one of caring, loving, shepherding, and nurturing others. These people are interested in the well-being of those in the group. They make people feel loved and safe. My husband has this gift. He hates standing in front and preaching, but he pastors many!
Teachers teach. They communicate clearly and know how to explain things in ways people can grasp. It’s an important gift in the Body of Christ and in movements. Teachers will teach whether given a title or position or not. They teach one on one as well as in front of groups. Give space for them to use what they’ve been given. Also, encourage them to learn more about the importance of participatory learning for adult education. There is more than one way to teach. Many teachers need to shift over to become trainers to see greater effectiveness.
What is Your Spiritual Gift?
Not sure what gift you have? Ask someone who knows you well. They probably already see you moving in one of these gifts.
If you are below age thirty, I’ll close with encouragement. God will give you the gifts you need when you need them. Experiment. Try lots of different things. Ask God for His gifts and be the kind of vessel He can fill. In a few years, it will be much more obvious what He has uniquely chosen you for.