Spiritual gifts – what are they?
By Beret Leone
Bethel senior Matt Velasco knows he has the spiritual gift of teaching because almost every time he preaches, a student will tell him they really needed to hear a specific line in the sermon. Often he’ll tell them he didn’t even plan on saying it – it just came to him.
“It’s like it has nothing to do with me. It’s just a spiritual gift that God has given me, to operate in such a way that he’s called me to,” Velasco said.
The number is? up for debate among Biblical scholars exactly how many spiritual gifts there actually are. Assistant Dean of Campus Ministries Matt Runion says the number runs anywhere from five to 25, depending on how you translate the Greek. Runion suggests 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and Romans 12:6-8 as starting points of digging into what the scripture says about spiritual gifts. According to spiritualgiftstest.com – a website founded by a pastor in in Southern California in 2004 – spiritual gifts fall into one of four categories: serving gifts, foundation gifts, revelatory gifts and manifestation gifts.
“So many people call them different things,” Velasco said. “There are some people that say believers practice all the gifts. Then there are some people that will say believers should strive to practice all, but they are only given some – and I think that comes from a place where spiritual gifts are easier to explain.”
Coming from a background in youth ministries and currently working as an intern with youth ministries at Westwood Community Church, Velasco fosters spiritual gifts by making sure his students are aware of them first. Often he’ll lead his students through the LifeWay Christian Resources Spiritual Gifts Assessment. LifeWay is a nonprofit organization and one of the world’s largest providers of Christian resources – their products are used in more than 160 countries.
“It [the assessment] can tell you that you have the gift of faith, but until you actually practice that faith and have the church confirm the fact that you have faith, then it’s not true. It’s not true until it’s made true,” Velasco said. “If the gift was made for the church, then the church will confirm that.”
But, Velasco says, you can test for a specific gift, but if it’s not confirmed from the church community, it can’t be accurate.
Regardless of the debate determining what and how many spiritual gifts there are and how many someone can possess, one thing is certain: spiritual gifts are used for the betterment of the the church.
Both Runion and Velasco agree that spiritual gifts are a personal testimony that you have to explore for yourself to determine what they are.
“The sort of investigative work we have to do is like, ‘What is God doing in putting me in this place and how can I participate with what God is doing?’ ” Runion said.
Runion compares the concept behind spiritual gifts to missions trips. He likes to emphasize to his students that it’s not their trip, it’s God’s trip. Runion uses that analogy in the same way towards spiritual gifts; they’re not yours, but God’s.
Runion recommends taking the C. Peter Wagner assessment, “Finding Your Spiritual Gifts.” It’s the one of the first and most popular spiritual gift questionnaires that was originally created in 1976 by Dr. Richard Houts and later adapted by Wagner. Runion also recommends talking to those who know you best, or a pastor. His door is always open.
“Spiritual gifts is one more way – one more input of that ultimate goal – what is God doing,” Runion said. “It’s really God that does anything really in our lives. Again, that’s the faith that we have is to trust that God is at work and using us.”