Sorting Out Spiritual Gifts

Part 1: Motivational and Apostolic Gifts

Jackson Snyder

 

 

 

   Spiritual gifts make the church vital, alive and diverse.  Believers using their gifts on behalf of their Savior sow seeds to needs and fulfill the Great Calling in power and humility.  Christian organizations that know how to discover, explain and then utilize the engiftedness of their members run smoother, more efficiently – and they grow. 

   When we study spiritual gifts, we consider primarily three portions of Scripture: Romans 12:6-8, Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.  Depending on how one counts them, about twenty “gifts” are mentioned in these texts, and there are various other gifts mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament.  But did you know that, though they are often all lumped together, the Greek New Testament has each chapter’s “gift list” titled, and only one list actually translates cleanly as “gifts.” 

  • In Romans 12, Paul calls this list charismata, or “graces”;

  • In Ephesians 4 they are domata, or “gifts”; and

  • In 1 Corinthians 12 they are called pneumatikoi, or “spiritualities.” 

Just as these “gifts” have very different, descriptive titles, they also have very different and diverse functions as they are utilized to bring unity to an organization.

   The purpose of this article is to give a short overview of the graces, gifts and spiritualities, provide resources for learning more about them, and direct the reader to discover her own.

  

Charismata

Romans 12:5-8 literal:

We the many are one body in Messiah but each one members of one another,

having graces (charismata) differing in accordance with the grace (charin) given us: whether prophecy, in accordance with the proportion of [the] faith,

or servanthood (diakonian) in serving (diakonia),

or the one teaching (diaskōn) in the lesson (diaskalia),

or the one encouraging (parakalōn)  in the exhortation (paraklēsei);

the one sharing (metadidous) in simplicity (haplotēti);

the one leading (proistamenos) in diligence (spoudē);

the one mercying (eleōn) in readiness (hilarotēti).

   The seven “gifts” listed in Romans 12 are prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading and being merciful.  Paul collectively calls these attributes charismata (carismata, v. 6), a word which is better translated as “graces” than “gifts.”  The implication of these attributes being “graces” is that they are bestowed by virtue of unmerited favor upon believers.  Scripture isn’t clear as to when – but observation points to early on in life. 

   An important point: the writer prefaces each of the final five graces with a definite article –  “the” (“`o” in Greek).  “The” followed by a verbal (“the teaching”) may be translated as “the one” or “the one sharing” or “the sharing one.”  This sounds awkward in English, but it illustrates from ancient language that graces are bestowed one for one – one charis (grace) per individual (the one teaching; the one leading; the one mercying); and that a particular grace received may be recognized in the quality of ministry being done by the one.  (We recognize a gifted teacher in her ability to gracefully get a point across; though a gifted servant is often not recognized until he is absent!)

   We see each believer’s grace empowering him with a

  • frame of reference,

  • a method of behavior, and

  • a godly motivation

all useful in dealing with life circumstances as well as in ministry situations.  For this reason, the charismata are often referred to as “Motivational Gifts,” even “Temperaments.” 

   To illustrate the diversity of behaviors that originate in these graces / motivations, we might consider how seven mentally healthy believers might react to, say, a greatly distressed person found undone in the church foyer: the merciful will listen and weep, the teacher will offer biblical principles, the encourager will coin cheerful platitudes, the servant will go get the tissues, the sharer will reach for her wallet, the prophet will point the finger -- and the leader will go into the office and work out a plan of action in case another such challenge crops up.

   An individual’s Motivational Gift (i.e. frame of reference, method of behavior, godly motivation) may be determined quite easily by reading the descriptive characteristics of each “gift” then judging which of the seven best fits one’s frame of reference and behavior.  Those doing so will often exclaim, “That’s me!”

   Another way to determine one’s “gift” is by completing a Motivational Gifts Inventory (MGI), usually consisting of thirty to seventy questions or statements to evaluate.  Inventories come in several forms, and more than one form should be completed so that results may be compared and collated.  I have two short assessments at one of my sites.  Those completing them will receive a gifts assessment promptly: www.glowmi.org/mgi. 

   Good descriptions of characteristics, strengths, biblical and human examples, and, especially, weaknesses for each grace, may be useful for utilizing one’s grace for best results (in accordance with one’s) faith.  Here is an example of a gift’s description:

 

Characteristics of the Encourager

1.  Desires to visualize specific achievements in people.

2.  Provides an action plan toward or away from a situation. 

3.  Tends to avoid systems of information that lack practical application.

4.  Easily measures how endurance produces levels of maturity. 

5.  Depends on group acceptance; watches for others’ response. 

6.  Seeks out living examples of biblical merits. 

7.  Enjoys seeing action meet needs.

8.  Avoids the theoretic; practical application is essential. 

9.  Delights in personal conferences, personal insights, testimonial meetings; is very people-oriented.

 

Growing Edges  (Weaknesses)

1.  Feeds on success; can be impatient. If success isn’t quickly achieved, may drop out of the project or the person’s life.

