January 25, 2005

Spiritual gift assessments and the Bible

This is the sort of notable post I would usually reserve for my Friday roundup, but since it's a topic I've already blogged about (briefly) and have some opinions on, I decided to single it out.

Over at Challies.com, Tim has posted a critique of those ubiquitous spiritual gift assessment surveys. If you're active in an evangelical church, you've probably heard people talk about trying to "find their spiritual gift," or you've even taken one of these surveys yourself.

I have. It told me I have a "gift" for teaching. This comes as no surprise to me: as a technical writer, I make my living explaining things to other people. Herein lies one of Tim's objections: the methodology of these spiritual gift assessments is similar to secular personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Instrument. Is the spiritual gift assessment measuring my spiritual gifts, or my personality? If the latter, it shouldn't surprise me that I have the "gift" of teaching; theology, in a sense, is simply another complex subject (on which I am relatively well informed) that I can break down into simpler, manageable concepts and communicate to others. That's what I do. It's part of my nature.

Tim's other quite valid objections include:

  • No one can seem to agree on the precise list of spiritual gifts, or when or how they are administered.
  • The Bible doesn't teach that we are supposed to "find" our gifts, nor does it narrate any examples of primitive Christians doing so.
  • Unbelievers could take these tests and "discover" their spiritual gift, yet without the Holy Spirit, by rights this ought to be impossible. Of course, if a spiritual gifts survey is really measuring personality, then it's to be expected.

My opinion remains that our gifts are something that are given, not something we have to "discover." As I wrote back in August on the related topic of "finding God's will":

[I]t is the will of God that we build up the Church ([Rom.] 12:3-8). Paul uses one of his favourite analogies for the Church: one body with many parts. God has made us all different, giving us different abilities and gifts with which to serve one another. Many people agonize unnecessarily about "finding their spiritual gift," just as they do with "finding God's will for my life." Why? Do you see a need in the body? Can you meet it? It is God who has given you that ability. Take advantage of it! No one will file a grievance.