No Room for Prophets: When Your Church Rejects Your Spiritual Gift

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Spirit, WordI don’t think a stranger tradition exists in evangelical churches than the use of spiritual gift inventories. Churches hand constituents a booklet on the gifts of the Spirit and task them with selecting (based on a set of questions in the booklet linked to specific personality traits) the spiritual gifts they possess. The only thing stranger is letting people self-identify their personal spiritual gifts WITHOUT a booklet.

So much for leaders mentoring their charges in a way that helps them discover their gifts.

What mystifies me is that all of the popular spiritual gift inventories that I have encountered in my life include the charismatic gifts that bother a large number of Christians. I wonder what happens when Joe Average, a relatively new believer and new member of the church, fills out his spiritual gift inventory and discovers that his gifts are as a prophet and a healer.

I know what happens in most churches: Joe’s prophetic gift is treated by leaders as “well, Joe, about that gift…,” while the healing gift relegates Joe to visitation ministries, where he’s supposed to make chit-chat with shut-ins and the “lightly” hospitalized.

What pastor really wants any of his people to score that spiritual gift inventory and come up with a prophetic gift high on the results? Prophetic gifts in most churches get forced into being considered good for one of the following three uses: only preaching, only nice “crystal ball readings” to reassure people, or for no good use at all.

Does Pastor Bob want Joe Average to use his prophetic gift to supplant him in the pulpit? Must I even ask that question?

Does Pastor Bob want Joe Average doing anything “weird,” like forecasting people’s futures or warning the church of its errors? (Even if the forecasts are for sunshine and blue skies only? Even if the warnings are more like Hallmark greeting card text? Or especially because of those possible outcomes?)

And then there are words of knowledge and words of wisdom. Even the gift of faith gives some leaders the willies when they think how their people might consider its use.

It seems like half the list of spiritual gifts is a minefield, and it may be why some church leaders look at spiritual gift inventories as a necessary evil. (Unless, of course, everyone has the pastor’s favorite gift: administration.)

Given how poorly we deal with spiritual gifts, if we deal with them at all, is it any wonder the typical modern evangelical church shambles along in its mission like some B-movie monster?

Want a church that uses spiritual gifts properly?

1. Everyone, stop with the fear—and the discrediting of the Lord. When churches and their leaders descend into fear over gifts, they discredit the Lord. Who is the giver of gifts? How can we NOT believe The Lord knows best what our church needs? If Joe Average has a prophetic gift or a healing gift, consider yourselves blessed, and let Joe—with wise counsel—use his gift! If you do, it’s guaranteed that God will do more in your church, and not less, because of Joe’s Spirit-endowed contribution. Trust God, folks!

2. Leaders, stop the vanity. If you don’t see yourselves as replaceable, then you’ve made yourselves royalty, and that’s not how the Bible teaches you should lead. Enable the gifts in your people; don’t stymie them because they seem a threat to the perfect church kingdom you’ve erected. “He must increase and I must decrease” may apply not only to your relationship with Christ, but also to your standing among your brothers and sisters in Christ in your church. Don’t be the cork in the bottle of what God wants to do in your midst because you lack the humility to let others do what God can do through them. As someone wise once noted in Acts, when you constantly rein-in your people, you just may find yourself opposing the work of God.

3. Nonleaders, stop the vanity. Nothing ruins a church faster than people who desperately want to be seen as possessing a particular gift yet who in no way offer evidence of its God-driven operation in their lives. The number of unqualified—yet self-proclaimed—teachers I’ve witnessed “teaching” in churches could fill a stadium. And no one does more damage than a proud, deluded dispenser of words of knowledge or prophecy. Leaders are partially responsible for creating these disastrous disciples, which means they need to reboot their gift ID process, so…

4. Leaders, get rid of the spiritual gift inventories and identify gifts God’s way. Paul drew alongside Timothy and helped his charge grow into his giftings. He didn’t hand Timothy a spiritual gift inventory booklet and tell him, “Have at it!” No, Paul worked with the young man and mentored him in such a way that Timothy knew what his gifts were because Paul affirmed them. Leaders, I believe your number one task is to personally commit to helping each person in your church not only identify his or her spiritual gifts, but also…

5. Leaders, fan the flames of your people’s gifts. Read #2 above. Once you’ve gotten out of the way and done your own personal gut check about your motivations, enable the gifts in your people. There NEVER should be an environment in a church where there is no room for this gift or that. Don’t step on the embers, leaders, but do all you can to make them into a roaring fire.

