More on Charismatic Gifts

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Several people have asked questions about my post on praying in tongues from earlier this week, so I thought I’d post a few more thoughts.

My reference texts:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
—1 Corinthians 12:4-11

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
—1 Corinthians 12:28-31

In a nutshell, here’s what I believe about the charismatic gifts:

  • The gifts are still for today.
  • Some of the gifts are more rare than what we see expressed.
  • Not all people will have all gifts.
  • A person who lacks a particular gift is not a lesser Christian for that lack because he or she may possess other “compensatory” God-given talents and anointings.
  • We should always ask God for empowering through the gifts yet be satisfied should He elect not give us a particular gift on our timetable.
  • Sometimes there is a long delay between asking for and receiving a gift.
  • As the Lord sees fit, some gifts may only be given for a time or season.
  • Because the Lord gives to us according to our measure of faith, He will not give charismatic gifts to people who don’t believe that they are still in operation.
  • While a person may appear to have a gift, it may indeed be nothing more than a well-developed talent and lack the full nature of a genuine charismatic gift.
  • As with all spiritual abilities, as we grow in the Lord we better understand how to use the charismatic gifts He has given us.
  • The Lord may remove gifts from people who fail to properly use them.
  • Yes, sadly, some people fake gifts.
  • People who fake gifts should be exposed immediately and not tolerated.
  • Yes, the Enemy does mimic some gifts and empower deceived people with ungodly versions.
  • All gifts must be tested.
  • Churches that support the gifts must do a better job policing those who use them in public.
  • Church leaders are responsible for encouraging and discouraging the use of the gifts by their congregants.
  • We are a poorer Church if we fail to use the gifts.

A convenient way to break down the gifts is into three categories of three gifts each:

Gifts of Discernment:

Word of knowledge

Word of wisdom

Discerning of spirits

Gifts of Power:

Faith

Miracles

Healing

Gifts of Proclamation:

Prophecy

Tongues

Interpreting tongues

Like tongues of fire...I feel strongly that one of our greatest failings in our churches is that our spiritual leaders are not calling out the gifts in people. By that I mean that too many churches rely on people self-identifying their own spiritual gifts rather than the leadership of the church doing it. Of course, this necessitates that the leaders of a church actually KNOW their people well and spend time helping each individual cultivate the gifts (and talents) God has given them. (Kind of precludes being an anonymous face in a megachurch, doesn’t it?)

Instead, too many churches have let their leadership off the hook by resorting to congregant self-identification of gifts, often through spiritual gift inventories—a recipe for disaster, if you ask me. Gift inventory checklists are responsible for myriad people being placed in the wrong positions within a church or trying to use gifts they don’t truly have, thus leading themselves and others astray. My experience has been that too many people identify wants rather than gifts through this inventory methodology. If I want to be a prophet and fancy myself one, how will I fill out my gift inventory? Sort of self-fulfilling, isn’t it? And that makes for enormous problems.

Now, what is your take on the charismata?

33 thoughts on “More on Charismatic Gifts

  1. Dan,

    I did not comment on your tongues post, but I thought it was well done. I appreciated the balance in your views. My views are very similar, though I would not identify myself as “Charismatic”.

    I noticed that in your list of gifts you left out gifts such as service, helps, administration, etc. Was that an oversight, or did you intend to leave them?

    When thinking about spiritual gifts, it has always been helpful to me to keep 1 Corinthians 12:22-25 which helps me keep the importance of the gifts in perspective:

    On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (1 Corinthians 12:22-25 ESV)

    So, those gifts that we consider unimportant are actually given greater honor by God. I think if we follow God in this – giving greater importance to gifts that seem less important, and giving less honor / position / status to those gifts that seem more important (to us) – we may see less division in the body of Christ.

    -Alan

    • Alan,

      I thought about adding the other gifts you mentioned but did not want to “muddy the waters” since very few people seem to have a problem accepting the gifts you mentioned while rejecting the nine I listed.

