My husband has a huge box in the basement, filled with random cables, old phone chargers, bundles of old wire, etc. Every time we clean out the basement, I try to convince him to sort through that box and purge what is not needed, but he insists that he “might need that cord someday.” In reality, this box of cords is virtually useless. If I were to pull out one of those outdated chargers and tried to use it to charge my cell phone, it would absolutely not work. If the charger or cord is not right for the phone, it cannot do what it has been asked to do.
The same is true for spiritual gifts. There are several different pitfalls when it comes to our gifts. When our gifts are misused, it is similar to what happens when the wrong cord is selected: we cannot do what we were intended by God to do.
The New Testament tells us that each spiritual gift is to be used to build up the body of Christ (1 Cor. 14:12). However, because this criterion is not always given adequate consideration, there are many examples of spiritual gifts being misused. Each gift, without exception, can be misused if it is not applied to church development and for the glory of God’s kingdom. Every gift can be–and should be–used for the betterment and growth of the church.
It should also be noted that
Misuse of spiritual gifts cannot be prevented by “forbidding” certain gifts. Misuse can only be prevented by demonstrating creative ways to properly use each gift so that it benefits others, builds up the body of Christ, and brings glory to God. (Schwarz, 2001, p. 94)
Another pitfall of spiritual gifts is related to gift projection. Schwarz (2001) suggests that, “Every Christian tends to project his or her gifts onto others” (p. 97). For example, it could be easy for those with a specific gift, say the gift of teaching, not to understand why others do not show the same gift. They may say, “Teaching is easy! Why can’t you figure it out?” However, while a certain gift may come naturally to some (because it has been bestowed upon them by the Holy Spirit), those without that gift will not feel the same.
Schwarz warns that the phenomenon of gift projection is particularly common in the area of evangelism. Those blessed with this gift may say, “God has not given me a special gift; I’m just doing what every good Christian should do!” However, this causes guilt among those not blessed with this gift. Remember: you can only use the gifts which have been given to you by the Holy Spirit. If you have not been given the gift of evangelism, you will not be able to effectively utilize this gift.
Some people like to dodge responsibility within the church community by saying things such as, “But that’s not my gift.” While it is important to find what your gifts are and use them appropriately, many people use lack of knowledge about their gifts as an excuse for inactivity.
Additionally, some people simply do what they want (that is, using gifts that they “wish” they had) instead of diving deep to find out in what areas they are gifted. “‘Gift-oriented ministry does not mean ‘just doing what I want.’ Rather, it means allowing God to determine when and where He wants to use us” (Schwarz, 2001, p. 98).
Remaining Open to Additional Gifts
It is important to remember that gift discovery is a life-long process. Some theologians believe that Christians receive all of his or her gifts at the point of conversion; for these scholars, it is important that new gifts are discovered. Others believe that God gives us new gifts that we did not possess previously. Either way, it is important that we are open to discovering or receiving new gifts at any point in our spiritual journey. Our gift mix is not static, but rather can be ever-growing.
As you approach learning more and better utilizing your spiritual gifts, analyze if you fall prey any of these pitfalls. Don’t be a useless “cord” in the “box” of your church. Rather, take some time to think through ways of overcoming these challenges for glory of God and the betterment of His Kingdom.
Schwarz, C. A. (2001). The 3 colors of ministry. St. Charles, IL: ChurchSmart Resources.