6. Everyone, use the gifts or lose them. I can’t point to a verse that claims specifically that unused spiritual gifts will vanish, but the parable of the talents sure seems to validate that idea. Wonder why your church limps along? Perhaps you’ve squandered your gifts. Perhaps repentance and wailing before the throne will get them back. Or perhaps not. The warning is not to diss those gifts in the first place. Just don’t go there.

7. Everyone, rejoice. The gifts are given for the edification of the Church and for the completion of the mission tasked to us by the Lord. Eagerly pursue the gifts and rejoice in their use. Or to quote a song, “Forget your troubles, come on get happy.” Nothing beats a smiling, grateful countenance on someone employing a spiritual gift for the benefit of the Body of Christ. That’s real church, and it’s exactly how each of us should function as part of that Body.

 

41 thoughts on “No Room for Prophets: When Your Church Rejects Your Spiritual Gift

  1. I saw this so strongly last fall when I published my book. I talked to about 20 pastors about how they were supporting the work of writers, musicians and artists in their congregations. With few exceptions the pastors said that they didn’t “endorse” any member’s work. Nor publicize it. Nor help to make it available to those members of the church or community who might be interested in it. They were all afraid of endorsing something that didn’t meet their standards or hew exactly to their beliefs. They just refused to offer any support to member’s work across the board. One church I went to did have a ministry program for artistic types to meet and share. But even that church wouldn’t consider using any of the material created by their members.

    I was so appalled. God put people with gifts to create like that into the body so the body could benefit from it! The people who write and think and create art and music have been scattered in congregations everywhere so that their gifts can be used there. I totally agree with what you’re saying here. It’s a sin against God not to accept the gifts that have been provisioned to the body because of fear.

  2. Kevin Copeland

    I’ve actually been Joe Average before. True Story. I filled out one of those spiritual gift inventories at a Church before and it came up prophet. The Pastor literally said, “Ewww…That’s a tough one.” Then he asked me if I would like to run the sound board for the youth group. I don’t remember that one even being on the spiritual gift inventory.

      • chris

        Aren’t we supposed to extinguish the smoldering flax? After all, we aren’t Jesus!

        Loved this. I couldn’t believe it the first time a friend showed me one of these inventories from her church. I am not sure it is what Tozer had in mind when he penned, Tragedy in the church, the missing gifts. It all smacks of Uzza trying to steady the Arc of the Covenant as the ox cart shook. In so many ways we try to help God out rather than trust Him to do the work within and through us.

        Nee pointed out that, theologically ,we have little difficulty with “From Him and to Him,” but we stumble over the “through Him” part of that verse.

        Blessings in Jesus!

  3. Mr. Poet

    I took a spiritual inventory once at my old church (which shut down). I scored high in the gift of prophecy, but zero (0!) in prayer. Ha, I said to myself, no wonder I never know what’s going on.

    • I’ve taken a few, Poet. Always come up with prophecy highest, followed by teaching and speaking in tongues. Not sure why that last one comes up so often and so high. I guess if you even mark once that you’ve spoken in tongues that qualifies you for the gift. Oh well.

  4. Yep, Dan. I’ve seen one of those “inventories”. In my case, you plotted your results on a graph. I could tell from the get go that the whole exercise was a huge joke, and in a way it was comical. It amounted to a reinterpretation and psychologizing of the gifts to the lowest common denominator. Of course I didn’t say this at the time since I didn’t want to offend the people who all were really very nice.

    As for your seven items of advice, you know of course they will be entirely ignored.

