I remember my excitement years ago when I first completed a spiritual gifts inventory. I still like inventories and use them, but I do so with caution. Here are my thoughts:
What I Like about Them:
- They do push believers to consider how God has wired and gifted them to serve Him. Simply using them is one way of saying, “God didn’t bring you to this church to just sit and do nothing.” Thus, they can help mobilize believers to serve.
- They’re one tool to help believers consider God’s hand in their lives. Inventories aren’t sufficient in themselves, but wise church leaders can use them to facilitate needed and helpful conversations with church members.
- Handled well, they require church leaders to teach about the important topic of spiritual gifts. Some of these gifts are debated, so laying a biblical foundation for understanding them is a needed first step.
- They push us to consider what it means to be a 1 Corinthians 12 church. That is, they guide us to think about how God has put His body together – according to His will, promoting unity in diversity, and glorifying Himself through various gifts.
- They can help us to focus our attention and energy. All of us must at times serve outside our primary giftedness, but considering our gifts can help us use our resources wisely.
What I Don’t Like about Them:
- Every inventory is biased at some level. This point is simply a recognition that anyone who creates an inventory has theological presuppositions—including a position on which gifts are still available today—that influence the final product.
- Often, they give too little attention to defining the gifts. They may offer definitions, but they’re not always connected to scripture. Moreover, they don’t often recognize that strong scholars and practitioners sometimes differ about the gifts.
- Some participants make wrong use of the results. They use them as if they were the final determinant of one’s giftedness, and some use them to deny any responsibility to live out gifts they apparently don’t have. The inventory becomes an excuse for disobedience.
- They allow believers to determine their giftedness on the basis of a paper test rather than on their actually doing ministry. It’s not enough to say, “I have the gift of leadership” if you’ve never given any evidence of such a gift. We best determine our gifts by serving God through His church—and learning what brings joy and blessing.
- They can promote an individualized Christianity. That happens when you determine your gifts without seeking input from brothers and sisters in Christ who know you best (see the previous point as well).
Again, I still utilize gifts inventories, but carefully in the context of the local church. What are your thoughts?