Ask a Pastor Ep. 40 - Spiritual Gifts
Welcome to Ask a Pastor, a podcast from Orchard Hill Church! Have you ever had a question about the Bible, Faith, or Christianity as a whole? Submit your question and one of our pastors will answer on the program. New episodes every Wednesday.
This episode our Senior Pastor, Dr. Kurt Bjorklund, talks with Life Stage Pastor and Director of Men's Ministry, Mike Hatch.
Question - "I have a few questions about spiritual gifts:
What are examples of spiritual gifts?
Are we able to ask for these gifts and receive them or are are we naturally given to us?
When people say that they have these gifts, is that their perception or is it actually bestowed upon?
If someone asks for them, is that naming and claiming?
What is your opinion on these gifts?
Would you mind helping out? Thank you so much!"
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This is an auto-generated transcript. Please excuse any errors.
Kurt Bjorklund: Hey, welcome to today's Ask a Pastor. If you have questions you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'd be happy to interact. With that material in the future today I'm joined by Mike Hatch, who serves as a life stage pastor to kind of the 30, 40 year old demographic on our Wexford campus.
Kurt Bjorklund: Mike, we're excited to have you here with us today and we're going to talk about spiritual gifts. There was a question that was submitted, there was actually a series of questions about spiritual gifts. Somebody saying, "I really want to understand how this works in the life of a Christian, in the life of the church." And so we're going to jump into this and interact about it.
Kurt Bjorklund: Mike, the person asks, "What are some examples of spiritual gifts? Are we able to ask for these gifts and receive them or are they just naturally given to us? When people say that they have certain gifts, is that their perception or is it actually bestowed on them? If someone asks for them, is that naming it and claiming it? And what are your opinion on all these gifts?"
Kurt Bjorklund: Mike, have at it-
Mike Hatch: One thing right after another.
Kurt Bjorklund: Well, and obviously we can pick apart those, but I wanted to put them all out there because in a way they're interrelated.
Mike Hatch: Definitely.
Kurt Bjorklund: To deal with one and then the other there might be some real synergy as we talk about this.
Mike Hatch: It's great.
Kurt Bjorklund: Go ahead.
Mike Hatch: I want to frame this a little bit too, just around personal experience, but also look ... Because often we approach scripture or our questions about God and where it comes with this from, from our cultural narrative and a framework that we define reality from certain narratives that often are constructed from our culture. And so the question of gifts it's interesting because when you think about gifts from a cultural perspective, there is a lot of talk in pop culture about ... It's not necessarily referred to maybe as gifts as much as maybe talents or abilities or strengths. How do you capitalize on your strengths and show up your weaknesses-
Kurt Bjorklund: Strengths Finder, all that kind of thing.
Mike Hatch: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Definitely. And I think biblically we come from actually a very unique perspective when you come from a Christian perspective from this that I think is different in more countercultural than maybe people think, and I know even personally, and I just want to say this because I think there are folks out there who could probably relate to this at this level, maybe I'm getting to a point where I'm in the midst of a midlife crisis; that's possible.
Mike Hatch: I'm going to be 40 in just a couple months and this has actually been on my mind a lot in terms of wanting to be in my sweet spot and really wanting as I serve the Lord and do whatever it is I do professionally and otherwise that I'm really maximizing the way God gifted me.
Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah, you're old enough now to feel like, "Hey, I've tried some things, now I know and I want to use the years that I know I have left or assume I have left, hope I have left to not just be spinning my wheels doing things that are frustrating to me and maybe for others, but instead as much as I can in the strengths or sweet spot gifting that God's given me."
Mike Hatch: This is where I think the Bible, coming from a biblical perspective gives a really unique take on this because ultimately, first and foremost, the ultimate gift that we've received is a gift of eternal life in Christ. That should set for us the ultimate framework, so then within that context then as being a gift of God for eternal life, the grace we've received from Christ, that then should color, should help to define how our gifts play out from that point.
Mike Hatch: I just think it's important to say that and reference that because the two ... For example, my gift, and there are multiple gifts are listed in the Bible. My gift, I know as I was just reminded of this actually going through the scriptures again is something called exhortation or encouragement. I love being able to literally fill other people with courage and motivate them to action.
Mike Hatch: That just excites me. It's kind of like being a coach in a sense, but within the context of my own, the grace that I've received from God. I'm encouraged or I'm motivated to encourage others to step into the light, for example, and accept God's grace and to really grasp the truth of his unconditional love for them, and then help them to take steps into what their gifting might be and to encourage them in that.