    Today’s American church is built on Four Worldly Laws:

    (1) Excellency of Intellect
    (2) Ingenuity of Human Governance
    (3) Celebration of Reputation
    (4) Lots of Money

    The only thing that varies is the relative emphasis placed on these items. Some get emphasized more than others. Indeed, much can be accomplished with these four things, especially when you have plenty of #4. Now at one time, Peter and John didn’t have “silver and gold” but Peter could say to the cripple “what I have I give to you” and have the guy start walking. Well, as the theory goes, that kind of stuff got shut off. Now we have to rely on the Four Worldly Laws to get anything done.

    • Oengus,

      I haven’t given up, but I’m close. I try to be an optimist; I’m just repeatedly disappointed. 😉

      Anyway, you’re right. Too much human wisdom on display in churches and not enough of the other kind, which is foolproof and always correct.

      Hey, if it’s fine with you, I may riff on your four points in a future post. Let me know.

      • Dan, I was going to sketch out some of my thoughts in the comment box, but my internet connection got dropped. So I lost it all, and I don’t want to type it all over again.

        Let it suffice to say that which items get emphasized among the Four Worldly Laws depend on time and place. At differing times, the pendulum will orbit more often around one item than another. And in differing places, some groups fasten on some item or another in preference to others.

        But go ahead, Dan, and riff away at it. Think about it a while, and I believe you’ll see that the Four Worldly Laws go a long way to explain a lot about what is going on nowadays.

      • Hey, Dan, this has absolutely nothing to do with anything you’re talking about (or anything else for that matter), but I have to say that if I hear the preacher use the word “relationships” one more time, verily I shall scream.

    • Adam Julians

      Some very interesting comments being made here and not to different to what has been my church expereincs her on the other side of “The Pond” in the UK.

      I might take a cautious step at disagreeing with the spiritual inventory test as having no use. I would haowever agree that without the kind of nurturing of gifts that the article advocades, a sipiritual inventory is of littel use and may even be harmful. Tools are only as good as the person who usues them!

      In one such test, I scored high on the discernment and the prophecy side of things. In the church i was in I was thrust into preaching that I wasn’t ready for (issues with dyslexia and confidence with public speaking). The next church I went to, I was in pastoral ministry where the nice “cyrastal ball” easy message to hear for osmeone’s comfort was welcomed but if i were to challenge then it was regarded as having “real issues with insensitivity”.

      Next church I went to when having a disagreement wiht the pastor I apparently was guily of the “good old fashioned sin of pride”. A couple of churches late and a pstor in a ministry time said i have a “prophetic anointing”. I thought thank God – at last a pastor is recognising it. However left that church when the pastor siad I musunderstood him about what he had been saing about that and the ensuing conversation resulted in difficulty between us.

      Currently – have forwarded the artical to the pastor in the church I go to now where my conduct has been questioned. i’m asking is it my conduct or the exercising of the prophetic and supporting thiat with sharing about previous expereinces. The reply be email I got that for hom there were “alarm betlls” and “red lights”. Pastor is out of the country for a month and has talked about a meeting with him and another leader on his return.

      Part of me feels like giving up on church! Prayers appreciated!

      Thanks for lisening folks.

  5. Pat

    I took one of those inventories once, but it was pretty obvious that the gift they were hoping we all would discover in ourselves was that of effective committee membership. And it wasn’t even in the list.

  6. Sulan

    Wow! In this area I am a neophyte — I never took one of those tests and do not care to do so. I just figure as I seek God’s face, and do His bidding, I am good to go.

