Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

Why doesn’t the church in general teach about the gifts of prophecy, healing, words of knowledge, speaking in tongues, etc. … I am starving for this teaching and get it on tv.

Sincerely, Starving

Dear Starving,

I agree, spiritual gifts don't seem to be taught or emphasized much. Like you, I consider tragic the lack of focus on the gifts. Their utilization is critical if the Church is to function properly in society.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul teaches, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us... let [us] use [them] in proportion to [our] faith” (Romans 12:6).

The spiritual gifts are found in three separate passages in the New Testament (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12–14; and Ephesians 4). The lists are not exactly identical. Some overlapping occurs.

According to 1 Corinthians 12:6  God the Father pours in the power; Jesus the Son assigns the ministry; God the Holy Spirit gives out the gifts as He deems necessary for the proper functioning of the church body.

The gifts may be grouped as follows:

MINISTRIES OF CHRIST (Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:29  (for planting and growing churches in number and maturity): Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and Pastor-Teachers

SUPPORTING GIFTS (Romans 12:6-8): Prophecy, Service, Teaching, Encouragement, Giving, Administration/Leadership, and Mercy

GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT (1 Corinthians 12:8-101 Corinthians 12:27-31  (Tools for ministry) Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith, Healing, Miracles, Prophecy, Helps, Administration, Leadership, Distinguishing spirits, Speaking in tongues, Interpreting tongues.

Every Christian is given at least one gift at conversion. Our initial gift may lie dormant for awhile as we mature. We might call these early impartations “driving force” gifts. They seem to remain with believers throughout their ministry lives.

Other spiritual gifts may be thought of in terms of a toolbox full of tools. At times God may utilize a particular gift in our lives on a short-time basis in order to minister to a particular need in the body of Christ. As we manage well our initial gift, and as our ministries expand, we may ask God for other gifts under the direction of the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Spiritual gifts are not merely special abilities or talents. Innate abilities are often a function of both our personalities and skill development. Spiritual gifts are manifestations of God’s power which profit the church body as a whole.

Congregations are often spiritually impotent when the members do not freely and responsibly allow the Holy Spirit to manifest God’s power through the gifts He has given.

I used to think that I could have only one gift. But as ministry increases, my need for gifts increase. So does yours.

As our ministries grow, and as our need for more gifts arises, God will grant us more gifts if we ask for them (1 Corinthians 12:31 and 1 Corinthians 14:39).

Personally, my initial gift was teaching. Over the years I see God developing more gifts as I need them to minister better. These days I'm praying for the gifts of wisdom, administration, discerning of spirits, prophecy, and faith. I need help in these areas.

As we move forward on our spiritual journey, we need to recognize and learn how to use our spiritual gifts. Allow me to share a few guidelines on how to unwrap your spiritual gifts:

DIAGNOSTICS TO HELP US IDENTIFY OUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS

1. As I Study The Gifts And Their Operation In The Bible, Do Any Resonate In My Soul?

2. What Do I Enjoy Doing?

God wants us to be "Happy in the service of the King." Christian ministry must not become a neurotic compulsion to duty. Like Jesus, in doing the Father's will we should find delight, not drudgery

And this delight continues. Later he will enthusiastically affirm, "This is what I'd rather be doing for the Lord than anything else in the world. I so enjoy it! This is my thing. This turns me on!" He will readily talk about his ministry and wish to improve it.

3. What Is The Holy Spirit Telling Me?

The inner witness of the Spirit is not limited to confirming our salvation. He wants us to know what our gifts are and how to use them.

4. What Ministry Is God Blessing?

Someone may realize that often when he has prayed for sick people, they have become well. Another discovers that people to whom he has given something have make especially good use of it. Do you see fruit from your teaching? Are people trusting Christ as a result of your evangelism?

As we begin to evangelize, exhort, show mercy, and help, the Holy Spirit gradually unveils certain gifts. So we should get busy in Christian service.

When considering whether to engage in some form of Christian work, adopt the well-known slogan, "Try it--you may like it!

5. What Gifts Do Others See In Me?

The crowning confirmation that we do possess a gift is recognition of this gift by others. Jake Ellis, well respected teacher at Northway: "Roger, you are a wonderful teacher." God gives us parents, pastors, teachers, and friends to help us in making key decision like this.

As we are engaging in Christian service in obedience others may see a gift in us long before we ourselves are aware of it.

Occasionally, others recognize that we don't possess a gift we think we have. One professor said, "it's so strange to meet someone who claims to have the gift of preaching when no one has the gift of listening."

6. PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!

Disuse of a limb results in paralysis or atrophy, so doctors order patients up soon after surgery. Similarly, exercise is the only way to prevent a gift's lapse or collapse. If you don't use it, you don't lose it, it just doesn't work very well.

The existence of a gift is a call to exercise it. Eyes are purposeless unless they exercise the function of sight. Paul advised Timothy, "Neglect not the gift that is in thee" (1 Timothy 4:14).

Faithful utilization of a gift brings increased effectiveness in its ministry, but failure to develop a gift curtails one's service. Discover and develop your spiritual gifts and you will experience abundant living!

Every person and every gift is important—no matter how small and insignificant it may seem. A young boy on the beach was picking up starfish and throwing them back into the water after the tide retreated. Thousands of dying starfish dotted the seashore. An older gentleman walking by noticed the young man’s actions. He said, “There must be 100,000 starfish here on the beach. What difference will it make?”

As the boy picked up another starfish and threw it back into the sea, he replied, “Well, it will make a difference to this one.”

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

Publication date: February 13, 2013