  2. Dan,
    There’s a spot or two on the list and in the article that I could make a ticky-tack disagreement with (I am Pentecostal), but honestly, you’ve spoken well, concisely, practically, and helpfully. Your readers are very well served by this presentation.

    I would love to get you to examine the difference between a gift (resident, ongoing) and a manifestation (spontaneous, passing), but perhaps another time.

    It’s been nice to have you posting again, even if you can’t comment at the level you used to. I pray that not only is God strengthening you through your ordeals, but that he is bringing blessed resolution to them.

    • SLW,

      On what do we disagree? Feel free to share that here.

      I admit that I don’t consider myself a Pentecostal even though I’m a member of a Pentecostal church. Being Pentecostal is almost something you’re born into, so that’s not exactly me. I have some issues with some of the excesses and anti-intellectualism I sometimes see in Pentecostalism (not that all Pentecostal churches suffer from this, only that it is prevalent in some).

      I’m not sure I would make a distinction between a gift and a manifestation. I don’t think a gift means permanence. Someone might take me out to dinner and pay for my way, and that would be a gift, but what lasts after the gift has been “used”? The occasion of its use has come and gone. That doesn’t mean that in the future I won’t be treated to another free dinner, does it?

      • Dan,
        The only biblical instance I am aware of wherein a gift was removed for misuse was in the case of Samson. By and large, from experience, I would say the gifts and callings are without repentance. God will settle with the false at the end of time (a la Matthew 7:21-23).

        The only gift we are clearly mandated to test is prophecy. I think not only 1 Corinthians 14:29, but also 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and 1 John 4:1, in their contexts bear, this out.

        As I said, rather ticky-tack, so I didn’t want to tarnish a great post with them.

        As for Pentecostalism, I was born again into, rather than growing up in it ( I grew up in a heathen home). I don’t like rolling on the floor, so the founders might not so readily adopt me as their own! Anyhow… you may be familiar with our take on the baptism in the Holy Spirit. We believe that everyone baptized in the Holy Spirit can speak in tongues, we look for it as the initial physical evidence of such. That is different than speaking out in tongues for public consumption, although either use is actually produced the same way. So we would say that although not everyone will ever be gifted to speak in tongues for interpretation, everyone can speak in tongues between them and God.

        As for the difference between a manifestation and a gift, (I cannot be said to speak for Pentecostals in this regard) look carefully at the structure of 1 Corinthians 12:4-7. There are two kinds of “inspired” things mentioned: gifts/service/working and manifestations. The difference between them would be analogous to the difference between the skill of a tradesman and the toolbox used to produce his effects. One’s skill is resident, whereas one’s tool is whatever is good in the moment. Some trades, of course, use some tools in particular, but the bottom line is that anyone who’s gifted (skilled) could be used in any manifestation (tool) at any time as the Spirit sees fit.

        • slw,

          Sharing my thoughts:

          A.W. Tozer speaks of an instance in his book Born After Midnight of a man with a well-regarded healing gift who once refused to get up at 3 AM after receiving an emergency call for a healing (and also God’s additional prompting to go). Tozer says that man’s gift vanished after that incident.

          I laid hands on someone for healing after being distinctly led to by the Lord, and that person, who was going blind, was healed. I can’t say that I’ve ever quite had that same kind of dramatic response since. A one-time gift? Perhaps God only gives a gift like that for a time, season, or circumstance.

          I’ve also encountered elderly charismatics who said that their giftings changed over the course of their lives.

          I don’t believe that all people manifest all gifts. Paul writes: “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” The answer he’s going for there is no. The reason for that would be to show that if each of us were to operate in all gifts at all times, there would be no need for the Body of Christ, the point he just made a paragraph or two before. Each one would be a “one-man band” so to speak, and that’s not God’s intention for the Body. It seems to me then that not everyone who is Spirit-filled will speak in tongues.

          Of course, I’m willing to hear a different interpretation of that passage.

          • Matt

            Sorry to be in this thread so late, but I thought it was interesting and had some thoughts that haven’t been shared yet.

            I believe John Wimber was more aligned with slw’s contention that any gift could be used situationally by any believer as the Holy Spirit distributes it (with the exception of the office gifts, of course). The interpretive key he focused on was how Paul repeatedly mentions throughout the letter “when you come together,” meaning any specific gathering of the church. (See 1 Cor 11:18,20,33 and 14:26). So the “no” answer sought after above meant “any given time you come together, will all people exhibit all gifts?” The answer for this is obviously no. This seems to read particularly well when you consider the public use of tongues vs. the private prayer language that Paul wishes “everyone would use” and that he claimed he used more than all of them (1Cor 14:5, 18). Paul also seems to encourage them that they can “all” prophesy in other texts. To me this interpetation harmonizes what can seem like contradictory positions from Paul about tongues and prophecy.

            This is a view I personally hold, and helps me to answer j a n’s thoughts about “if tongues are so great, why would God withold them from anyone?” Just as with the ability to prophesy, I believe he won’t.

            But…it can be quite a journey getting there, can’t it? I think the variety of experiences shared in these two posts attest to that.

  3. Juan

    Dan,

    Great post,
    Being a Pentecostal I have seen the focus on the gifts for a long time and have seen the abuse associated with them as well. We always talk about the gifts but never the Fruit of the Spirit. I ask myself, if we focused on the Fruit of the Spirit in our preaching and teaching instead of the gifts how much more would God use the gifts for His church? I have heard and seen people speaking in tongues but a minute later they are bad mouthing someone else. The “spiritual tongue speaker” leaves church and shows no love, joy, patience etc.
    We need to ask God for the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives first and foremost. The gifts will come!

    Juan

    • Juan,

      Of all the gifts we talk about in Pentecostal circles, none goes so wanting as the discerning of spirits. Discernment in general is sadly lacking, too. As I’ve said many times before, I’ve been approached by numerous people who felt compelled to give me a word of knowledge and the vast, vast majority of those words were bogus. That’s a pretty bad track record on that gift from those supposedly gifted people. On the other hand, I’ve had at least two men I’ve known who have been flawless in this gift.

      More charismatic leaders need to learn how to gently shut down people who are manufacturing their “gift.” Too many are afraid of being scolded for their rebuke. That’s the fear of man. On the other side, too many vain, “gifted” people are unable to take godly rebuke. They’re missing the fear of God. Fear of men but no fear of God—now that’s a recipe for disaster in any church!

  4. Amy Heague

    Awesome post as was the previous! Great comments & response. We are currently teaching about gifts & fruit of the spirit in our home group & we are seeing a move of God in our Sunday Services. I thank God for Pastors & leaders in our Church who have the wisdom you speak of to ‘manage’ the enthusiastic ones who can tend to get caught up in the spectacle.
    I believe that teaching & discussion in this area is ESSENTIAL especially considering what is happening in your part of the world in Florida. We need to exercise Godly wisdom & discernment to allow God to fully move & not let people get swept away in a moment…..as believers & leaders we are responsible.
    Do I make sense?…..
    Great post. Thanks.
    😉

  5. Quote: “…often through spiritual gift inventories…”

    The ones I have seen were psychology based questionaires that attempted to chart things on some silly graph—such a complete waste of time. But I should point out that this was in a church that had been completely Willow-Creek-ized and the gifts had been effectively redefined out of existence.

    Quote: “…Discernment in general is sadly lacking…”

    …except on the Internet where we have got so much discernment that it’s coming out our noses and ears, and there are oodles and oodles of discernment ministries who are gonna straighten out our little heads for us with all of their acute discerning.

  6. Cheryl

    Dan;

    Can you recommend a few of your favorite books,authors or tape series on this topic.? I have a few but they are from the TBN crowd.

    Do you get ‘The Journal of Pentecostal Theology’?