    • Sparkle

      I was required to take one of those test as part of a job application in a ministry/business I
      was applying for. (I got the job out of 10 other people that applied). My top gifts were/are
      discernment and prophesy. I’d been told by a mature prophet in my church that I had
      a strong gift of discernment, which was something I’d noticed as a new christian years
      ago, but didn’t quite know what to do with. I’ve been told more than once I have the gift of a seer, or one who sees things others don’t/can’t see. The church I attended was run by a pastor
      who didn’t seem to appreciate the gift of prophesy, and more than once shut down others
      who were moving in that gift. Eventually, no one even tried since they were likely to get
      shut down. He did allow some of it for awhile, but I noticed it was mostly with those he was
      in fellowship with outside of church; pool parties, barbecues, prayer groups, etc…
      After I left years later, I heard the Lord say “Ichabod” when I thought of that church. They are still in existence, but Ichabod can
      happen whether the church still operates or not. This is what happens when pastors
      won’t allow the gifts God has given in others to operate. This pastor verbally abused me
      repeatedly, even though I never had any kind of rift with him, except minor things, which
      were few and far between. I had, and still have, respect for him as a pastor. I think he saw
      that gift in me and resented or even feared it. Am I being ridiculous? I once asked God if
      I was crazy for thinking the pastor was against me. I said it as I was walking from my car
      into my house. When I opened the door, the tv had been left on, and the pastor on the
      screen was saying these words, “NO, you’re NOT crazy!”. His program was almost over so
      I’m not sure what he was talking about, but God used him to answer my question. I think
      God has a sense of humor. Anyway, I’ve attended a couple other churches and still today,
      leaders treat me differently than the others. I’m not high maintenance, and I don’t expect
      special treatment. But it’s been very frustrating to not be able to use the gifts to the
      extent I believe God intended. I’m tired of being shut down when I excersice the gift God put
      in me. If anything, I err on the side of caution and would never say anything unless I felt
      God said to. (I’m not a natural extorvert,).

  7. William Floyd

    say that most in leadership don’t really want to know peoples fixings and callings due top the pride and control issues which you pointed out. Imagine if someone had more grace for leadership than the “official” leaders. Or what of a genuine prophet or apostle were to be sent into their assembly? Imagine if someone really began exercising a gift of healing. It seems to me that these sorts of things would destroy the status quo and that’s exactly what the current generation of leaders wants to maintain.

  8. joe peralta

    totally have experienced being oppressed in churches that even say they’re spiritual. had stage 4 terminal cancer, God healed me, and even now with that testimony, and being developed in healing others, they still don’t let me speak or mature in my gifts! showing signs of prophecy too. got to keep moving forward; God’s approval, not man’s approval! thanx, this website encouraged me.

    • Joe,

      Yeah, I think we need some kind of monthly meeting where church leaders just give people who don’t ordinarily get a chance to speak time to use their gifts in the Body. How sad that such an idea is “radical.”

  9. j-elle

    Yesterday I told a priest about my gift and he was so uncomfortable..i felt it..then he recommended I see my doctor more often and a psychiatrist..lol..

  10. Amanda

    I am currently going through this right now. In at a Southern Baptist church and it’s just sad. Prayers for me and for them! Trying to find another church to go to…I’ve been denied even though God has given the gift of prophecy to me. They are even speaking of “not letting me leave”, they think I’m under the influence of the devil, etc. Crazy stuff!!

  11. I have written a book ‘Going Astray’ (Sunpenny publishing) that deals with gifts of the spirit. I will be coming to the US next year to promote it. If you are interested in this, please let me know – Also if you would like me to send a copy of my book so that you can check it out. (Also available on Kindle)

  12. Meredith

    Dan,

    Just saw this post. Glad you’re keeping the old ones accessable.

    I was in a church that recognized and encouraged the supernatural giftings. Due to a family move, our new church doesn’t.

    I have a prophetic gift and now no platform for bringing a word to the church. But I believe this is where God has us for now.

    So I’ve decided on two things.

    1. I will keep praying for ways to prophetically encourage the body, if not via a microphone, then individually.

    2. Look for contexts outside my church where I can grow in my gifts. (But still participate fully in my church.)

    As for what can be done for the body at large to recognize the importance of these gifts, I’ve got nothin’.

    I can only talk to those in my sphere, but with great gentleness and respect. We need to recognize what comes to mind when someone says “miraculous gifts” is the extreme wacko expression they have either seen on TV or have been exposed to.

