When Christians think or talk about spiritual gifts, the usual focus is either a) the lists of gifts and the books and tests that help explain and identify our gifts, or b) the debates between charismatics and noncharismatics about which gifts are still active today. I think both of those focuses miss the main scenes of gifting in our lives.
A previous blog talked about the focus on lists, so in this blog I’d like to address the tendency to focus on the debates around charismatic issues. It’s not hard to understand why those issues get so much attention. Walking into and worshipping at a charismatic versus a noncharismatic church can be two very different experiences. The differences are sometimes front and center, and Christians usually consider them a major factor when choosing churches to join.
Not only that, but unfortunately Christians on both sides have sometimes looked down on those on the opposite side, thinking they’re lacking spiritually in some ways if they’re like that. Thankfully, there are many Christians who don’t do that, but we all know it happens.
So our attention is drawn to these differences and the varying convictions Christians have about them. We’ve assumed that figuring out where you stand on charismatic questions is one of the areas we must emphasize when we think about spiritual gifts.
In Spiritual Gifts Reimagined (SGR) I present that the main scenes of gifting are in our hearts. That the discovery and development of our gifts is part of the growth we’re to pursue as we fight the heart battles involved in growing.
That perspective has some important implications. First, the journey of our growth and gifting needs our main focus, and these other areas that we’ve thought were the important ideas about gifts distract us from what’s more important. It’s not that the questions about charismatic gifts or the biblical lists have no importance. But there is more foundational truth and application we need to grapple with.
Second, instead of using our Christian fellowship to prioritize if or why either of us should or shouldn’t be speaking in tongues, we need to use our relationships to help each other to identify and fight those heart battles I mentioned. In each of the biblical contexts dealing with spiritual gifts, sincere and powerful love is lifted up as the strategic relational dynamic we need to live and grow together as gifted members of Christ’s body. That need has been sidelined by our focus on other topics.
I believe that connecting gifting with growing, and with loving one another well, is the emphasis of Scripture. In SGR, I describe that gifting journey, and explain how this Journey View is taught in Scripture.
So you can be a charismatic or noncharismatic Christian but shift your focus to the journey of gifting and the loving relationships needed in the journey. I think we all need to make that shift.
Am I right? That’s for you to decide. I encourage you to read SGR and other books on gifts that present various views, and test it all by Scripture. But I believe that Christians on both sides of this issue could find a deeper common ground in this Journey View of spiritual gifts.
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