Yesterday, Pastor Byron taught on the second Sunday of our Spiritual Gifts series. You can hear his message here (May 12, 2019). So far, we’ve covered: Leadership, Administration, Teaching, Pastoring, Helps, Service, and Hospitality. During this series, I probably won’t recap the previous Sunday’s gift clusters were. Instead, I’d like to briefly address the importance of teaching on Spiritual Gifts each week.
Forgetting the Purpose of Power Gifts
In Pentecostal/Charismatic circles, there is a lot of emphasis put on what has come to be known as the “Power” Gifts. Such an emphasis can have a polarizing effect in the Body of Christ. The power gifts are, without a doubt, attention grabbers. If you see an amputee grow a limb, it gets your attention. If you see cancer mysteriously disappear, it gets your attention. If you hear someone speaking in tongues or prophesying, it will get your attention. Attention grabbing is part of the nature of these “Power” gifts. Some will call it an example of “Heaven manifesting on earth.” Others may phrase it as the “Kingdom of God on earth.” There are several other terms. In order for spiritual gifts to really happen, it requires the actions of God (presumably the Holy Spirit). Many of the “Power” Gifts cannot be faked. Some (like prophecy, tongues and interpretation, words of knowledge) can be faked. Healing cannot be faked. Miracles cannot be faked. This is what makes the “Power” Gifts a messy endeavor. We can’t manufacture a miracle or a healing. So if we put ourselves out there for a miracle or healing, and it doesn’t happen…We’re the ones stuck facing a crowd in an anti-climatic environment. This is a huge blow to human dignity. No one wants to look like a fool. So these gifts are polarizing for those believers who would either rather not deal with that kind of mess or can’t pull themselves to believe they can actually happen.
So on one side, we have believers who shy away from the Power gifts. On the other side, we have believers who think these are the legitimate means of proving belief. And many in the middle somewhere.
For those who elevate the “Power” Gifts above all others, they are in danger of what Leanne Payne called “the fatal shift.” It is a shift of focus away from the purpose of the gifts: Jesus, Glorifying God, and benefiting the corporate Church and toward the gifts themselves. When we focus on the gifts for the sake of the gifts, we are treading into the realm of idolatry. When we make our main aim the pursuit of tongues, or healings, or prophecy at the expense of a relationship with God as a person, we are worshipping something other than God. That isn’t to say that we can’t (in right relationship with God) seek particular gifts. In fact, we are encouraged to do so. It is the issue of neglecting the relational aspect with God to the exclusion of receiving some coveted gift. From my experience, this “Fatal Shift” almost never happens with what we would call the “Conventional” Gifts. It’s typically always the “Power” Gifts.
Forgetting the Purpose of Conventional Gifts
On the other side of the isle, some Christian circles neglect or write off the “Power Gifts” and put a lot of emphasis on “Conventional Gifts.” These are gifts that can be developed through practice and discipline, even without the direct interventionary hand of God. Teaching, administration, hospitality, mercy, giving, etc. With the “Conventional Gifts,” it is easy to rely on the self to grow and develop the gifts. It takes more discipline, because there is a technical aspect to them that requires practice to get better. (Some say we can practice the “Power Gifts” as well–yet in the end, the power manifestations are still dependent on God showing up and acting). These kinds of gifts are favored by people who like to avoid looking like fools, and do very well by focusing on gifts requiring skill development.
But just like the “Power” Gifts, it is easy to lose the focus with “Conventional” Spiritual Gifts as well. It is easy to distill principles down to a science and build a Christian church or organization purely on the skills developed. But even these Spiritual Gifts are still spiritual gifts. They are given by God. So when people partner with the Holy Spirit with teaching, hospitality, evangelism, etc. the kingdom of heaven is still brought forth and people come to salvation. They may not be as flashy as the Power Gifts, yet they are as effective, because they call people to the long haul of faithful living. Losing the focus with these gifts allow people to “fake” their way through certain things. Not every sermon has to be made from the deep recesses of prayer. A well disciplined teacher can bring profound and dynamic sermons forth that can move hearts and minds. That isn’t to say the Holy Spirit won’t use it. “God’s word won’t return void.” But the presentation of the sermon isn’t nearly as dependent on divine interactions as say a miracle. There is a different purpose for “Conventional” Gifts. Their ultimate purpose is still the same as the “Power” Gifts: Point to Christ, Glorify God, and Edify the Church. Yet their individual purpose is designed to help the church become mature and faithful through the disciplines of faithful living. A miracle will get a heathen’s attention and hopefully lead to salvation. Evangelism and Teaching will help a new convert better understand their faith and empower them to grow in their sanctification.
Drawbacks of Forgetting the Purpose of All Spiritual Gifts
Humans are innately driven to glorify themselves. Even back in Genesis, the temptation from the serpent wasn’t just to eat a forbidden fruit. The temptation was for Adam and Eve to “Become like God.” That has been the drive of every human since–to be on par with the divine. To be the focus of attention and worship. That tendency is what we fight in our faith. If the lowliest person is given a little bit of power over his/her fellow humans, they are tempted to exalt themselves. As Lord Acton is famous for saying, “Power Corrupts. Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.” It is fallen humanity’s tendency to forget the purpose of spiritual gifts in favor of human-centered movements. The real purpose of spiritual gifts is to point people to Jesus, edify His church, and to glorify God. The temptation is to lift oneself up as a focal point and to glorify the self–the core essence of idolatry.
Balance between the Power and Conventional Spiritual Gifts are a must for the community of faith. They are all needed, as they are all given by God. If we forget the purpose of the Spiritual Gifts in the Bible, we will be tempted to be just as idolatrous as the ancient Israelites (who were also called by God and set apart). We should seek the spiritual gifts. While we do so, we must continue to seek the face of God (pursue continuing relationship with Him).
If you are a part of TGP, I hope you’ve been enjoying our Spiritual Gifts Affirmation Series. If you are visiting our site, I hope these blog posts have helped you better experience our Lord’s: