How to Discover Your Spiritual Gift

The host pastor welcomes me to the city and begins telling me about his church.

Half the time, the story is the same. The church is weak, they’re running behind the budget, they have a hard time finding enough workers, and the mood is generally poor. He’s been praying that the Lord would use me to spark a reversal of these conditions.

Sunday morning–our first service–I am struck by something at odds with what the pastor has told me. There are plenty of people there. The potential is all around us. But the problem is a great percentage of the people are not giving, not working, not doing anything but occupying a pew and serving as spectators and critics for what the pastor and the overworked few are doing.

This should not be.

God has so arranged matters in His churches that every believer has a job to do and a spiritual gift with which to accomplish it.

I like that statement so much, think I’ll repeat it: God has so arranged matters in His churches that every believer has a job to do and a spiritual gift with which to accomplish it.

So, what’s the problem? There is no one answer. For many, it’s their spiritual immaturity or ignorance or rebellion. For others, it’s laziness or the fact that no one has asked them to do a job or take a responsibility and they don’t know they can volunteer. And for a certain percentage, the problem is they do not know their spiritual gift, that inner proclivity toward doing a certain kind of ministry in the church which was implanted at the moment of their salvation.

The last one is our focus here: Those who do not know their spiritual gifts.

Notice that we are not defining spiritual gifts, not citing all those scriptures that speak of them, describe them, and name them. We’re doing one thing here–answering the question: how does one go about discovering his/her spiritual gift?

The answer is not what you think. In most churches I’ve pastored, the minister of education finds a test people can fill out to identify their spiritual gifts. My opinion–and that’s all it is–is that they have little or no value.

There is a better way. And it’s so much simpler.

To find your spiritual gift, try a lot of things.

That’s it.

Give a talk in a Sunday School class or make a report to a committee or teach a Bible lesson to children. See if this strikes a responsive note inside you.

Volunteer in the church nursery. See if this feels like your place.

Look for ways to earn more money so you can give more to the missions offering. If you found yourself getting more excited and challenged in this than anything you’ve done in years, you have found your gift.

Lead a project. Cast the vision for your workers, help them choose your assistants, then delegate, followup, and see the event through to its completion. How did it go? Was it incredible, the way you were so “in your place”?

Volunteer to assist the pastor or one of the assistant pastors or a Sunday School teacher. Work in the background. See if helping someone else to succeed is your cup of tea.

Try lots of things. One of them is right for you.

Find out if anyone is working with the homeless in your area and see where you can volunteer for a day. Particularly at Thanksgiving and Christmas, these centers are crying for volunteers.

Does your hospital need volunteers to work with the families of critically ill patients? That could be your calling. My friend Richard volunteers at the entrance way of the hospital and has a wheelchair handy for anyone needing him. After they have been admitted, he accompanies them to their assigned rooms.

Does your children’s hospital need volunteers to come in once a week and entertain seriously ill children? You might draw for them or use hand puppets or a ventriloquist dummy or something else. For a couple of years, I invested my off day–Fridays–to draw at the New Orleans Children’s Hospital. I’d check in, get my badge, and head out, looking for any children anywhere to make feel special that day.

Can you work in the church kitchen providing meals for congregational events? You will be the most popular person in the church, believe me.

Do you love yard work? The church needs volunteers to keep the flower beds beautiful and fresh. When I suggested to Mae Jones that she do this, she protested that she knew nothing about it. “Miriam McMinn will show you,” I said. Later, when the McMinns moved away, Mae took the lead and has since earned “Master Gardener” status for classes she has taken. The church campus looks wonderful.

Do you feel you have zero talent but a strong back? The church office needs you. You might volunteer to climb the ladder and change the large church sign that faces the street. The reason that sign gets changed so irregularly now is that no one has the time. Volunteer to put up a message to the community on Monday and to announce the weekend services on Thursday. So, you would change it twice weekly. Two hours a week for a message seen by many thousands.

Someone asked me once, “Do you believe the Lord has a job for every believer?” I said, “Where do you work?” She named a chemical plant upriver. I said, “Do you have a personnel director there?” She said, “Joe, we call them human resources director now.” I said, “Does the director of human resources ever put someone on the payroll and send them over to the plant manager and say, ‘I’ve hired another one. See if you can find a place for him’?”

She said, “Oh no. They’re pretty efficient. If they put you on the payroll, they’ve got a job for you to do.”

I said, “More efficient than God?”

Try lots of things. Most of them will not be right for you. You’ll do it and perhaps even enjoy it. But you’ll know if the Lord is signaling that this one has your name on it.

This is going to require that you stay prayed up and stay attuned to the Holy Spirit. The whole point, after all, is to find the place of service the Lord has for you and for which He has gifted you.

Many churches have a minister or layperson on staff whose job is connecting people with places of service, helping them find their slots, so to speak. At the First Baptist Church of New Orleans, Christi Gibson’s actual title is Minister of Connections.

My strong hunch is we have failed those uninvolved members of our churches who sit and spectate and think their primary role is to pass judgment on the preacher each week. We have not made them aware that they were brought into the Kingdom with a specific purpose in the Lord’s mind.

We have not helped them to find their place by letting them try out many ministries. Instead, we have harangued them for “sitting on the premises” while singing “standing on the promises.” It’s a cute line, but wears old after a while. It serves only to assuage the minister’s guilt over not providing the leadership for his people to find their assignments, to get into their places of service and do the work for which the Lord called them.

So, the next time you hear someone calling for volunteers for an event or a ministry or a work project, remember those magic words and see if you can speak them:

I’m not sure what I can do. But I’m willing to try.

2 thoughts on “How to Discover Your Spiritual Gift

  1. Joe,

    Thank you for this! When I was a new pastor, I thought all I needed to do was get folks to “discover” their giftedness and then plug them in. We tried the inventories and it all went nowhere. Along the way, I found something by Ken Hemphill that said to just start serving the Lord through His Church and He would show you your gifts. How amazing!

    In 1 Cor 12 it says that the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. So, step and and do some “common good” and see how the Spirit manifests Himself by empowering you! It’s all about just being obedient and seeking the Lord to work in you and through you!

    Since that epiphany, my preaching and teaching changed and now my goal is to see folks “transformed” into the likeness of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. If that Sanctification process is ongoing, the work will follow!

  2. I love the comment about the human resources dept. not being more efficient than God. That is flat out Brilliant!

    New Christians take that one to heart!

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