Helping People Use Their Spiritual Gifts
There’s an innate desire in each person to want to understand their place in Christ’s body. As members are reminded the best way to discover and use spiritual gifts is in the small group, they will have a new impetus to join one. The reality is that all the spiritual gift passages were written to small-group members (1 Cor. 12–14; Rom. 12; Eph. 4; 1 Pet. 4). In fact, when Paul talks about the parts of the body of Christ and how each person is intimately needed, he also talks about spiritual gifts. A person’s spiritual gift is the key to understanding his or her role in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12–31).
The more people develop relationships in the context of a group, the better idea they will have concerning their own spiritual giftedness. Spiritual gift tests, while helping believers think through the possibilities, are insufficient in themselves. Gift surveys do provide a glimpse of how to perceive giftedness, but people can project into those self-identifying questionnaires the gifts they desire to have, rather than affirming―and developing―the gifts they actually have. Once the group becomes comfortable with each other and more knowledgeable about spiritual gifts, the leader can encourage believers to seek confirmation of their gifts from those within the group.
Each person should ask, "What do people confirm in me?" If others notice your capacity to clarify the meaning of Scripture, you may have the gift of teaching. If you love to plan future activities, perhaps you have the gift of administration. Those who love to reach people for Jesus might have the gift of evangelism. Joy, excitement, and fulfillment should accompany the exercise of spiritual gifts. Gifts were given for the edification of the body of Christ—when you edify someone with your gift, others will let you know.
Depending on Prayer
The first and foremost solution to motivating people to be in groups is prayer—a humble, radical crying out to God for help. Only God can motivate people to prioritize group life. Commitment to prayer is the arsenal God has given to his entire body of believers—it’s the most important tool God has given the church to make disciples. As we pray, God will break down cultural resistance and help members to live New Testament lifestyles in community with one another.
So what did I say to Tom about his lack of small-group involvement? I told him how much we needed him and how his gift of exhortation was essential to the other members of the group. I also reminded him God wanted him in the group to grow spiritually and to become a more mature Christian. I once again shared with him that the small group is God’s way of molding and shaping us to be like him, and that it was worth his while to prioritize it each week. Tom readily agreed and committed himself afresh to group life.
I realize Tom will continue to wrestle with his commitment to group life. But I’m encouraged that as Tom knows how much he is needed and understands more deeply the biblical base for small-group life, he will grow in his faithfulness and fruitfulness.
—Joel Comiskey, Ph.D., is president of Joel Comiskey Group, and author of Groups that Thrive (March 2018).