Archives For Spiritual Gifts

Although spiritual gifts are one of God’s ways to build a healthy Church, many Christians aren’t operating in them.

-They don’t know what a spiritual gift is.
-They don’t know what a spiritual gift is not.
-They don’t know what their spiritual gift is.

And consequently, the Church isn’t benefiting from their gift nor are Christians experiencing joy from operating in their gift. The Body is dismembered.

But the Bible exhorts us to pursue spiritual gifts because we form one body. As a reminder, here’s my preferred definition of a spiritual gift (C. Peter Wagner):

“A spiritual gift is a special attribute given by the Holy Spirit to every member of the Body of Christ, according to God’s grace, for use within the context of the Body.”

Here are five reasons we don’t pursue them:

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We discussed the crisis of spiritual gifts in the Church and what a spiritual gift is. Now we discuss what a spiritual gift is not.

This is important because of the confusion regarding the definition of a spiritual gift. For example, in the spiritual gift survey we previously referenced, 20% of the respondents claimed they had spiritual gifts that aren’t actually spiritual gifts: “sense of humor, singing, health, life, happiness, patience, a job, a house, premonition, creativity, and clairvoyance.”

And since starting this spiritual gift series, questions have risen from readers and confirmed the confusion—some people don’t know what a spiritual gift is and what’s it’s not. For example, Are spiritual gifts different from the fruits of the Spirit? Patience appeared in the survey as a spiritual gift, but according to Galatians 5:22, patience is a fruit of the Spirit as well. Is patience both a gift and a fruit?

Or the question, Are talents the same as spiritual gifts? Creativity also appeared in the survey as a spiritual gift, but is creativity more of a natural talent? What’s the difference between a talent and a spiritual gift? Are they the same?

These kinds of questions signify curiosity and confusion, so let’s jump in. To start, here’s my preferred definition of a spiritual gift (C. Peter Wagner):

“A spiritual gift is a special attribute given by the Holy Spirit to every member of the Body of Christ, according to God’s grace, for use within the context of the Body.”

Now let’s discuss four things a spiritual gift is not, from Wagner’s book on the topic:

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Last week we shared a statistic in the Church. Although spiritual gifts are vital to the health of Christ’s Body on earth, a survey revealed that the majority of respondents (63%) didn’t have a biblical understanding and/or a practical application of spiritual gifts.

This is troubling because not only are spiritual gifts part of God’s strategy to build the Church, but they’re also central to experiencing joy as a Christian. According to Pastor Ray Stedman, “The value of your life as a Christian will be determined by the degree to which you use the gift God has given you.”

This week we look at what a spiritual gift is.

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A few years ago, the Barna Group released results from a multiple year survey involving 3,000 self-described Christians. When I read the results, I laughed out loud. I couldn’t help it—some of the responses were funny to me. But as I thought more, the hilarity faded. Here was a glimpse into the Church and I lamented what I saw.

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When my wife was washing dishes after dinner, she sensed God impressing something on her heart.

She should buy flowers for someone—and it had to be that night. Flowers tonight, for whom? She didn’t know, she just knew it had to be then.

Colette left her dishes in the sink and drove to the flower store. Once inside, she thought God wanted her to buy three roses and a card. As Colette paid for them, a particular neighbor came to mind. She hadn’t seen her in a while, but yes, Colette felt very strongly the flowers were for her.

Colette sat inside the car, deciding what to write on the card. She asked God for a message and what she heard was, “I’m well pleased with you,” so she wrote that on the card. Then she drove to the neighbor’s house to deliver the goods.

The neighbor opened the door and Colette handed her the roses and card. Visibly surprised, the neighbor said thank you and quickly shut the door. Wait, there were so many questions. Why flowers? Why her? Why tonight?

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Praying in Tongues is one of the 12 prayer types I cover in “Made To Pray.” It’s also probably the most controversial.

When I was writing the book, I was told by an industry expert that publishers and bookstores would reject it because tongues was in it. Some have and some will. But I decided to include tongues anyway because I believe it’s as valid a prayer type as say, praise or petition. No one would dream of removing those.