2.  Family may suffer in favor of other projects, meetings or other people’s needs. 

3.  Emphasis on steps of action may oversimplify a problem. 

4.  May appear more confident in “the plan” than in the power of God. 

5.  Use of scripture often out or context.

  

   By assessing and observing thousands of individuals, we have come to understand, in some, a second or even a third grace works in subordination with the primary.  We call these secondary influences right and left “wings.”  (The term “wing” is borrowed from the Eneagram, another ancient temperamental analysis.)  One’s wing(s), if any, may be determined best through an assessment.  Wings temper the individual’s Motivational grace, often helping to overcome a potential weakness.    Common gift trios include: Prophecy, with wings of Teaching and Encouraging; Encouraging, with wings of Giving and Serving; and Mercy, with wings of Administration and Service.

   The Bible gives us a good story by which to illustrate how a wing might function:

James 2:15,16 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?

Given this dilemma, an Encourager with a wing of Giving might conclude his motivational speech with a “Pentecostal handshake” – the gift of one hundred dollars.  The Encourager with a wing of Servanthood might conclude with an invitation into her home.  Finally, and Encourager with a wing of Mercy might conclude her exhortation and just remain with the person, commiserating, not knowing exactly what to do next.

   Without the wing, and realizing the “growing edges” of the Encourager, it would not be unusual for a pure Encourager to give a whale of a pep talk, conclude with a big bear hug then just walk away!  Fortunately, the Giver is often waiting in the wings for the Encourager to finish his ministry so she can begin hers.  Thus the “ill-clad” will receive the best of both gifted ministers! 

   (Strong Encouragers are sometimes “cock-eyed optimists” – they often encourage themselves to such a degree that they score very high in several graces.  Do you see how this might be the case?  I remember one Encourager several years ago who finished an inventory with the maximum score on all the graces.  Upon learning her scores, she popped up from the pew and announced, “See!  I have all the gifts just as I thought!”  But the second inventory weeded out all the extras.)

 

Seminar

   One of the most edifying events that a church or ministry group may sponsor is a Motivational Gifts Seminar.  Individuals within a ministry team or even an entire church first complete one or two gifts inventories then go through the grading process as a group.  A chart is set up so that each participant is able to list his / her gift and wing(s).  Then the seminar leader explains the Romans 12 theme of one “body, many members” along with the philosophy behind assessing Motivational Gifts. 

   After each gift is fully explained, and participants are given the opportunity to rejoice in their engiftedness, uniqueness and unity; then practical problems are presented – problems that may even threaten the very existence of the church.  The participants may choose problem solvers from fictional characters like Teresa Calcutta (gifted in Serving and Mercy), Oral Robertson (Prophesying / Teaching) and Joyce McBrothers (Exhortation / Serving).

   Here is one example of a real church dilemma that I use in Motivational Gifts Seminars:

“It has been discovered that the teens in church have found a way to get into the building without a key.  The maintenance supervisor discovered marijuana in the Sunday School room.  You are the church administrator, and you are pretty sure of which teens are getting in.  You know there must be a confrontation.  Who do you enlist to solve the problem and maintain unity?”

Often, the seminar group chooses a problem-solving team from the fictional characters to include a prophetic person (like Oral Robertson -- a godly, straight-forward sort) and an encourager (a people-person with a lot of compassion).  There are several possibilities and combinations.  The discussion is often very lively and, in the process, problems are solved and participants become very aware of ministries in which they are the most effective.

   The point of such exercises is to help the group understand that all gifted people in the economy of faith have certain strengths that can be utilized for unity and problem solving.  (“We are seeking unity in diversity, not diversity in conflict,” said Gerhard Meier.  Unity in diversity is also sought in the Seminar.)  The exercise may be extended to include actual situations in the churches represented (anonymously, of course; and pre-selected).  In fact, a Motivational Gifts Seminar might be the first thing a new pastor or Lay Leadership committee might do to “break the ice,” learn more about parishioners and identify potential task force nominees.  It’s often the first thing I do when posted to a new church or leading a new group.

   It’s not that we want to “pigeon hole” or label anyone.  Yahweh may use his children in any way he wishes.  However, assessments may also be done privately.  It’s just that if we know our people’s charismata, the effectiveness of the group may be enhanced as gifted people are directed toward the most suitable ministry opportunities based on their own interests, and unity is fostered as all may see that others are gifted for particular ministries. Believe me, finding the right person for the job through motivational tracking will insure that the job gets done more efficiently.

 

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Four-fold Apostles
   A second gifts’ list is found in Ephesians 4:11.  These are commonly called, “The Fivefold Ministries” or “Fourfold Ministries,” consisting of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.  (Some call them four-fold because they understand pastors and teachers as one gift.  Many pastors are required to minister as teachers and vice-versa, but the pastoral gift and the gift of teaching are in fact very different.)

