You’re probably familiar with the idea of taking a spiritual gifts test, discovering which gifts are yours, and then finding ways to serve others using those gifts. In Spiritual Gifts Reimagined (SGR) I call this the Mechanical View of spiritual gifts. It’s all about how you function, not about who you are.
Is this what God intended for us to learn from the Bible passages about spiritual gifts? When Paul wrote about gifts, he strongly emphasized love and unity. Those are values that go deeper than simply understanding how we each function differently. Paul is urging us to deepen our connections within the body of Christ—knowing and loving each other in sincere and devoted ways (Romans 12:5-10).
If we’ll go to deeper levels of relating with a handful of fellow believers, we’ll see more and more of the uniqueness of each person, appreciating the ways God’s grace is expressed through each one. And we will be deepening our unity in the body of Christ. This is a big part of the Journey View of spiritual gifts taught in SGR.
But how do we actually do that? Taking a spiritual gifts test is superficial as compared to deepening relationships in which we discover each person’s gifted uniqueness. In this month’s blog I want to point you to a key skill set we need to share among ourselves if we want to discover one another’s spiritual gifts. That skill set is listening.
To discern how God has gifted your friend you must pay attention to what God has done and is doing in that person’s life. The reasons that is true are explained in SGR, but it has to do with being aware of the “scenes of gifting” in that person’s journey. These scenes are the life experiences God uses to grow your friend, and the wonderful potentials coming to light through that growth.
In order for you to give this attention to your friend, you must have in your heart devoted love for him or her. Out of such love you dedicate time to spend with your friend. And during those times, the attention you give is called listening.
None of us are born as good listeners. Most of us rarely receive good listening from others. And the world around us, especially the barrage of all the media in our world, doesn’t encourage us to give and receive good listening. Most of us move from one distraction to another—distractions around us and within us.
Listening involves a handful of basic skills. It takes study and practice to learn skills like giving uninterrupted attention, using your eyes, body, and voice to invite your friend to share, and checking with your friend to see if you’re really hearing them. It’s difficult to learn those skills if you’ve never paid attention to how you don’t give quality attention to others!
And it’s more difficult than taking a gifts test. But which way of discerning each other’s gifts do you think God wants us to prioritize? It’s not wrong to use a test, but God is much more interested in the discovery of gifted uniqueness in relationships of loving listening. In those relationships we’ll be amazed to see how God is growing each of us in the “scenes of gifting” in our journeys.
You are a fascinating and unique hue on the spectrum of God’s grace we call spiritual gifts! So are each of your friends. The first way we’re called to respond to that beautiful truth is by attentive listening. As explained in SGR, that leads to sharing with each other the valuing and nurturing that is characteristic of New Testament agape love.