Gordon Smith has written a wonderfully thoughtful book called Courage and Calling where he walks through Romans 12:6-8 and describes the spiritual gifts as different ways of responding to the world’s brokenness. Rather than asking, “What is my spiritual gift?” Smith suggests we ask ourselves where we see the brokenness of the world most clearly.
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”
So how does brokenness come into this?
- Smith writes that Prophets “see the profound need for people to live in the truth they already know. Prophets call us to behavior that is congruent with our words.” The brokenness of the world here relates to a lack of integrity and truth in our lives.
- Servants, on the other hand see brokenness in the physical and tangible needs around us. “It runs in their blood to be attentive to the practical needs around them. They tend to think that there is too much talk and not enough action.”
- Teachers have the “conviction that the main problem in the world is that people lack understanding; if they could just understand, they would know and live the truth. Teachers believe that transformation can come through learning.”
- Encouragers “think that the greatest problem in the world is the lack of hope; they have a deep-felt conviction that encouragement is precisely what is required if our world is going to experience peace, justice and transformation. Some encouragers use words. Others recognize the significance of place, and know that the spaces in which we live and work can either undercut or enhance our courage and sense of well-being; they know how to design spaces of nurture, light and life.”
- Contributors are “usually those among us who recognize that without funding much that is important does not happen. Often they are people who know how to make money, but they are also people who know how to give generously. Without the generosity of those who have the means to give, our lives would be significantly impoverished.” They see the brokenness of the world in poverty and lack of financial aid.
- Leaders see brokenness in disorganization and lack of direction, in poor management and administration. Smith writes that, “There is so much talk of leadership in our day that sometimes we think that everyone is called to leadership. But some people have a unique passion for enabling others through administration and management, so that organizations flourish, and so that everyone else can fulfill their giftedness.”
- Empathizers see the brokenness of the world in our lack of compassion “While all of us are called to show mercy, some people deeply understand that those around them have a central need for someone to stand with them. They mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep. While others may wonder how this solves problems or brings resolution to the issues before us, people who are called to show mercy recognize the transforming power of empathetic identification. They know that the demonstration of mercy is itself life and strength to another person.”
When you read these descriptions do you immediately relate to one or two? Are there ones you don’t get at all? Maybe you’re thinking about where you see brokenness in the world most clearly and it’s not on this list. Great! Can you see how thinking in this way lets you get past seeing spiritual gifts as labels you need to find and apply to yourself?
In Part 3 on Spiritual Gifts, we’ll tackle how to deal with everyone’s gifts being different!
*All the quotes are from Chapter 2 “Seeking Congruence” in Gordon Smith’s book – I highly recommend reading the whole book if you have a chance!