    My favorite is Gordon Fee. If more pastors had his credibility I would feel safer. AG is pretty conservative with apostles and prophetic calling and gifts.

    • Cheryl,

      Fee is a good one. Grudem wrote the Vineyard’s positional paper.

      I would recommend people like Tozer, Ravenhill, Torrey, Andrew Murray, and people of that bent. The closer you get to the old time revivalist crowd that came out of the Welsh revival, the closer you’re going to get to true charismatics and get away from the charismaniacs.

  7. Diane R

    Our young people are looking for “relationship and experience” with God. IMO emergent isn’t going to give them the real deal. But Pentecostalism could. Sadly, the Pentecostal world (and much of the Charismatic excluding the occultic Third Wave revivalists) nowadays seems to be ashamed of many of the gifts and are into self-esteem teaching, psychobabble and “kewl”-ness.

    • Diane,

      I think you’re going to see a shaking out in Third Wave circles. The church I left that was Third Wave got way off track, but seems to have gotten back to its roots. That’s a good thing. I hope it happens elsewhere.

  8. Dan,

    Also “not being a Pentecostal” I recognize the goodness and rightness of these two post.

    As to your question, “Now, what is your take on the charismata?”, I respond…

    Indespensable. Also unpredictable.

    Tom

  9. Chris E

    Dan —

    I was raised in a Charismatic background, and have charismatic sympathies, I believe that the gifts are poured out by God on the church in all ages and are to be used in accordance with scripture.

    And yet .. my overwhelming impression of charismatic churches is of groups of people who are maybe slightly more welcoming and loving than the normal church – but whose personal piety is usually far worse. This seems to stem from the top downwards, rare is the charismatic church which doesn’t appear to have suffered from church splits, or some kind of leadership scandal (usually surrounding sex, power or money). Yes, these things happen elsewhere, however to me it seems that charismatic churches tend to be worse the equivalent *secular* organisations when it comes to similiar things. Added to this is a general suspicion of truly biblical teaching and a cavalier attitude to scripture.

    My conclusion is that in many of these churches spiritual gifts are being misused radically for a personal emotional reassurance – and that many people in these churches are coming periliously close to blaspheming against the work of the Spirit.

    • Chris,

      I want to respond to your post and share what I have seen.

      I believe very strongly that 90 percent of church affiliations are predetermined either by demographics or personality.

      For instance, my experience in Reformed circles has been that the people in these churches have much higher than average incomes, are almost exclusively white, grew up in households where education mattered immensely, rarely came from broken homes, place a high worth on reason (and a low one of emotions), are proud of their societal standing, and never really know what to do with “those” people. They are largely business owners or have a high rank in their companies. Plenty of introverts and driven people. Dad works while mom stays at home and participates in programs and causes for respectable women. Almost no artists to speak of. Often Reformed throughout generations. Most likely to have a master’s degree. More theologically attuned, though less attuned to needs outside their community. Likes to talk about deep subjects, but may never do anything about them. Holds people at arm’s length if those people don’t support all the right theology. Dedicated to truth, though not always sure how that truth works itself out in practical living. Loves thinkers. Heroes are thinkers. Least likely to publicly confess a grievous sin, especially if that confession leads to a loss of standing within the community.

      My experience in non-denominational churches shows them to be highly suburban, trendy, and consumeristic. Plenty of middle managers and housewives who have their own small businesses on the side. Or mom and dad both work outside the home. Consumeristic, but not quite in the same par as their Reformed brethren in social standing or income. More likely to flame out during economic downturns. Boom and bust. Flirts with megachurchianity. Worries about how they are perceived by others. Wants to send their kids to private Christian school like their Reformed brethren, but may opt for homeschooling because the private school is a bank-breaker. May settle on sending the most promising of their kids to private school. Everyone came from some other Christian denomination or sect. Mom and dad usually both went to school beyond high school, though not as many went to grad school. More likely to appeal to artistic or culturally-savvy types. Tries to be liked even if it means compromising on a few beliefs. Likes to do the works of Jesus as they perceive those works to be. May talk about theology, too, but the talk never reaches consensus. Loves doers. Heroes are cultural models, especially within cultural Christianity. Sees value in confessing sins publicly, but is quite judicious in doing so.