Mike Hatch: Anyway, that's just kind of where I'm coming from on this, but as we look, the questions here, "What are examples of spiritual gifts?" And there are a lot of different examples of spiritual gifts. And I think you probably would say this, the examples given in scripture, there's a lot of them. It's not exhaustive, I would say. I'd say there's even spiritual gifts and maybe you might say something differently. I would say that these aren't necessarily exhaustive, but you've got ... You look, sound like you're going to say something.
Kurt Bjorklund: I would say I agree with that. What I would be careful of though is also expanding it unduly. Meaning there's 19 of them actually. They are listed in the scriptures and if you take the four passages or so where they're listed and say, "What are these?" I would say they're not necessarily exhaustive but I wouldn't necessarily say there's another 50 gifts out there. There's just nuances or shades probably of those 19. It's probably how I would say that but go ahead.
Mike Hatch: Yes. Definitely. You've gifts a prophecy, serving, teaching-
Kurt Bjorklund: Where are you reading from? Just so we-
Mike Hatch: I'm sorry. This is Romans chapter 12. I'm starting there. Romans chapter 12. Let me see here, starting around verse 6. Yes, we have different gifts: prophecy, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, mercy. Those are some of the gifts.
Kurt Bjorklund: An example of that and even the exhaustive things. Like mercy, do you take that as a gift? If you're ever going through something hard and somebody comes in who has the gift of mercy, you feel just encouraged and cared for and loved in that moment. Somebody comes in who maybe doesn't have that gift as much, you may not feel uncared for, but there's a difference. And so somebody may vocationally choose to say, "I want to be in a field, typically a helping profession." Somebody who's a counselor, a nurse, a doctor might say that's who I am.
Kurt Bjorklund: That doesn't mean an accountant doesn't have the gift, doesn't have the spiritual gift, and in terms of little shades so there would be things, for example, where you might say, "Well, I have real specific mercy gift with health issues," or "I have mercy gifts with emotional issues." And that's what I mean by nuances or shades rather than just something altogether different in terms of that.
Kurt Bjorklund: A lot of times when ... Go ahead.
Mike Hatch: I was just going to interrupt because I think on that note, I think you're touching on the idea too of the gift of grace would be given the bigger picture because. For example, a gift of mercy, someone may have come through a really hard time in some area of their lives that they've experienced God's grace in a unique way to them, whether it be going through cancer or a life-threatening disease of some sort that then brings them to a place where they have a unique perspective and they're able to exercise that gift out of the grace that was originally given to them in that situation for them that then transfers to us.
Kurt Bjorklund: Usually, when people ask about spiritual gifts, they're not usually asking about mercy or something. Usually what they're asking, and I assume from kind of the way this is phrased that what they're asking about is what many people would call the so-called sign gifts. Talking about tongues, prophecy, interpretation of tongues, all of that. And even when they say, "Can we ask for these gifts and receive them?" Because at one point in 1 Corinthians, we're told we should all seek ... To seek the greater gifts is okay.
Kurt Bjorklund: My guess is there's some of that that's in this question. How do you look at those gifts? Are they still operative in the same way that maybe they were in scripture? And how should somebody look at those today? Because I think most people would say, "Okay, either I'm given mercy, I'm not given mercy. I should seek to be more merciful." "I was given the gift of encouragement, or maybe I wasn't, but I should seek to be more encouraging," kind of a thing, but when it comes to those gifts again: healing miracles, tongues, it seems maybe a little more specific.
Mike Hatch: Yeah, that makes sense. And I think remembering the purpose for gifts is a big deal too. Some of these gifts we've talked about, Ephesians chapter 4 verse 12, it says, the purpose of these is to equip his people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up. The point of our gifts should be that it is edifying to the body of Christ, that we are growing and helping others grow in their faith as a result of that.
Mike Hatch: I would ask the question with any of these gifts, how is it impacting or building up the church? Now, I know here at Orchard Hill, our stances is that the gift of tongues, for example, just throwing that out there, was a gift that was very specific because we would say those were known languages, were known different languages that people were translating or they're speaking miraculously to someone who speaks a different language than them, for example.
Mike Hatch: And there was a real specific purpose for that to really expedite the spreading of the Gospel out from Jerusalem and to Judea and the rest of Mediterranean. Today, unfortunately, I think people will hijack these gifts unfortunately and use them more for building themselves up than they will for building up the body of Christ. I think that's where we get confused sometimes because someone will say very strongly that like, "No, you need to have the gift of tongues or baptized in the Holy Spirit," for example, and given the gift of tongues that way and only through doing that are you actually proven saved that way. They would say then now you're saved.
Mike Hatch: I think unfortunately that puts more of the emphasis on the person versus the use of the gift for building up the church. Does that make sense?
