Gifts of the Spirit; power for ministry
January 10, 2006
I believe in spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are powerful and provide the means by which God’s supernatural work can be accomplished in and by His church. As the gifts are supernaturally given (1 Cor 12:11), they are also supernaturally empowered. Whether you knew it or not, at the moment of your spiritual birth you were given a spiritual gift. Spiritual gifts are NOT given for personal edification or private use. They are given so you can contribute something supernaturally to the health of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:7). Nor can you choose or seek a spiritual gift, for God is the one Who determines what we each are blessed with (1Cor 12:11b, Eph 4:8b).
A “spiritual gift” that doesn’t exist
I could not do an exhaustive explanation of spiritual gifts in the space of this newsletter. My purpose in these thoughts with you is to dispel a myth about one of the “gifts” that DOES NOT EVEN EXIST! What is the “spiritual gift” that doesn’t exist? It is the “gift of evangelism”.
Some would immediately point to Ephesians 4:8,11 and say, “Yes, there is a gift of evangelism.” Please note that Ephesians 4:11 is a list of offices in the church. What Ephesians 4 is saying is that the apostle (one sent with the gospel, i.e., missionary) is a gift to the church from God. The pastor/teacher is a “gift” to the church from God (does your church treat your pastor as a gift from God?). Ephesians 4 is telling us that evangelists are gifts to the church from God. As such, we should use these “gifts” to assist us in the harvest of souls. These are gifts to the church body to equip the body for acts of service. These gifts are not the same as the spiritual gifts that God gives to individual believers.
Ephesians 4 is a list of offices in the church, not spiritual gifts. There is an “office of an evangelist”, not a “spiritual gift of evangelism”.
Now, there is most definitely a spiritual gift of giving (Romans 12:8) which is given to a privileged few. As we look at the list of spiritual gifts in Romans 12, it is apparent that not everyone has this unique spiritual gift of giving. Does this then give the rest of us a get-out-of-jail-free-card that says we don’t have to give money or material substance to the Lord’s work? Of course not.
I can identify several men in churches that I have served who most definitely had the gift of giving. It seemed that the more they gave away, the more God blessed them. God could generously bless them because when He needed some dollars given to a person or a ministry, there was never any hesitation. God allowed a lot of material goods to pass through their hands so He could get it where He wanted it – even on a moment’s notice. One gentleman’s tax return was challenged many times by the IRS because they couldn’t believe someone would actually give away that percentage of their money.
Now, let’s apply this same premise to evangelism. If there was such a thing as a “gift of evangelism”, then that would mean that some of us don’t have it? If this is true, does that mean that the rest of us don’t have to witness for Christ? Absolutely NOT! We are ALL commanded to be a witness for Christ (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; etc.) There is a mountain of scripture calling us to be witnesses for Christ. The wise ones share Christ (Proverbs 11:30).
Where did this idea come from?
Where then did this idea of a “gift of evangelism” come from? As best I can determine, it came from the 1980’s church growth “experts” who wrote widely publicized books and hypothesized that 10% of the church has the “gift of evangelism”. How did they come to this conclusion? They observed that this is the percentage of people in a church that they could identify who were actively involved in either the visitation ministry of a church or who were actively sharing Christ with the lost people around them. So, the church growth experts’ conclusions came from hypothesis, not from scripture. You will never find in scripture a limit on who is to share Christ. One day, even Satan himself will bow his knee and cry, “Jesus is Lord”!
Reformed theology and evangelism
Some people still try to hide behind the idea that they don’t have the “spiritual gift of evangelism”. Others will try to hide behind reformed theology (Calvinism) and in essence say, “We don’t need to witness, because God has already chosen those who are going to be saved.” I have got to say that this is one excuse that is totally inconsistent with reformed theology.
One of the most reformed pastors that I have ever known is D. James Kennedy of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft Lauderdale, FL. There is no one more Calvinistic … not even SBC’s own Al Mohler. Kennedy is also one of the greatest personal soul-winners of our age. Once Kennedy was asked, “What if we witness to one of the non-elect and they get saved?” Kennedy replied, “I am sure God will forgive you!”
For a true reformed theologian or church member, witnessing is the ultimate action wherein they live out their convictions regarding the sovereignty of God. If God is sovereign (and He is), then He is to be instantly and completely obeyed. Therefore, because the Word of God says, “Ye shall be my witnesses,” then they are exactly that – a witness for Christ!
The compelled witness
But the most stirring witnesses I have ever seen for Christ are those who are just so in love with Jesus that they must talk about Him. They can’t be silent! Their gratitude for salvation and healing is so great that they must tell the world. Jesus once asked Simon, “Who would love more?” Simon said, “I suppose the one who is forgiven the most.” Jesus said, “You have judged correctly.” (Luke 8:36-47)
How grateful are you for what Jesus has done for you? Are you compelled to tell others? Do you tell others about Jesus? Do you hide behind the excuse of not having “the gift of evangelism” – a spiritual gift that doesn’t even exist?
People need to hear the Gospel. We are required and given the great privilege of sharing Christ. It is our responsibility to share.
I believe Evangelist Bill Faye defined successful evangelism best by saying, “Success in evangelism is sharing the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.” You don’t have to obtain a profession of faith to be a success in witnessing. You don’t even have to be a Bible expert. If Jesus were to return as you were sharing the Gospel with a person who rejected Him, would the Lord be pleased? Of course He would! So the pressure is off! Just tell people what has happened to you. Then ask them if they want what you have.
The need is great
People need the Lord and most are very confused about how to get to heaven. This past July 4, Suzie and I spent five hours in the emergency room of a local hospital. While there, we witnessed to two people, a very gracious doctor and a senior pre-med student who is attending a Baptist College in Missouri. No matter what scripture we shared, this student still thinks that his works will get him into heaven. How sad. This college student’s dad is a pastor! The doctor understood the Gospel perfectly, but was called to another E.R. case as we reached the point of asking, “Would you like to receive this gift?”
I don’t know how the final chapter of this story will play out for eternity. But I do have this promise from God, “…my word … will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it,” (NIV) Isaiah 55:11. Too many are confused and need you to explain it to them.
Remember, you have been given one of God’s spiritual gifts. The purpose of that gift, whichever one it is, is to empower you and embolden you to do God’s work. You can see miracles happen right in front of your eyes. Let’s tell our world about Christ!