      My experience in the kind of charismatic church you describe usually finds people to be the least well off, so the idea that Jesus can improve one’s station in life is highly appealing. Not as well educated as the previous two groups. More blue collar. Tends to be more extroverted than the other groups and most emotional. The most friendly, though also the most scourging if there’s a disagreement on a moral issue. Not culturally savvy. More black and white on moral issues, less so on theological ones. The least artistically savvy, tends toward kitsch, but is willing to support people in their talents, even if those talents are not always well understood. Some college, mostly high school grads, and almost never any grad school. Doesn’t like to talk theology much unless it’s theology they feel is neglected in other branches of Christianity. Loves “be-ers.” Heroes are sports figures, rags to riches figures, or countercultural “fighter” types. Most likely to make a confession of grievous sin in public, even at personal cost.

      You can explain just about any Christian group and their responses more by their demographic or personality choices than by anything specifically Christian. That’s kind of pathetic, but it’s the truth. In some ways, our churches are just extensions of who we are. In that, they can become caricatures. And that’s sad in a way.

      • Chris E

        Hi Dan —

        Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. I concur with a lot of what you say – I have seen this sort of thing at work in some of the churches I’ve been in, and it is an undeniable fact that many charismatic churches are socially structured in the way you describe (though things are a little more socially mixed over here in the UK).

        The problem is that this is a good explanation absent the Holy Spirit – this is the same Holy Spirit that led to a 1st/2nd century church that overturned social order in the ancient world amidst one of the strongest empires the world has yet seen. Contemporary equivalents are either strangely useless (gold dust, uncontrollable laugher) or vague and limited in scope. Why is it that the only thing most Charismatics have added to their life is the sin of hypocrisy?

        So I come back to my conclusion which I suspect you end up agreeing with. The gifts are rare, and are often being (mis)used to produce an emotional high to dull the pain of everyday life.

          • Chris E

            Hi Dan –

            The analysis is still valid – with some minor modifications:

            – Churches over here tend more towards the evangelical middle, without many denominational distinctives.

            – They are slightly more politically mixed, and less likely to be filled with members concentrated at the conservative end of the political spectrum.

            – Outside London, they are slightly more culturally mixed. In London the middle of the road churches tend to be more mixed than the few outlier churches with specific denominational biases.

            – There isn’t such a strong ‘reformation’ tradition, because there isn’t really much of a ‘traditional reformed’ denomination (outside subgroups of the Anglican church).

            There are a number of indigenous charismatic groups with ex-Brethern roots, and a number of smaller independent Pentecostal groups who tend to draw heavily on people from former British colonies in Africa/West Indies.

            With those qualifiers your analysis works. Whilst they are more socially mixed, social straification does still exist.

      • Very funny summary! Though I’d have to say that West-Coast Evangelical churches (whether denominational or not) like the one I attend land somewhere between your first two, the description is wickedly spot-on!

        My only experience of the more Charismatic sort dates back to the rather ecumenical charismatic movement of the ’70s, which was somewhat different in style from the charismatic churches you describe today, but your OP on the gifts remains as cogent in my view, both in comparison to the movement I remember, and vis-a-vis mainstream evangelicalism of today.

        I would say that the vast majority of all I have ever seen that claims to be a manifestation of the Spirit’s gifts has been counterfeit, but I still retain a conviction that God would use those gifts again in a genuine way if we got out of the way and let him. . .whether I’ll ever be granted the privilege to see this belief borne out is an open question, however. Peace, Dan

  10. Dan, my religious tribe pretty much poo-poo’s (can I say that on your blog?) the idea of the more “miraculous”-seeming gifts still being given by the Holy Spirit.