Kurt Bjorklund: Absolutely. Yeah. And I think to just to circle around that, if you're not familiar with the idea of tongues, tongues is a known language in Acts 2, clearly known language. And typically what you try to do when you interpret the Bible is you say, where is this kind of early first known, and then read the rest of your text in the same way. And if you do that, tongues makes perfect sense. If you always see it as a known language, and again, it's real clear your English footnote, you don't need to know Greek or anything. It's glossy means a known language.
Kurt Bjorklund: And so if you read it that way, if you understand it that way, then all of this, what it would be is it would be somebody going to a foreign country where they don't know the language and all of a sudden speaking the language and people going, "You don't know the language. That's God." Now, there could be some argument from 1 Corinthians about it becoming a prayer language, a personal prayer language. I think that for those who see it that way, they'll often then argue exactly what you said, "You need this as a better experience of God. If you have this now you really experience God. Now, it even indicates that you actually know God. Maybe you're even a Christian."
Kurt Bjorklund: That's where as a church we would say that's not our understanding. We would say you come to faith, the Holy Spirit lives in you regardless of this incident of tongues. And therefore that's not something that you need to seek. In fact, I would push to kind of people who say, "Oh really?' I would say, why do you not see tongues practiced like it was in the New Testament? If that is still something God is doing it, I wouldn't want to say no to what God's doing, but I would say at least some of the tongues practice should be that where it's a known language and it's verifiable and clear.
Kurt Bjorklund: And largely what we see today is not that. I think it was A. B. Simpson who was the founder of the Christian Missionary Alliance church and he said about this issue. He said, "Seek not, forbid not." And I think that's a really simple way to think about it. Answer to kind of the question, "Is it okay for me to ask for these gifts or to seek them?" I think A. B. Simpson's wisdom based on summarizing scripture would be to say don't seek these more miraculous gifts, but don't tell people that it's untenable.
Kurt Bjorklund: My position would be to say if God wants to give somebody the gift of language, to speak in a known language in a foreign country today, why would I tell them no. Of course, God can do that. If God wants to heal through somebody, of course, God can do that. If God wants to give somebody a sense of his word, he can do that. Obviously, there I would say be very careful that you're not contradicting scripture and I wouldn't put a "Thus sayeth the Lord," on it. Which is a different conversation altogether. But I love that just simple phrase, "Seek not, forbid not," that way I'm saying, here's what God says, but I don't need to try to police it or control it.
Mike Hatch: The other piece to that too is I think how it plays out within the corporate community of the church as well. I think in terms of like the one question is, "When people say they have these gifts, is that their perception or is it actually bestowed upon them?" Romans talks about it that God apportions it basically. I think maybe it's actually Ephesians, it talks about apportioning it or distributing it that God distributes those gifts to us.
Mike Hatch: Yeah, it's distributed to us. I think for us individually though, it's good to have to be within the context of community where people can affirm and say, "Hey, this is your gift. I can affirm and say that the Holy Spirit has really gifted you this way," and to encourage us to use them.
Kurt Bjorklund: You brought up your gift encouraging, which I would agree. Encouraging, exhorting I would say that is you to a T. What's interesting is, so for example, that particular gift, typically you don't have a job for that. We don't have a role in the Church of, "Hey, I'm just the encourager. I walk around and encourage people and that's my job."
Mike Hatch: That'd be awesome.
Kurt Bjorklund: You would love that. Say something about ... I can affirm that in you, how do you find a context for your gift? Because not every gift has a clear context. And even if it does have a clear context, we don't always have the opportunity to utilize that. For example, and I'll just preface this a little, like if somebody says, "I have a good voice and I like to sing." There's a difference between I have a good voice and want to sing and I have a spiritual gift of encouragement or exhortation. What multiply somebody singing isn't just that they're a good singer, but they actually have a spiritual gift that when they sing, people say, "Oh my goodness, I sense God in that." That's actually the gift of encouragement, exportation, showing up in singing.
Kurt Bjorklund: And so there's a lot of contexts where we might actually find a job that actually ties, and not necessarily a vocational job, I mean a role within the church that plays into the gift that we have and then ties into our actual talents as well. And then say something about this, and I've said this publicly before, but like in our house my wife were here, she would chastise me and say I rarely do this, but neither of us feel called or gifted to clean the bathrooms. And yet that needs to be done right. Neither of us are passionate about it.
Kurt Bjorklund: Sometimes when we get into church world, what we do is we're like, "Well, I'm not called, I'm not gifted. I don't need to do anything," rather than saying, "I'm called to be part of a family and sometimes the toilets need to be cleaned and so I'm going to do that." I think there's a time to say, this may not be my passion or a gift, but I can do it, but I think in conjunction with that if we don't find our passion and gift, like if all we ever do is that then we have a warped view of service. Does that make sense?