Plus the Apostle Paul wrote, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you” (1 Corinthians 14:18). If it was good enough for Paul, shouldn’t it be good enough for us?

There’s a lot of confusion about tongues.

One of the most popular articles on my website is “Ten Myths About Speaking in Tongues.” Web searches are done almost daily on the topic. When I’ve spoken on the subject of tongues in churches, there’s a wave of bewilderment when I say there are three types of tongues in the New Testament.

Well, we can’t cover everything about tongues, but here’s a start.

In this video interview, I talk with Becky Spencer about how praying in tongues is helping her in the tragic loss of her grandson, Honor.

We cover these questions:

  1. How is praying in tongues helping you in this challenging season?
  2. When did you start praying in tongues?
  3. Why do you think this type of prayer is so controversial?

If you’d like to learn more about tongues, I encourage you to order Made To Pray.

What do you think about praying in tongues? You can comment by clicking here.

About Becky Spencer

Becky is a homeschooling mom of eight kids, wife of husband Tracy of 36 years, author, speaker, worship leader, and co-founder of Grand Staff Ministries, which ministers to children in Swaziland, Africa.

Her books are “When Prince Charming Falls off His Horse…and you’ve become his nag,” “Leapin’ Lizards…another other leaps of faith,” and “Bigger than Me: Finding a Strong Enough Reason to Eat Right for Life.” Her musical albums are “Empty” and “Tears of a Clown.”

Learn more about Becky’s ministry, books, and music at

Here’s an excerpt from Made to Pray:

Luke 2.37 says that Anna never left the temple but worshipped night and day, praying and fasting. The intercessor loves God and knows his face. She spends long and deep periods of time with God and has the key to God’s house.

True to Jewish custom, Joseph and Mary brought baby Jesus to the temple to be purified when he was only eight days old. But Anna, fresh from praying and fasting, walked up to baby Jesus and recognized that he was the Messiah for whom Israel had been longing.

There was no outward indication that this baby was the Savior, the Redeemer of Jerusalem. There were no angels or halos or Messiah business cards. There was just a soft and wrinkled baby. But because she had been with God, Anna was able to recognize God.

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hillbillyThe first time I heard someone speak in tongues, I thought he was speaking Greek. That’s because I took Greek in college and wasn’t good at it. And because of that, I didn’t know what Greek really sounded like. After I figured out it wasn’t Greek, I realized that maybe it was tongues. I would have preferred Greek.

But tongues are what it was. Up to that point the only experience I had with tongues was something I read somewhere, and in the corner of my memory, a distant corner folded down beneath gray matter, I remembered tongues had to be interpreted. Immediately I knew this to be fact because I was uncomfortable, and when you’re uncomfortable, it’s because something is wrong.

That’s what I thought, at least. (I was a lot younger then). But he was really on a roll and I wasn’t the type to interrupt sincerity, so I let him finish. And I never saw him again.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot about tongues, and wish to debunk some popular myths. Had I known these things then, the guy and I might have become friends and had some laughs; he might even have taught me something.

1. There is only one kind of tongues—speaking in tongues.
Actually, there are three kinds of tongues, although often we incorrectly call them all “speaking in tongues.” One is the supernatural ability to speak in a foreign language that you have not previously learned. Usually the ability is temporary and limited. Another is receiving a message from God in tongues. This functions as prophecy. The third is a private prayer language that enables the person to connect with God beyond human language.
(Foreign language—Acts 2.1-13; Like prophecy with interpretation—1 Cor. 14.26; Prayer language—1 Cor. 14.14-15)

2. Tongues always have to be interpreted.
This is true if the tongues refer to delivering a message from God (like prophecy). Unless the tongues are interpreted in a language that people can understand, there is no point. The speaker might as well recite the tax code with marbles in his mouth. But on the other hand, if someone is praying in tongues and it happens to be overheard, no interpretation is necessary. This happens sometimes in corporate worship.
(With no interpretation, the speaker can pray to God in tongues—1 Cor. 14.28)