    And while I can’t say I agree with them, I can’t say that I really know what to think. Having had only brushes with rare, unusual (and genuine) incidents that might have been gifts, my inclination is to be thankful for them – and a part of me wants to be thankful that they don’t happen more often.

    I know that part of me has a bogus attitude because Paul’s instructions are that the gifts are to be used to help others.

    Still, I get the impression that his instructions are there because the folks in Corinth were trying to use them to help themselves; that is, each one trying to help himself/herself with them.

    There seemed to be folks choosing up sides there and smelling armpits, and everybody wanted to be in the important-smelling armpit group. I think some of them wanted it so badly as to fake gifts they didn’t have. They couldn’t fake healing (without a loyal magician’s assistant) or some of the others, and speaking in tongues became something they could. Paul’s instructions would weed out the fakes: Have someone speak in tongues, but only if someone else can interpret – to benefit everyone and so that visitors won’t think you’re all wacko. Otherwise, you’re only talking to God and the angels present who can understand you, and they already know what you’d be talking about. (Okay, I’m paraphrasing a little more wildly than The Message here, but you get the point.)

    Going that route implies that at least some or all of the tongue-speaking gifts in Corinth then – and perhaps now – were still languages in use by men of the day (as in Acts 2).

    Going the other direction implies that some or all of the tongue-speaking gifts in Corinth then – and perhaps now – were spiritual language(s) that had to be translated/interepreted into (probably) Greek; whatever the folks in that church spoke and understood.

    That’s where I get stuck. I just don’t know what speaking in tongues is all about or why. I have no reason to doubt that you – and many others – pray powerfully and that tongues are somehow a part of it. I have no reason to believe it, either – but I tend more toward believing it than doubting it given your character, Dan … the “fruits” of the Spirit within you, as a previous commenter wisely observed … this blog being a testament of them.

    The gifts I have had brushes with are more likely termed prophecy, and the future-predicting version of it. The first instance was about 32 years ago, the second about 16, and if they come regular as clockwork I’d be due any time now.

    Can I confess that – even though I don’t see anything in scripture about regularly-recurring instances of spiritual gifts in anyone’s life – the possibility of it still gives me undefinable chills?

    • Keith,

      I guess I’m a bit stumped how you don’t see any recurring instances of spiritual gifts mentioned in Scripture. Paul gave several admonitions on how they must be correctly used when Christians assemble.

      I know you probably didn’t comment to get advice, but I would say to you to keep going to God about the issue. If this is a sticking point for you, He has the answer. Seek Him about it.

  11. Cheryl

    Keith,

    Dans comments about doing some reading from some of the old time revivalist is excellant. Don’t be embarassed. God most definately will intervene or I am sure has in your life is supernatural ways to give you direction other than the written word.
    What usually happens in churches that operate in gifting if you have never been to one is the speaker usually a teacher/pastor/evangelist after his message will ask people forward for prayer. If you go forward it’s at this time he will speak directly to you proably lay his hand on your head or shoulder and will speak to you a word of encouragement or direction ‘IF’ he hears the Holy Spirit prompting him to say something to you. Or he may look into the congregation and ask you to stand and he will speak to you that way.
    It’s a tremendous privledge and especially since he doesn’t know you and is 100% accurate. In other words he says things that only you know about. It’s incredible really .
    If you hear of some tent meetings maybe from a good AG church or smaller pentecostal church try and go. It helps to pray and fast ahead of time to prepare your heart. Bring a friend with you who can also test what is given since he knows you also. Blessings ! Don’t give up. It can be especially helpful when you really need to hear from the Lord about something important.
    Some of the older saints,men and women who have been following the Lord for a long time or younger men raised in godly homes in my experience are also more apt to exercise these gifts so their manner of life also is important (IMO) although the gifts and callings of God are not revoked. It has more to do with HIM than us. But we should strive to be a vessel of honor all the same. We should also desire to prophecy so its ok to ask for that also so you can help someone else to as you have been helped.

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