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Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Tim 4:14-16).
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Tim 1:5-7).
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Pet 4:10-11).
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 Cor 12:7-11).
I wrote last week to practice the gifts of the Spirit regularly, as a warrior practices with her weapons, so that when they are needed, their practice is instinctual. This week, I’m going to expand on that, because that’s kind of vague, isn’t it?
I was talking with Rich Orrell, my mentor, a few weeks ago, and he laid this bit of wisdom on me: “The practice arena for spiritual gifts is at the altars of the local church. That’s the safe place to make mistakes and learn. The real arena is in your daily life, where you exercise those spiritual gifts with people you don’t know, to grow the Kingdom of God.”
It’s funny, but I’d pretty much never heard that before.
We are very worried about order in our church services. And rightly so! The Bible—especially Paul’s letters, including 1 Corinthians—spends a lot of time talking about the need for order in church services. In 1 Corinthians, Paul was correcting an error where the Corinthian Church was using the gifts of the Spirit, but in a divisive way, and without any restraint. It wasn’t being done for the Kingdom. And that’s a big no-no!
But, like all corrective movements in history, we sometimes go too far in the other direction. For the sake of order, many churches and ministries leave no place for the gifts of the Spirit to be used. And that is just as bad!
Because if we can’t practice the gifts of the Spirit in the Church, then how are we going to learn to use them when we’re not among the Church? How are we going to grow the Kingdom?
Let’s go back to the warrior image I used. A warrior practices with their weapons so that, when they are needed, their use is instinctual. They don’t have to think, “Okay, first I need to do this, then this, then this will happen….” Because in a fight, if you’re busy thinking about how to use your weapons, you’re going to lose. The other person will have shot you before you’ve gotten your gun up. If you have to think about it, it’s too late.
Now, when warriors practice, they sometimes get hurt. When you spar in martial arts, sometimes someone’s nose or arm gets broken. When you practice with blades, sometimes someone gets cut. Because you’re learning how to use something that’s powerful, and powerful things can cause harm when they’re not used right. But that’s why you’re practicing in the first place: so you can learn how to use them correctly!
We’re supposed to practice the gifts of the Spirit among each other. The altars of the Church are the practice ground for the tools God has given us by His Spirit. We will make mistakes. We will use them wrong, and some people will get hurt. But that is what is necessary to learn how to use them correctly, so we can use them to grow the Kingdom.
But if, for the sake of order, we do not allow people to practice the gifts at all, what we get is a Church that has a lot of Christians who don’t know how to use the gifts of the Spirit. So Christians don’t use the gifts outside of the Church, because they don’t know how to use them. So the Kingdom does not grow.
Does this sound familiar?
It is a matter of discipleship. You have to be willing to make mistakes in order to grow. And someone has to be willing to let you make mistakes, and to help you correct them.
Now, don’t go over your pastor’s head. Don’t start doing stuff in your Chi Alpha or church service without talking with your pastor or staff. They have a reason for what they’re doing. But sometimes that reason is that they just don’t have anyone willing to try.
Seek out your staff. Ask them to disciple you in practicing the gifts of the Spirit. All of them! Because God gives different gifts to different people at different times. You may use healing more than others for now, but later it may be prophecy. The gifts of the Spirit belong to the Spirit, and the Spirit gives them as He sees fit.
Definitely have someone disciple you in this. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Practice the gifts of the Spirit, so you can glorify God!