Enemies of Evangelism 3
The concept of spiritual gifts is a scriptural one. But like any other spiritual concept if it is held out of balance, or is misunderstood the corresponding misapplication of it is harmful.
The basic premise here is that God has gifted every person with at least one particular talent or strength. I am not speaking here of the gifts He has given to all humanity – His Son, an available salvation, the faith to believe in Him, etc. – but rather the idea that God has given you a unique ability to serve Him in a way that is different than the person across the room. Likewise, they have some unique ability to serve Him, a giftedness that you probably do not have.
This teaching is implied in the Scriptural passages regarding the talents. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability. (Matthew 25.15) Strictly speaking, this refers to money, but we see that He gave out a different number to each, and the whole idea was tied to their capability.
This concept is more than just implied, however, in the Word of God. It is explicitly stated.
I Corinthians 12.1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
I Corinthians 12.4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
Romans 12. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
Second, a wise Christian will actively develop his gifts so as to get the most out of them for the cause of Christ as he possibly can. Let us say that you have the gift of administration. You can skate by on what you instinctively do well, or you can study up how to be better and then work at it. The latter is strongly implied in the parable of the talents.
Earlier I referenced holding an unbalanced position on spiritual gifts. What do I mean? It is unbalanced, for example, to become obsessed with them, and in my experience there are a number of churches that make this exact mistake. They major not on the use of their gifts but on discussion about them. Other churches become unbalanced by emphasizing the lesser gifts over the more important gifts. Into this category I would put the entire charismatic movement. So would the Apostle Paul.
I Cor 12.28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
Still others make the mistake of confusing the effective exercise of their spiritual gifts with spirituality itself. The most carnal church in Scripture was the church at Corinth and yet Paul told them, Ye come behind in no gift. (I Corinthians 1.7) Just because I can thrill a crowd with my singing or am a fantastic deacon and helper to my pastor does not make me spiritual. I must still live a life of holiness abiding in Christ and bearing the fruit of the Spirit.
There is, however, yet one more mistaken approach to spiritual gifts I would like to mention, namely this: the idea that witnessing to the lost is one of them. This subtle yet powerful attack on soul winning removes the responsibility laid upon all Christians to actively witness. Instead, it places such a burden only on the shoulders of those so gifted. In the process, it allows everyone else to justify their lack of witnessing under the guise of Scripture.
In practical terms it looks like this: “Pastor, you know I just do not have the gift that you have. I will be happy to serve by working in the nursery instead.” Now I am not criticizing or belittling serving in a church nursery. What I am saying is that doing so as a soothing balm for your lack of personal evangelism under the guise of not being gifted for witnessing is lousy.
Here is the point – soul winning is not a gift; it is a command.
There are two main passages usually cited in discussions of spiritual gifts. I have given them both above. In I Corinthians 12 there are ten specific gifts mentioned: apostle, prophet, teacher, wisdom, knowledge, faith, miracles, healing, tongues, and interpretation. In Romans 12 there are seven listed: preaching, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, ruling, and mercy. Notice, please, what neither passage mentions. Right. Evangelism, witnessing, soul winning, whatever term you want to use, it is conspicuously absent.
“But, Pastor Brennan, faith and giving are listed as spiritual gifts and they are also commanded in Scripture.” Okay. I will not quarrel with you. And that has nothing to do with the position that witnessing is something I am somehow mysteriously gifted for but you are not. What I am commanded to do, with a helpful gifting or without, is to take the Gospel to every creature that I possibly can. Will some be better at it than others? Naturally, supernaturally, and developmentally. But just because some will do it better than others does not mean those others have a scriptural out for not doing it.
Are you breathing?
Go ahead, I will wait a moment while you check.
Then you need to understand you have a God-given obligation to tell sinners about Jesus Christ. Period.