3. People who pray in tongues are crazy and handle snakes in the backwoods.
I used to think that people who prayed in tongues were uneducated hillbillies who played with snakes during their church services. That was before I met anyone who prayed in tongues. Since then I’ve come to know some pretty sophisticated and upstanding people who do. I still think there are tongues in the backwoods, but I’ve come to discover they’re in college classrooms as well.
(Paul spoke in tongues more than anyone, but was probably more educated than anyone—1 Cor. 14.18; Paul said not to forbid tongues—1 Cor. 14.39)

4. You have to wait for “the Spirit to move you” to pray in tongues.
The Bible says that spiritual gifts are given to us. This means that once we have them, they’re ours to use. So if we’ve been given the gift of tongues, we can pray in tongues whenever we want to—on an airplane, in the shower, while running. There are certain gifts we can just do, like practice hospitality, teach, and show mercy. Praying in tongues is one such gift. However, there are some gifts that are dependent upon God, like prophecy, words of knowledge, and delivering a message in tongues, but praying in tongues is not one of these.
(1 Cor. 12.7)

5. Human language is always adequate to communicate with God.
I think of tongues as spiritual poetry that expresses emotions when human words fail. God is spirit and we are citizens of heaven. Why would we expect our human language to cover all the fins and folds of our relationship with God? Sometimes our words just won’t do. This is the Almighty, after all, and we’ve been swept into the divine romance.
(1 Cor. 2.10-13)

6. When praying in tongues, you go into a trance and should be left in the corner to drool.
I’m sure this has happened in the course of human history. But so have dogs visiting the moon. Normally you have full control of your mind when you pray in tongues. You decide when to start and when to stop. You have regular function of communication skills. You might be surprised to learn that people around you were praying in tongues when you didn’t know it—that’s how normal they acted.
(1 Cor. 14.14-15)

7. There is no place for tongues today.
There is no place in the Bible that says tongues have ceased for today. Of all the spiritual gifts, tongues have probably met the most controversy. Some have misused them, either misunderstanding their application by accident, or using them to divide on purpose. But just because something brings controversy doesn’t mean it’s wrong. In fact, the controversy might be because it’s right.
(Paul said not to forbid tongues—1 Cor. 14.39; In the same statement, Jesus said one sign of believers is that they preach and baptize, another is that they speak in tongues—Mark 16.15-17; we haven’t ceased to preach and baptize, so why should we cease to speak in tongues?)

8. If you don’t have the gift of tongues, you should stop asking God for it.
When it comes to asking for spiritual gifts, the Bible says to eagerly pursue them. There is no quotient for how much you’re allowed to ask for gifts. Instead, the biblical example is to be persistent. Often it’s the person who doesn’t give up who ends up receiving what she has asked for. However, it’s important to guard our hearts in asking and not become bitter or impatient.
(Paul says to eagerly desire spiritual gifts—1 Cor. 14.1)

9. People with the gift of tongues are always more spiritual than people without it.
This isn’t true. I’ve known very spiritually mature Christians who didn’t have the gift of tongues. They got along just fine in their faith. On the other hand, I’ve known some spiritually immature Christians who had the gift of tongues. Just because you pray in tongues doesn’t ensure character or maturity. With that said, I’m glad I pray in tongues for the impact it’s had on my walk.
(1 Peter 4.10)

10. Unless you speak in tongues, you’re not a Christian or Spirit-filled.
This is another controversy that has turned people off from tongues. This myth comes from a misinterpretation of biblical texts. Nowhere in the Bible does it say you’re not a Christian if you don’t pray in tongues. A Christian is one who has been forgiven through the blood of Jesus. There is no requirement for tongues. Nor does the Bible say you’re not Spirit-filled if you don’t pray in tongues. There are examples of people who began speaking in tongues after they received the Holy Spirit. But these are descriptive of what can happen, not what must happen.
(Incidents in which people were filled with the Holy Spirit and started speaking in tongues right away—Acts 2.4, 10.44-46, 19.6; Incidents in which people were filled with the Holy Spirit and did not start speaking in tongues right away—Luke 1.41, 67, Acts 4.31, 9.17-18, 13.52)