    It breaks my heart to see what many of the charismatic churches are like. It seems as if the bulk of mainstream churches have undervalued or ignored the gifts. But the charismatic churches have over-emphasized them. In my experience, they have forgotten that there are other books of the bible other than Cor. 14.

    I just think that is important for us to remember when we talk with those who are uncomfortable with the gifts. They often have a good reason to be!

    I think voices like yours are very important for bringing credibility back to the supernatural gifts God has given His bride.

    Thank you!!!

    • Meredith,

      I’ve written a ton on charismatic topics, though not as much lately. Why? I’ve got nothing to add!

      Check the sidebar menu Post Categories: Both Charismatic and Supernaturalism have quite a few posts.

    • Sparkle

      Meredith, What you say has some truth to it, but may I add
      something? The prophetic is always perceived as suspicious,
      even by those that claim to know the bible. Yet, God says
      to seek the prophetic. There have been abuses in the prophetic,
      but there have also been abuses behind the pulpit. Yet, how
      many pastors and preachers are treated with such contempt,
      even when they abuse their assignment? There have been abuses in
      worship teams, and by worship leaders themselves. Yet, they are
      still allowed to use those gifts. Sometimes it’s been discovered
      those worship leaders were living sinful lifestyles for years and yet
      were still showing up every Sunday. So why is it right or fair that
      the prophetic is treated with such contempt? Why aren’t the other
      gifts scrutinized as much? Pastors that have abused their people
      for years are still somehow looked up to and respected. “Touch
      not God’s anointed” is their favorite sermon topic. But the thing is
      the prophet sitting in the congregation is also anointed and told
      their gift is not needed and/or wanted. You don’t throw out the baby
      with the bathwater when it comes to abuse of the gifts. Even though
      we are to test the spirits, ultimately we must allow those with true gifts
      to use them. I believe pastors will be held accountable for not allowing
      certain gifts to be used in “his” church, just because he’s uncomfortable
      with it, or thinks he might lose control of his congregation. God says He
      won’t do anything on the earth without first revealing it to His
      servants, the prophets.

  13. Criticism of humans trying to lead the Church are far too many to enumerate. I know. I tried it and found it very tough. As for gifts check list, remember, they as preference check lists with no diagnostic ability. They only ask what you have done. We gave everyone the MBTI and a gifts check list and told people, “Neither is a test”. They are designed to facilitate self awareness but only to be used as guides for growth in Christ with mentors and friends over time to test them out. Try and see. Try again.

  14. Dan

    Thought this post was great. Thanks for the honesty!

    There is an issue with maturity in the church in general. That is a big issue for another day. But, if you are Joe Average, and you do have a gift of the prophetic, whether it is prophecy, knowledge, discernment etc etc., there is usually noone who can disciple you and help you grow in those areas. Common issue. Because many who are in pastoral POSITIONS (but aren’t necessarily pastoral in giftings) are poor at helping people grow in their gifts. As the post says, they are usually more focused on growing a church according to their standards and their understanding. Not the holy spirit’s ways. It is a tragedy. Whats interesting, is biblically, prophetic people are “correctors” of the church. They steer it, and correct wrong doing, and provide insight where other giftings do not have the ability to do so. So why would you want a bunch of “correctors” around you when you are following your own agenda? Answer is, you wouldn’t. So the natural, HUMAN way to react is to shut down the danger. The taboo.

    Those who are ACTUALLY gifted pastorally, (and are mature in it), SHOULD be able to discern gifts, and connect people with the right resources to grow. That is part of a shepherds job. But we have so few mature pastoral people also. They often end up shut down too. Because those who are in Senior pastors positions tend to be more leadership/admin personality types. Its just interesting how God is so smart, that he created this wide array of gifts, that if we ignore one gift, the whole body doesn’t work properly. If we don’t grow teachers and pastoral people the Holy Spirit’s way (which is alive and dynamic, not a formula or system to stick to), then the prophetic people really miss out. If we ignore the prophetic, the teachers, pastors, and ADMIN’s miss out on correction, building up, and fresh knowledge. Its a terrible cycle.

