Do you remember the excitement of the discover of what you were meant to do? In ministry we call it the divine call. All of us, though, through our talents, passions and other factors, are designed by God to fulfill a particular purpose. Most of us won’t get the opportunity to fulfill that purpose as our livelihood, but we can all come to the place where we get to aplly our gifts towards a holy passion in our hearts.
Over the past six weeks I’ve found myself on a journey of rediscovery. While I tend to read an awful lot and have a tendency toward learning that way, I’ve been exposed to some video teachings that have caused me to pause and reflect, leaving the books I’ve been reading lying around the house, unopened for days at a time.
One of the topics I’ve been chewing on is one that I had wanted to write about in the past. I had several thoughts going through my mind then and couldn’t really figure out how to go about it. Now I think I’m ready to tackle it. That topic is Spiritual Gifts.
Of course, talking about spiritual gifts tends to open a can of worms, doesn’t it? And you’re probably thinking about all of the more qualified people who have already written books and tests and programs about spiritual gifts. But I’m hoping to shed light on a couple of things, as quick as possible, because we can forget some things after we’ve started learning about gifts and how they apply to us and those around us.
Gifts vs Skills
One dangerous tendency we have when identifying our spiritual gifts is placing too much emphasis on skills. Unfortunately, we’re not omniscient, and since we cannot know everything about everyone around us, we tend to identify a person’s gifts by what they are good at.
We often use ourselves as the first standard to judge someone’s skill level. If we determine that they are better than we are at a particular task or performance area, we take notice (though our reasons for doing so may vary). The next step is to compare their skills to those around them, their peers, colleagues, and other persons doing similar work. At that point, if we see that consistently that they consistently out-perform the majority, they must be gifted in that work.
When focus is made on our skills, we are often encouraged to continue developing those skills. In our workplaces, mastery of the skills required for the job is important for continued employment and better compensation. Isn’t it possible, though, that we could develop a high level of skill without having a gift for that realm of work?
Through the years, I’ve picked up a number of skills that are somewhat unrelated to pastoring. Because staff ministry is not known for its tremendous compensation packages, I have usually worked a secular job while serving churches. Two acquired, job-related skills come to mind when looking at what some might consider to be gifts in my own life.
I worked for a large financial company in Minnesota for a couple of years. In that time I went from entry-level associate to trainer because I was efficient and understood the processes of the job. Along the way I learned some of the basics of Microsoft Word and Excel. That was almost ten years ago. While I haven’t worked with Excel much, I’ve come to a pretty good mastery of Word over the years. As a result, when I produce something on the computer, partly because of my attention to detail, it always has a very professional feel and look. I’ve also picked up a few tricks when it comes to troubleshooting programs and hardware/software issues on the computer.
When someone sees what I’ve been able to do on the computer, they assume that I am a tech guy, able to do anything on or with a computer. The truth is, I only know enough about computers to make me dangerous. My wife is always nervous when I start opening up a computer and poking around inside.
What has happened is that a person at level 1 in computer knowledge has seen me at about a level 4, has recognized the gap, and assumed that I’m gifted with computers. If they were to find out that there are levels 10+, far outstripping me through training and real talent, they’d understand that level 4 really isn’t that great. They’ve made a conclusion without having anyone at a higher level to compare me to. The result is a false sighting on their gifts assessment radar.
There is more to unpack with this, so I’ll get started on another post. In the meantime, take a look at your own life. What skills have you acquired that people around you think are your gifts and talents? The first step in moving beyond that perception of who you are, towards who you really are, is knowing the difference for yourself.