Ministering through Your Gifts – and Not Someone Else’s

20 Mule Team in Death Valley National Park, California
20 Mule Team Canyon in Death Valley National Park, California

Some years ago, my parents read aloud a book called, “The Five Love Languages of Children.”  It’s a great book, and it helped several of us understand how to better love, serve, and accept our siblings’ differences in how they go about life.  (If you know my family, you know that we’re a rather eclectic bunch, so it’s not surprising that we encompass all five of the love languages amongst all of us.)  It’s also been interesting to watch over the years how my family members’ different love languages have affected the way that they approach life.  Three of us could wash the dishes for our mom, but we’d go about it three different ways: “This takes time; it shows I love her,” “I’ll give my mom an act of service,” or, “I’m giving my mom a gift by washing the dishes.”

"Helping" by filling the backpack with rocks
“Helping” by filling the backpack with rocks

Just as a person’s primary love language will affect the way they view showing love to others, so different spiritual gifts cause them to approach life and life’s circumstances differently.  For example, let’s say that three church members are hiking a trail together.  They come to a place where the trail vanishes and they have no idea which way to go.  One, with the gift of leadership, says, “We’re going to get up to the top of this mountain.  The view is going to be amazing.  Let’s go this way, and we’ll find our way through!”  The second, with a gift of administration, pulls out maps, studies them, scouts around, and finds the most practical, excellent way through.  Meanwhile, the third, with the gift of words of knowledge, looks at the situation and says, “Most trail makers stay on the ridgeline while trying to climb a mountain.  If we stay on the ridge, we should pick up the trail again.”  They’re all going to make it to the top of the mountain, but they approach the problem from three completely different angles.

Trail?  What trail?  Hiking up Lava Mountain near Togwotee Pass, Wyoming
Trail? What trail? Hiking up Lava Mountain near Togwotee Pass, Wyoming

People with different gifts don’t just approach life differently, they’ll probably also live it differently.  I hear stories frequently from people who have Divine inspiration about what, say, their restaurant server is going through.  They’ll ask if they can pray for the server, and more often than not, the server gets saved or at least blessed and touched that God knows them and where they’re at.  These ministers and church members have such a gift of healing on their lives that they look everywhere for opportunities to heal – and then they can also use it as an evangelistic tool.

Headwaters of the Hudson River along the Indian Pass Trail, Adirondack Park, New York
Headwaters of the Hudson River along the Indian Pass Trail, Adirondack Park, New York

I’m a bit of an encourager.  So when I’m in public situations, healing usually isn’t on my brain.  Instead, I’m looking for ways to encourage people – servers, checkout people, random hikers, anyone who I happen to be with and who is either serving me or looks like they need encouragement.  Both healing and encouragement are necessary in different situations – that’s why God gives people different gifts.

La Boca Arch, Utah
La Boca Arch, Utah

Similar situations happen with many of the gifts.  I’ve seen people give words of wisdom that changed situations, hospitality that made a massive impact on faith, discernment that altered the way people viewed other people and situations to the point of saving marriages, miracles that convicted/saved/altered reality – I could go on and on.

Clouds and mountains from the hiker parking at the Cracker Lake Trailhead, Glacier National Park, Montana
Clouds and mountains from the hiker parking at the Cracker Lake Trailhead, Glacier National Park, Montana

My point here is that it’s great to listen to people tell amazing stories of how they used their gifts to impact the lives of others.  But if you try to copy them, you may find that it’s just that – a copy.  It could also work quite well for you – I’ve seen that too.  But it’s a good idea to work out your encounters and ministries outside of the church within the realm of the gifts God has placed on your life.  If you see someone approaching a situation from a completely different gift-standpoint, that’s ok.  God is using them to give them a gift you aren’t as adequately equipped to use, and that’s a very good thing.