   Ephesians 4:8b, 11-13 literal:

Messiah gave gifts (domata) to humankind ... and he gave the apostles: then the prophets, then the evangelists, then the shepherds and teachers, for [the] completing of the saints in the work of service, in building the body of the Messiah until we all arrive in [the] unity and [the] full knowledge of the Son . . .

   By closely investigating the Greek text, we discover that “the apostles” is set apart from the other gifts.  (Skip the indented paragraph if you have no interest in how I derived this distinction; it is fairly technical and certainly confusing.)

“The apostles” (tous apostolous) is preceded by the Greek word men (men) in contrast to the other gifts, which are preceded by de (de).  This “men ... de” construction “indicates a strong contrast between two clauses ... men is often left untranslated” – Gingrich Lexicon.  In some Scriptures, the “men ... de” construct is translated, “on the one hand ... on the other.  In others, both words are left untranslated.  The KJV leaves men untranslated and translates de as “and.”  Young’s Literal Bible translates “men ... de” as “as ... as” (“He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets ...”)  I translate the men with a colon (“:”) and de with “then” in accordance with the Lexicon.

As such, I read that apostles are actually composed of prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.  Therefore, we call these gifts “The Fourfold Apostolic Gifts.”  Apostles are gifted in one of the fourfold ministries and simply “sent on a mission” (they are missionaries) to equip “the saints” for their own works of service.  An apostle if one “sent on a mission.”

   And since “apostles” are set off from “saints” in the passage, we suggest that these gifts and abilities are specifically given to certain individuals (often as a result of prayer, but also “from the womb” – Judges 13:13 or Isaiah 49:49) or developed from a motivational gift, but always bestowed by Yahweh through Messiah.  These gifts make our callings sure; we say this one or that one has a “call to preach,” for instance, which is the Apostolic Gift of Prophecy.

   As for definitions:

  • Prophet: divinely gifted in inspired speech, especially in bringing forth the word (oracle) of Yahweh;

  • Evangelist: divinely gifted in conveying the Gospel message to a wide range of hearers;

  • Pastor: divinely gifted ability to care for the “souls” of a group of people without manipulation;

  • Teacher: divinely gifted to explain the nuances of Scripture, tradition, revelation and application.

  • Saint: one sanctified by the Holy Spirit through conversion, baptism and good works.

   These gifts are for the “equipping” of saints; there are other divine gifts useful in “sustaining” the saints as well, to be treated in another section.

 

Apostolic Gifts, Motivational Gifts and Classic Temperaments

   So we observe linkage between the Apostolic and the Motivational Gifts.  We might understand that a prophetically-motivated individual might go on to be a prophet, a mercy-motivated individual might be further gifted as a pastor, or a teaching-motivated person might be called to teach.  But this is not necessarily the case.  We suggest that the Apostolic Gifts are bestowed in relative rarity.  And even when they are, they often must be thoroughly developed through prayer, faith, grace, education and praxis. 

   Just as we see affinity between the Apostolic Gifts and the Motivational Gifts, we can also find strong similarity between callings and classical temperaments.  (In the following example, we are using Dr. Richard Arno’s five-temperament system.) 

 

Temperament                             Apostolic Calling

 Choleric    (control motivated)         Prophet
 Sanguine    (relationship motivated)    Evangelist
 Supine      (service motivated)         Pastor
 Melancholy  (task motivated)            Teacher
 Phlegmatic  (unmotivated but dedicated) Saint

 

   Saints can often tell what gifting Yahweh has given their professional ministers.  In my own ministry, I work as a pastor, but am gifted as a teacher and musician.  I learned pastoral care at seminary, in the clinic and through praxis in a church all the while.  So I have learned to be a pastor, but I am a gifted teacher (I think). 

   I have been visiting another church in the area that is “in revival” with a well-known evangelist.  And he is a great evangelist – one of the best I’ve ever enjoyed.  Many are deeply moved by the Holy Spirit through his gift.  So it was refreshing to hear him say, “I am an evangelist and that’s all I do!”  He didn’t teach nor pastor a church.  He worked only in his calling and that may be why he is so effective. 

   On the other hand, we once hosted a teacher to do a home seminar.  Since she traveled a long way, we asked if she’d preach a meeting the evening before teaching.  She was reluctant, because, she said, preaching wasn’t her calling.  But she did a marvelous job from the pulpit as an evangelist.  But the next day we learned that she wasn’t a gifted teacher even though she thought this was her gift.  It took a person with the appropriate Motivational Gift to tell this dear lady in a loving way that she seemed called as an evangelist rather than as a teacher. 

   It is difficult for prophets and teachers to get paying positions as such in the church these days; so, more often than not, a prophet or teacher will be working as an evangelist or pastor, or in some other function.  For, in many church groups, the pastor is expected to be the teacher, the evangelist and the prophet.  He or she wears many hats, yet may learn to be efficient in all the apostolic ministries, though called and supernaturally gifted in but one.

 

{to be continued}

  July 14, 2003