You know those facebook survey things that pop up on your feed every now and again? “Fill out this survey to find out what super power you have.” Or, “answer this to find out which Harry Potter character you are.” Or…and this is my personal favourite…”complete this to find out which theologian you are” (Martin Luther? What do you mean Luther?! I’m definitely John Calvin’s homeboy!).
Mostly these surveys are totally meaningless and a bit of fun. But what about a survey for spiritual gifts? Is it possible to garner any genuine meaning from such a survey? (I’d be interested in your thoughts! Please comment below 🙂 )
I ask because I’ve been working on exactly that…a spiritual gifts survey as part of a project at Hope. On the one hand, I can see the value of such a survey. Through a broad set of questions, participants can get a better idea of gifts they may have, or explore ways the Spirit is working through them. But on the other hand, I can’t help but feel uneasy.
See, the worst surveys I’ve been looking at treat spiritual gifts like super powers, as if we fill out this survey and find out what super power we have to contribute to God’s Super Squad. The leader is without doubt Superman JC, flanked by Prophet Man, and Tongues Girl. Of course we can’t forget the Evangeliser (her catch phrase is, “evangelise this” in an Austrian accent). And let’s not overlook Serving Boy. You will be SERVED.
Ok, I’m being a little ridiculous, but I wonder if there’s a little truth to it. Spiritual gifts can easily become means to elevate the individual to a place of self-importance. But in scripture, spiritual gifts are almost always referenced in the context of the faith community. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul is clear that the point of spiritual gifts is not for the building up of the individual but that these gifts come from the one, same Spirit. Therefore, our individual gifts serve to build up the body. In chapter 13, it is clear that our gifts are nothing if not used for love of God and the community. In chapter 14, while gifts for building up the individual are important, gifts that build up the community are even more so. Meanwhile in Romans, spiritual gifts are clearly talked about in relation to the body of Christ. We must remember that the Spirit in us is the Spirit of Christ. Our ministry is first and foremost Christ’s ministry in the world which we participate in.
This Sunday at the Living Room, we’re looking at the third part of our mini-series on Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Praying for different aspects of Church, we’ve focussed on unity, then holiness. This week is catholicity. Catholicity refers to the universal Church and celebrates the diversity within the Church…geographical, ethnic, generational, cultural…and of course spiritual gifts.
BUT celebrating the diversity of our spiritual gifts is not about glorifying the individual. And in that sense, likening spiritual gifts to super powers is QUITE the wrong idea. Spiritual gifts aren’t about becoming super human. They’re about becoming truly human as the Spirit of Jesus Christ lives in us — directing us to God and to one another.