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.
The survey was about spiritual gifts.
Although it’s clear from the Bible that spiritual gifts matter deeply to the health of the Church, the survey revealed four troubling statistics.
28% Think They’re Empty-Handed
For example, 1 Corinthians 12 says twice that spiritual gifts are given to each believer, but 28% said they didn’t have a spiritual gift. That’s almost one out of every three people denying what the Bible said was true.
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (v.7)
“All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines” (v.11).
20% Have Fantasy Gifts
The Bible lists four spiritual gift lists: Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:7-13, and 1 Peter 4:10-11, but 20% claimed they had spiritual gifts that aren’t actually spiritual gifts. This is the part that made me laugh.
Some respondents—one fifth of them—listed as spiritual gifts things that aren’t actually spiritual gifts: “sense of humor, singing, health, life, happiness, patience, a job, a house, compromise, premonition, creativity, and clairvoyance.”
I laughed because I saw myself in these results. Now, some scholars believe that more spiritual gifts may exist beyond these four lists. Dr. C. Peter Wagner and Dr. Sam Storms are examples. However, I don’t see how any of the fantasy gifts listed above could qualify.
15% Aren’t Looking
15% said they didn’t know their spiritual gifts. I don’t know which is worse—not knowing you have a spiritual gift or knowing you have one but not knowing what it is. That’s like knowing you have the key to unlock the chest of gold, but not bothering to look for the key. The Bible is clear that knowing your spiritual gifts is important.
1 Corinthians 12:1 says, “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.”
1 Corinthians 14:1 says, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts…”
This brings us to the final troubling statistic.
63% Are Ignorant
63% of respondents didn’t how to apply the biblical understanding of spiritual gifts, even when the Bible so explicitly states their importance.
There’s not much room to avoid the conclusion—God wants us to care about spiritual gifts and some segments of the Church are downright ignoring them. If I’m coming across strong, it’s because I’ve experienced the wonder and power of exercising my own spiritual gifts and being a recipient of others’ gifts.
Ignorance of spiritual gifts is the fault of church leadership who don’t provide sound teaching and equipping to grow its members in spiritual gifts, and it’s the fault of church members who don’t fight to learn about them.
What are you going to do about it?
Next time we’ll talk about what a spiritual gift is and what it isn’t.