Free files for youth pastors:
“What’d you get me, daddy?” I can remember excitedly asking that question to my dad whenever he’d return from a business trip. Being the brilliant man he is, he’d bring me home all the swag (stuff we all get) that the vendors would hand out for free like the highlighter triangle, the bouncy balls, and of course the oversized pencil. When I came back from a mission trip to Africa, I did something very similar. Being the awesome-cool Uncle that I am, I brought back my niece and nephews African musical instruments. This seems to be deeply embedded into our culture reaching back to the times when kings would take their armies to battle another nation. The victorious king would plunder the other nations goods by bringing back the spoils from war and handing them out to the citizens of his kingdom so that they could be used for their good.
What are spiritual gifts? I’m afraid often we think of spiritual gifts as merely a couple of special abilities that God gives us to make us special. “You are so special to God and He has made you in such a special way from anyone else,” your childhood Sunday school teacher may have whispered to you. As these things may be partially true about spiritual gifts, their meaning goes way deeper than this. In the Old Testament, King David writes a song about a victory over Babylon where the Lord defeated His enemies and scattered their spoil to the citizens of His kingdom (Ps 68:18). Paul takes up that same language saying that it is Jesus who defeated His enemies and gave the gifts of war to His own. What are spiritual gifts? Spiritual gifts include such things as our passions, abilities, personalities, and experiences that the Spirit can use to glorify Jesus Christ from our lives in His church first and the world second.
What is the purpose of spiritual gifts? The short answer is to glorify Christ in His church by using all that he has given us to share Him with the world and to love each other in the church. The long answer unpacks the short answer using so much of the Bible.
1. Jesus gifts His people as a reminder of His PRESENCE with them as their King. When leaving Egypt, the Lord gave the Israelites favor with the Egyptians. So the Egyptians handed over their silver and gold jewelry and their clothing for the journey. The Israelites used these to build God’s temple – His presence among His people (Exo 12:33-36). In the same way, Jesus has gifted His church to reminder us as His presence as our ruling King (Eph 1:15-23).
2. Jesus gifts His people to PROTECT each other by His power. Samson was a man whom the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon and strengthened (gifted) to tear apart a lion with his bear hands to protect his father and mother (Judges 14). In the same way, Jesus gifts us in the church today to protect each other from spiritual harm, from physical need, etc. (Eph 4:1-11).
3. Jesus gifts His people with abilities to BUILD each other up to be like Him. God filled specific men with specific giftedness of ability, intelligence, knowledge and all craftsmanship to build the temple in majestic, God-glorifying way. In the same way, our spiritual gifts are to be used to build up to be unified, matured, full of Christ in the church (Eph 4:12-14).
4. Jesus gifts His every member of the church (His people) to take part in ministering to each other (Eph 4:15-16). The purpose of spiritual gifts is for the church – the covenant-community of Christ – is to build itself up into the image of Christ as His body through the use of love and every ability given by the Spirit. This is an every-member ministry for every church community.
Where do we use our spiritual giftedness most? It seems as if the average Christian today would answer, “Everywhere! God has gifted us to reflect Him.” As that is true, Scripture talks more about using our giftedness mostly in the church. As the church is the Kingdom of Christ and the Body of Christ, it is the Kingdom and the Body which God wants to grow the most to exalt His Son. As we think about our giftedness, we must find a way to use it within the church of Jesus Christ to witness to the lost, but most importantly to build up the church body and to serve each other (Rom 12, 1 Cor 12, 1 Peter 4).