By Joel Comiskey, check out coaching
Helping each member take the next step is what discipleship is all about and this also applies to spiritual gifts. Some churches only talk about discovering spiritual giftedness on an individual level or through ministries or programs within the church. But what about the cell? Wasn’t that the atmosphere in which believers originally exercised their spiritual gifts? Yes.
The ministry in the early house churches was fluid and dynamic. Members were encouraged to experience their spiritual gifts for the common good of the body, and leaders operated as gifted men and women (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 27-28). Dependence on the Spirit of God through the gifts of the Spirit shaped the direction of the early Church. The spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12-14, Romans 12:3-8, Ephesians 4:7-12, and 1 Peter 4:8-11 were written to those participating in house churches. Everyone participated in the building up of Christ’s body.
Today, more than ever, we need to get back to the small group as the primary place to exercise spiritual gifts. It is the most natural atmosphere for everyone to participate and grow as disciples. It is also the most spontaneous and biblical place for the discovery of our spiritual gifts, which enhances ministry and the priesthood of all believers. In the loving atmosphere of a home group, especially where the gifts are working and where the Holy Spirit is operating, people grow in ministry and learn how to serve others.
If someone has the gift of prophesy, should use it in the group. The person with the gift of teaching might help clarify a difficult passage. The person with the gift of mercy might visit a hurting cell member in the hospital and then mobilize others to visit that person. The believer with the gift of evangelism might feel compelled to invite friends and relatives or organize a cell outreach. The person with the gift of exhortation will find someone who needs counseling. She might counsel hurting people after or before the cell meeting or during the week.
Some people have tried to mobilize the gift ministry apart from a small-group setting (e.g., programs), but I believe it’s far more fruitful to promote spiritual gifts through small-group ministry. In small groups, encouragement and accountability are more likely to occur spontaneously. This environment seems to be the natural place to grow disciples who are exercising their God-given gifts.
The best way to discover spiritual gifts is in the context of relationship. Spiritual gift tests, while helping believers to think through the possibilities, are insufficient in themselves. Gift surveys do give a glimpse of how to perceive giftedness, but people can project into those questionnaires the gifts they want to have, rather than affirming the gifts they actually have. The more people develop relationships in the context of a group, the better idea they will have concerning their own spiritual giftedness—always remembering that gifts function in the context of relationships. I encourage believers to read material, take one or two gift tests, step out in the exercise of potential spiritual gifts and then seek confirmation from others. Were people edified? Was Christ glorified? When trust is high, members feel like they can experiment with a variety of gifts, and they don’t feel thwarted.