    I see allot of immature prophetic people, and they are usually interpreted as being ‘fruit-loops’ because those who are in leadership dont get them. They dont recognise their gifts, or have any ability to provide help. Its really sad. Yes, when you are totally new in your gifting your not gonna have everything right. You are going to need your edges shaved back. But if you toss the baby out with the bath water, you are defying God. You are disrespecting his ways, and you are breaking his universal body of Christ model. The only way you can grow in your gift is having help from those who are further along in the way. NEWSFLASH, ‘Submit to your elders’ doesn’t necessarily mean those is church authority. It means those who are further along the ‘path’ than you. Those who are mautre in spirit (not necessarily age). Luke learning from Yoda. Elijah and Elisha. And if Jesus only discipled 12 men, why do we expect one pastor to disciple 500 people? Its ridiculous. Simple concept. Not done well in the church

    If you find someone who is mature in similar gifts to you, get along side them and ask for help. OR, ask God to connect you with people of similar giftings if you dont know anyone. Keep pestering him about it. “Father, PLEASE put me somewhere where I can grow”. Those people who can help are rare, but they do exist. They may not advertise themselves, and you may have to go underground, and learn in hiding. I had to learn that way. I was lucky to have met some very mature prophetic people who I spent a long time learning under. I was lucky. Safe meetings where the gifts are free to be practised, and mistakes are OK to make. That is what the church needs.

    Prophetic people need to learn not only how to be accurate, but how to have God’s heart in what they say. ‘If you can prophecy, but dont have love, you are nothing’. Whether it is blunt, or loving and kind type of ministry moment, it doesn’t matter. Knowing how to approach it comes with practise and help. It is not as simple as making sure your words are “accurate”. Many pieces of knowledge that the Holy spirit will give you is for YOUR KNOWLEDGE ONLY, and doesn’t need to be shared to the person you are ministering to. E.g. God may show you that a particular person has been sexually abused in their past, so you need to be gentle with how you deliver your prophecy to them. That does not mean you publicly tell them “Hey, God just told me that you’ve been sexually abused!!!”. OUCH! WRONG! But how the heck can you learn that in a generic 40 minute sermon once a week? You can’t.

    Which brings another issue… The “you must stay within the church walls”, and the “dont take any outside teaching” mentality is extremely limiting. When your gifting arent watered in your current church, what are you meant to do. Give up on them? Or do you follow the hunger in what God is calling you to? That is what many do, but it is interpreted as backsliding. Ultimately, from God’s perspective, your spiritual growth is more important than the unity of church under human leadership. Your spiritual growth has eternal consequences, the latter doesn’t.

    Follow God, not man.

  15. G

    I wonder about the times I’ve seen people operating in a position in the
    church simply because they are a relative of the pastor, or a close buddy,
    or whatever. In the small church group I am part of, one of the pastors immediate
    family members is the worship leader and she does so with gusto. She has
    a decent voice but has done nothing to develop it, so she pretty much
    drowns out the worship music as she sings closely into the mic. I feel like
    she’s more of a hindrance to worship than a help. I don’t doubt for one second
    that she loves the Lord. I feel her worship is from her heart, but it’s harder to enter
    worship with her up there than the very few times she’s not. The pastor won’t
    ask her to allow someone else to lead, because they are a super close family.
    (I am not a singer, so I’m not saying this because I want to be worship leader) And I
    don’t have anyone else in mind, because I don’t know who else would be a better
    fit. I feel there is probably someone better suited to the position, and I really
    don’t like feeling this way during worship time. I know that if the wrong person is
    in any position it will keep the right one from fulfilling their God-given calling.
    The pastor is super protective of his family and even if he sees the same thing,
    he would never ask her to step down. That’s why I’ve never even mentioned it to
    him before. He’d probably ask me to leave just for suggesting it, so I keep my
    mouth shut. Otherwise, I enjoy the fellowship there, so don’t necessarily want
    to leave unless God told me to.

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