John Paul Jackson said, “Studying your gift will enhance its strength; it tells God you value what He has given, enough to spend time developing it.”
When someone discovers they have a teaching gift, they go to college or Bible school and they train their gift. When someone aspires to being a pastor, they train the gift, often in a school called a seminary. In recent years, schools for prophetic giftings have sprouted up all over the world.
Not all training, not all studying, happens in a specialized school. A lot of training happens in church; pretty much every pastor has taught on the gift of serving and the gift of giving, and I don’t mean that as cynically as it sounds. There’s often pretty good opportunity to study an train our gifts in church.
But there are holes, gaps, in the equipping of the saints.
When was the last time you went to a training school on the gift of mercy? Who has ever attended a school for the gift of tongues? Or when was more than a passing mention given to the gift of the word of wisdom?
I observe that there are at least two significant motivators that contribute to which gifts we train, and which gifts we don’t:
1) Some gifts have generated a whole lot of interest among people. When half of your congregation is asking about prophecy, an opportunity to learn will show up, whether in your church, or somewhere else within reach of hungry believers. (I believe as a principle, that God will answer his kids’ cry to become equipped saints.)
2) Sometimes, leaders will teach on a topic – about a gift – that is needed in their community, because that really is an effective way to help people get excited about that gift.
And there are some gifts that miss out on both kinds of glory. They lack the flash and popularity of the more exciting gifts, and their lack is not as desperate in the local body as others. Both are motivated by a sense of urgency, rather than by what God is doing.
One problem with this approach is that, by nature, it tends to devalue the less urgent gifts. We don’t mean to teach that mercy is unimportant, but when we skip the gift in our training, we do communicate that. We aren’t intentionally saying that tongues is optional – we often believe differently than that, and Paul certainly emphasized the gift – but when we don’t help people to grow in the gift, if we only bring it up in our annual “You Must Be Filled With The Holy Spirit” sermon?
We, as leaders, have responsibility to equip saints, and the measurement of our success is pretty high:
If we are well equipped in the exciting gifts, in the urgent gifts, then that’s really good. But it falls short of the “to a perfect man” standard, and short of the standard of “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
I guess I want to invite those who are involved in equipping others (which, according to 2 Timothy 2:2, should be all of us, to one degree or another) to consider equipping people in the full range of gifts.
That doesn’t mean just classes on the gift of interpretation of tongues, of course. In fact, it might begin with us asking questions. “God, how can I grow in the gift of tongues?” “Father, would you teach me how to use this gift of mercy you’ve dropped on me?”
Let’s go after maturity. In all of the gifts.