Friday, July 11, 2008

The Gift List

It's time for THE list. This, of course, represents only my cobbling together of what the word says about the subject. One could see it somewhat differently and still be correct. Hopefully, this will help you see things from the broadest perspective, while giving you the detail necessary to grasp what each gift is.


Apostle: one sent by God to a people to establish the church among them. There is an administrative (supervisory) aspect to this gift, but it not directly associated with hierarchical office (as with the Mormons)-- its authority is confined to its function. (1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11)

Evangelist: one who announces the good news to the public (which hasn't heard it). It's not foundational (like the apostle or teacher), because it's tasked with making people believers, not making believers a church. (Ephesians 4:11)

Prophet: one who proclaims and interprets what God is saying to the church. The prophet speaks to strengthen, encourage and comfort God's people. This gift is not about prognostication, nor has it anything to do with hierarchical office. (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11)

Exhorter: one who speaks to urge others on in matters pertaining to God. I really see this as a subset of the prophetic gift, but can see someone being an exhorter without being a prophet. (Romans 12:6-8)

Linguist: one who speaks and interprets tongues in public. No, you will not see it listed this way in the scriptures, this is my synthesis of what is said about it there. Not everyone who speaks in tongues in public will be a linguist, but those who are linguists will be interpreters. If that is still fuzzy, note the way it is listed in v. 28 of 1 Corinthians 12 as opposed to how it's reiterated in v. 30. This (as in the case of the exhorter) is a subset of the prophetic gift, but it is possible to be a linguist without being a prophet or a prophet without being a linguist (I Corinthians 12:28)

Pastor: one who tends the flock of God. This gift has both administrative (supervisory) and speaking (teaching) aspects. Whereas the apostle establishes the church, the pastor maintains it. That is not an institutional task, but an interpersonal one-- it's about the sheep not the sheepcote. Regardless, this gift is directly associated with the supervisory church office, which is as close as the Bible gets to validating anything hierarchical. The pastor is always a teacher and a leader, but it is possible to have teachers or leaders who are not pastors. (Romans 12:6-8 [leader], 1 Corinthians 12:28 [teacher/governor], Ephesians 4:11)

Teacher: one who instructs the church in the commands of God and how to apply them to daily life. This is a subset of the pastoral gift, but it is possible to be a teacher without being a pastor. (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11)


Server: one who attends to things that need to be done (similar to a Deacon). Everyone in the body serves in some capacity, but this gift does it in inspired, focused fashion. This is not necessarily the same as the office of Deacon, that is supervisory, this is functional, but I would think the office of Deacon would often be filled by those who are gifted as servers. By way of interest, Philip, the evangelist was a notable example of one who served in the office of Deacon, but was gifted as other than a server. (Romans 12:6-8)

Giver: one who shares his or her substance with the church. Some folk are appointed by God to be channels of blessing to the rest of the church. Everyone gives, but the gifted do so in ways enabled only by God. That, however, does not equate with being rich! (Romans 12:6-8)

Sympathizer: one who alleviates the suffering of others in the church. This is a mercy ministry. Everyone in the family of God is expected to show mercy to the family of God, sympathizers do so at an exemplary, Spirit-inspired level. (Romans 12:6-8)

Miracle Worker: one who exerts supernatural power. Everyone in the body of Christ can move in the supernatural, this gift does so on a marked, consistent basis with out any necessary connection to preaching. (1 Corinthians 12:28)

Healer: one who heals the sick. Everyone in the body of Christ can pray for the sick, anyone in the body can be used by God to bring a miraculous healing to someone who is sick, but the healer ministers this wonder on a consistent basis without any necessary connection to preaching. (1 Corinthians 12:28)

Helper: one who addresses the petitions of the needy. Everyone in the body should respond to the needs of their brothers and sisters, but some are enabled to do so in a particularly dedicated fashion. This may seem a replication of the gift of giver, but I think it involves more than substance and sustenance. Though this ministration is part of the duties entailed in the office of Deacon (as with the server), the gift is functional whereas the office is supervisory. Possessing this gift doesn't mean one will stand in that office (1 Corinthians 12:28)

Leader: one who steers and superintends the church. The offices of Elder (overall oversight) and Deacon (service supervision) are the actual supervisory positions in a church, but their biblical descriptions do not necessarily specify what gifts one must possess in order to serve in them. In its formative stages, a church will be supervised by its apostle; thereafter, it may be supervised by some other gift acting in the office of Elder. The qualifications for that office specify functionally that an elder be instructive, but that is not quite the same as saying the elder must be gifted as a teacher. I could see the possibility of someone being gifted as a leader, capable of passing on effective instruction, but not gifted as a teacher, or any other speaking gift for that matter. What that implies in regards to the concept of church leadership vested in a plurality of elders I'll leave to you. (Romans 12:6-8 [governs], I Corinthians 12:28 [administration])


One could debate the way I condensed this number and these particular gifts from the stew of the three passages we have been discussing. Since all of the lists are representative and none is exhaustive, the possibility exists that there could be gifts that are not found in any of these lists. I don't think that's true, but I can't prove it. Someone could see the cross referencing differently than I have as well. Regardless, what we all should be able to agree to is that God intends each of us to express the gift he's placed within us, and whatever your gift, God has given you the manifestation of the Holy Spirit for the benefit of all. I hope this series helps you express both.