One of the many blessings of entering into the Christian life is using our spiritual gifts for the kingdom. But what are they? How do we find them? Can we only have one? What if the gifts of our brothers and sisters in Christ seem more practical than ours? What if we have been discouraged in the past about how to apply our spiritual gifts? The unknowns surrounding our spiritual gifts can seem consuming and sometimes prevent us from pursuing the answers. Pastor Gary Blanchard, the World Youth Director for the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church joins Jennifer Stymiest for this episode of ANN InDepth to discuss the beauty of spiritual gifts.
When thinking of spiritual gifts, we often see the gifts listed in Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Corinthians 12-14. As Blanchard points out “There's over 20 of them and there may be others that you can find throughout the bible even though they're not named.” From Genesis to Revelation, the bible is dense with examples of spiritual gifts that can be used for ministry. Yet for all its importance in our Christian experience, there are few discussions that explore the richness of spiritual gifts. For some, the list of what can be considered useful talents, can seem limited. If it is believed that you do not have the gift of healing unless you are not a medical professional, then you may be holding yourself back from leaning into your ability to provide emotional or mental relief for the people in your life. In the same way, some may think that because they do not have a home, they can’t foster their gift of hospitality, when they could make any space a welcoming environment. When we realize that the gifts of the spirit have as much nuance and complexity as us, a world of opportunities are opened for ministry, no matter the scale.
When the horizons of what constitutes spiritual gifts are broadened, it confronts yet another major prevention for living our gifts: comparison. In comparing our talents to the talents of others, we may feel cheated or ill equipped for ministry. Blanchard confronts this challenge, saying: “Don't be jealous of another person's talents or spiritual gifts, use the gifts that you've been given, use them to the glory of God and watch the doors God will open and watch the new gifts He'll pour into your life.” In focusing on the gifts we don’t have, we run the risk of neglecting the gifts tailor made for us by a God who wishes for us to flourish under His spirit. We are made to be unique individuals and contribute to ministry in ways that could be outside of church administration, but in our everyday life. In light of social distancing, the traditional potlucks, church events, and bible groups have had to adapt. Within that adaptation, new skills of nurturing and networking may present themselves.
But how do we find them? Such is the million dollar question that can make seeking out our gifts more elusive. Blanchard provides guidance for this quest by finding resources like Russell Burrell’s book Revolution In The Church and studying spiritual gifts in the Bible.
“The second thing I would say is what are you passionate about? What gift do you wish you had or what kind of a ministry is boiling inside your heart that you just want to make happen? What kind of passion has God placed inside of you?” Blanchard asks, “Because I've discovered with young people if they follow their passion they'll find their spiritual gift.” In this exploration of spiritual gifts we are unraveling the nuance of our talents, as well as the depth of our identity in Christ. Exploring the possibilities of our service uncovers the invaluable truth that nothing is wasted in God's economy. In the same way, we cannot believe we only have one gift, explore every facet of our talents and allow the holy spirit to develop them accordingly.
Like every aspect of Christian growth and development, it is never solely internal. All growth, no matter how personal, encourages allies for accountability and encouragement. Fostering spiritual gifts is no different. Though discovering our gifts and how they can be used is important no matter the age, it is especially important for young adults. As the World Youth Director, Blanchard is no stranger to mentorship. He implores the church to be encouraging to young people as they discover their gifts and most of all to be present. At an age already rife with uncertainty, being a source of uplifting guidance is vital to young believers developing their identity in Christ. Rather than forcing them into roles unsuitable to their gifts, ignoring their communication, criticizing unconventional methods, or leaving them to fend for themselves, mature believers must anoint their youth and new believers with encouragement. Only then can spiritual gifts be seen as more than an elusive calling, but an active mission.