How can we discover our spiritual gifts?

High Definition Video Standard Definition Video

(Right click this link to download video.)


Christians often wonder how we can discover what our spiritual gifts are. I've seen inventories of skills and abilities that people allegedly can fill out and that will tell them their spiritual gift. The New Testament calls us to a more complicated but a richer understanding. I think the way that the apostle Paul especially in the pastoral epistles shows us how to recognize elders is a good model for how we discover any of our spiritual gifts. Paul says among other things in 1 Timothy 3 that there should be a desire to use our gifts in a particular way — "If a man desires the office of overseer, he desires a good thing." But we do need to check our motives. Are we wanting to serve or are we wanting fame or influence? So, we need to ask ourselves, are we wanting to be of service to Christ? And we need to ask, what are the abilities that God has given to us? Some of those are what he's given us by the way he's created us, and then the Holy Spirit may enrich and enhance those further. Then we use them in service and see whether the Lord's bringing fruit. As Paul says, a man who's married and has children you can look at something of what's going on in the home to determine how he's shepherding that little flock. And that extends to whatever we do in ministry. As we serve, are people helped? Are they built? Are they drawn closer to Christ? Which means that really, finally, the discernment of our spiritual gifts depends not just on what I feel or what I want, but on what the church says and sees in me as I use my gifts in service to Christ.

Answer by Dr. Dennis E. Johnson

Dr. Dennis E. Johnson is Academic Dean and Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in California.