Mike Hatch: Definitely.
Kurt Bjorklund: And how would you then counsel somebody who's saying, "I'm trying to discover my gift, have it affirmed in community and find a place to utilize it."?
Mike Hatch: Right. You're speaking to it again to within the context of the grace we've been given in eternal life from Christ or through Christ. Because so for me personally as a men's pastor, I'll use that as a context, my gift of encouragement works well as I disciple men in their growth, in their faith, for example. It can play out in sometimes teaching in different ways as well, encouraging guys and exhorting them or people in general. It can play out that way.
Mike Hatch: I think what you're getting at too is that if we divorce it from that bigger context of ... Because when you understand what God's done for you and the grace you've experienced, it changes the way you approach everything. So then all of a sudden cleaning the toilets at the church, you actually look at it as like a privilege for example. You know what I mean? It may not be your gifting in that moment. It may not be where your best uses of your talents and abilities are but it's still your humble service to God.
Kurt Bjorklund: Well, and I think what I'm getting at with that is I think there's two things that are opposite that are important here. One is it's important to say, "What am I passionate about, gifted at and where can I make the biggest contribution to the kingdom? Let me find that and utilize that." But I think there's a narrative also that says, "I'm going to use the church and Christian ministry and Christian environments to self actualize and find myself and make much of myself and my gifts," rather than saying, "I'm part of a family. And in time my gifts will be called out, utilized, but I serve somewhere."
Kurt Bjorklund: What I would say to somebody who's saying, "How do I find my gift?" Is start serving, start doing things. And what will happen is in time you'll say, "Well, that was good." Or "I really saw God work in this and some other things I did not and so I'm going to lean more toward this and go toward it." But sometimes you just have to step in and do something in order to begin to find it. It's almost like sometimes people try so hard to say, "How do I find the best me to offer and I won't do anything that isn't the best me and therefore I don't do anything," rather than saying "I'm part of a family and I'm going to do this until I have a opportunity that's more me."
Mike Hatch: Or to your point, we want to self actualize so much that we isolate from the rest of the community and we convince ourselves from people who might want to tell us what we want to hear. And then we end up being that American idol contesting up there singing out of key. You know what I mean? Saying, "But I can do whatever I want." "If I just work hard enough, I can be what I want to be." And in actuality, you're not your best self.
Kurt Bjorklund: Well, to that, sometimes in church people are so nice that instead of actually affirming gifts, they actually affirm nongifts. Like you mentioned singing. Somebody sings special music; if it's off key and it wasn't great, they'll still have hundreds of people in a context like Orchard Hill who will say that was awesome. And they'll walk away going, "Hey, I nailed it," when maybe they did not.
Kurt Bjorklund: It isn't that people were ... They were just trying to be nice and God have used it, even if it was off key to speak to them, like God's much bigger than our singing on key, and I'm not saying that that person doesn't have a gift for it or whatever, but it's interesting how we can say I need this and need it, but at the same time it can be maybe not entirely accurate all at the same time.
Mike Hatch: Especially divorced from community, relationships and being in the context of the church it's so, so important.
Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah. Kind of final question in that is, Mike, what would you say to somebody ... Let's say this is somebody who's newer in their faith, younger coming into adulthood who says, "Okay, I want to serve and use my gifts in the church." What would be your final thought to that person?
Mike Hatch: Oh, man. I would start with people who know you best. It may not even be your family, because sometimes your family can be a little jaded sometimes.
Kurt Bjorklund: Tell you that special music was awesome.
Mike Hatch: Right. But maybe it's your life group, your small group, but wherever that context of relationships where you're really building and growing in your faith, the pastor here at Orchard Hill or wherever you're from, maybe that you're closest to or the person who's maybe played a role in terms of mentoring, I think going to that person and asking, "Hey, where do you think I am most gifted? Where do you see me fitting in the body of Christ?"
Mike Hatch: Because again, from scripture it talks about the fact that we have different parts of the body of Christ, like a hand or an ear, an eye. "Where do you think I fit into that?" And listen to that because it may ... And you got to be humble to do it because it may not be what you want to hear sometimes. But I think if you're humble enough to really listen to it and take it into consideration, eventually, I think when you entrust that to the Lord, he can provide all sorts of opportunities, then your eyes begin to be open to see where maybe your gifts can be lended.
Kurt Bjorklund: Great. Thank you, Mike. And thank you for spending part of your day with us here today as we talked through some spiritual gifts. If you have questions, send them to email@example.com. Have a great day.