Which would you prefer to talk about? If you were sitting down with your closest Christian friend, would you be more drawn to talk about the spiritual gifts of each of you, or your spiritual growth? What is your preference and why, and which is more important?
As you think about that, I’d like to address this topic by sharing with you why I wrote Spiritual Gifts Reimagined (SGR). Here’s what I say about that in the book’s conclusion, followed by a few further comments about gifts and growth (and explanation of the butterfly).
“My deepest desire in publishing this book is not to introduce a different view of spiritual gifts. Years ago, that might have been my main desire. But then I spent years working with people to help them realize their true identity and potentials in Christ. It became clear to me that their journeys of healing and growth were the gifting journey I had discerned in Scripture. I saw that in my own journey as well.
“I’ve felt too much joy and gratitude in watching people grow to make just sharing an alternative view of gifts my main reason for publishing this book. It is a fresh perspective on spiritual gifts, but only as a means to the end of knowing that people are fighting the heart battles, and retrieving the spoils, God has intended for them.
“Those heart battles can be fought whether one adopts the Journey View or not. But if the church moved from a utilitarian understanding of gifts to a more substantive journey perspective of gifting, I believe that integration of gifting with growth could be a powerful motivation for people to fight the battles involved in becoming who God created each one to be.
“My prayer is that God would bless each of us with a depth of agape with one another that links us together as strategic fellow journeyers, as we move closer and closer to the perfected grace-expressions of God that we each are. Together, we are his spectrum of grace.” (SGR, 197)
As a student of Scripture and theology, I get very excited about interpreting God’s Word—and teaching the concepts that come from a growing understanding of it. But the other side of me is the pastoral side, including the passion I developed during my ministry career to help people relate authentically to God, self, and others. That moves beyond head knowledge into growing deeper in those three relationships.
I love to explain to people the details of the Journey View of gifts, and I’m excited to present it to the world in SGR. But your heart, your growth, and your relationships are a lot more important than my ideas about spiritual gifts. That’s why I clarify in the conclusion that my purpose in publishing SGR is to encourage people to engage in the battles in their journeys of growth—which I believe is also the journey of gifting.
You see, I don’t think gifting and growing are two separate topics. That’s the core theme of SGR: spiritual gifts must be integrated with spiritual growth (SGR, 213). But here’s the rub … most of us would rather talk about gifts than growth. For a while, in the late 20th century, Christians were very excited about spiritual gifts. It was fun to take the tests and find out each other’s gifts. It’s similar to the picture with this blog. The colorful butterfly is what draws our eyes.
The growth process leading to that beauty is not as attractive to us. To talk about our spiritual growth means to get honest about the areas we need to work on. It means to press deeper than the smiles we share on Sundays, opening ourselves to being challenged. It means engaging with the battles that must be fought in our journeys of growth and gifting.
In those journeys, we need one another, for challenge, accountability, encouragement, affirmation. A focus on growth therefore also means deepening our Christian relationships to more vulnerable levels. Can you see how it feels safer and easier to just focus on gifts? And most of the books and classes on gifts have left out the necessity of growth and interpersonal connections for development of your gifts.
The Journey View of gifts presents a more robust and broad—integrated—understanding of spiritual gifts. And it’s more challenging. Because it’s not about more information, tests to be taken, etc. It’s the disclosure that you’ll never fully develop into the unique gifted person God made you to be unless you’re growing. Check out SGR for more background and clarity on this integrated understanding of spiritual gifts.