What is your spiritual gift?
If you have asked yourself this question, there’s a chance you might have tried out one of those online spiritual gift tests. Typically rating yourself on a scale of 1-5, you measure yourself against statements like, “I seek to inspire others who are facing difficulties,” “other people tend to follow me,” and “I have a burden for the lost.” But how accurate are these tests?
In the name of science, I found a few online spiritual gift tests and filled them out as honestly and carefully as possible. One survey said that my spiritual gift was teaching, another said my gift was faith, a third survey said that my spiritual gift was exhortation, and a final survey said my spiritual gift was discerning of spirits (which is strange, because I answered “almost never” to the question, “I have spoken to evil spirits in Jesus’ name, and they have obeyed me”).
There was some consistency in my results. I scored higher on teaching gifts and lower on miraculous gifts (because, no, God has not used me “to do things that defy the usual laws of nature” ...but being the cessationist that I am, that wasn’t very surprising).
Why did I get such variety on my answers? Is my spiritual gift teaching, faith, discerning of spirits, exhortation, or all of the above? Can I really put any stock in these spiritual gift tests?
Now, I’m not saying that spiritual gift tests are evil, but they do have some dangers. First many spiritual gift tests are nothing more than spiritualized personality quizzes that feed your ego rather than keeping you from thinking of yourself “more highly than you ought to think” (Rom 12:3). Second, when spiritual gifts are mentioned in the Bible (1 Cor 12, Rom 12, Eph 4, 1 Pet 4), the lists of gifts vary between passages, implying that they aren’t meant to be exhaustive, but rather, illustrative of the types of gifts in the church. Taking a spiritual gifts test could not only confuse you but limit you to one “official” spiritual gift and thereby limiting your involvement in the church (“I would love to help that struggling Christian, but my spiritual gift is giving, not exhortation”). In other words, these tests could hurt your church involvement instead of helping it. Sure, the self-examining questions they provide could be helpful as you try to pinpoint your own strengths and weaknesses, but they should not be considered determinative, authoritative, or even necessarily reliable. These tests cannot confirm your spiritual giftedness.
And that is why God has given us the local church - the main arena in which our spiritual gifts are to be exercised. God sovereignly designs the local church to be made up of individual members who are unified into one body (1 Cor. 12:12-31). The Holy Spirit has graciously provided each member of the body with spiritual gifts, so that together, the church “makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph 4:16).
This is an incredible privilege, but also a serious responsibility. So, how do you know where to fit into the Body of Christ? In the language of 1 Corinthians 12, Am I a foot or am I an eye?
If you join a local church, how do you determine where you and your spiritual gifts “fit in”? I would suggest that it is not by filling out an online spiritual gifts test and informing your pastor what your spiritual gifts are. The problem with personal spiritual gifts tests is that the results are determined by one’s own self-perception. We answer questions based off what we think is true or would like to be true of us, which will inevitably produce skewed results. The ultimate test of your spiritual gifts is not based on your own self-perception but on church-perception.
When the first deacons were selected in Acts 6:1-7, the twelve disciples didn’t instruct the church to find seven individuals who scored high on self-assessment tests or simply claimed to possess certain gifts. The disciples instructed the church members to “pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty” (v. 3). In other words, individual giftedness was observed, recognized, and confirmed by the local church. I have a good feeling that the men who were selected weren’t waiting around until someone told them what their spiritual gifts were. They were faithfully serving and ministering among God’s people, and eventually, their spiritual giftedness was confirmed by the local church.
In conclusion, I encourage both church members and church leaders:
Members: don’t depend on your own self-assessment to determine your spiritual gifts. Just get involved in the local church in any way you can. Over time, it will be clear to you (often painfully so) and to your fellow church members that you do not possess certain gifts and that you do possess other gifts. Be willing to acknowledge it if the church does not confirm a gift that you thought you had and be willing to stretch yourself if the church recognizes a gift that you didn’t think you had. As you serve, your spiritual gifts will be confirmed. But until then, simply immerse yourself in the local church.
Leaders: cultivate an atmosphere in your church that both encourages members to actively get involved and seeks to confirm the gifts of members as they serve. Are your eyes peeled for the young man in your youth group that is showing signs of leadership? Are you encouraging the servant-minded members in your church? What are you doing to confirm the giftedness of your members?
Taking a spiritual gifts tests might be less helpful than you think; In fact, it could hurt your involvement in your local church. Don’t be consumed with attaching “spiritual gift labels” to your name. There’s a much more authoritative spiritual gift test out there, and it’s The Church.
Aaron Berry earned both his undergrad and MA in Bible at Bob Jones University. He, along with his wife, Hanna, and daughter, Brooklyn, currently live in Detroit, MI, where Aaron is pursuing his MDiv degree while serving as the Director of Recruitment at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary and working on staff at Inter-City Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter @AaronMBerry
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