Spiritual gifts are a wonderful blessing given to the church by the Holy Spirit. However, these gifts are often misunderstood and looked upon with suspicion in many churches. What is going on here? My guess is that many evangelicals are so worried about not wanting to be "Charismatic" that they basically reject the Holy Spirit (or at least His gifts) altogether.
Let's look briefly at what the bible says about this. I Corinthians 12-14 has a wealth of information. What can we learn?
-Paul does not want us to be confused or ignorant about the gifts of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:1).
-There are many spiritual gifts, but only one triune God (I Cor. 12:4-6).
-Each believer is gifted by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:7).
-All gifts are given for the common good of the church (I Cor. 12:7).
-There are a variety of gifts (I Cor. 12:8-10, 28; Romans 12:6-8, Ephesians 4:11).
-Gifts must be exercised in a loving manner (I Cor. 13).
-All use of spiritual gifts should have the goal of edification (I Cor. 14:12, 26, 40).
(As I discuss this topic, I should also say that I am not a Cessationist. In other words, I find no biblical evidence to suggest that the Holy Spirit has ceased giving any of the spiritual gifts mentioned in scripture).
To sum up what we see above, the Holy Spirit dispenses spiritual gifts as He sovereignly sees fit. He gifts all believers in some manner. There is a wide variety of gifts which should be exercised in love and for the building up of the church. This is all for the glory of the one true God.
In the modern evangelical church, we need to work to overcome any distrust and confusion about spiritual gifts. This needs to occur through sound biblical teaching from texts such as those listed above. If people don't understand spiritual gifts, they will almost automatically look upon them suspiciously.
I see a few other problems today related to spiritual gifts. First, people frequently determine what their own gifts are. Second, we usually act like the spiritual gifts must be permanent. Third, we make people fit their gifts into our established church programs. Fourth, we act like some gifts are more important than others.
What can we do to combat these problems?
Let's be active in telling our brothers and sisters when we sense that they are gifted in a certain area. Those in teaching positions must encourage believers in Christ to be telling one another when they see an area of giftedness. God desires for the church body to rely on one another; this applies even to spiritual gift-awareness.
Let's understand that gifts may be temporary in nature.
Let's encourage one another to be creative in how we use our gifts. Let's not require one another to "fit" into already existing programs. Spiritual gifts often don't fit into the "box" of the church program. Leaders must be supportive in this.
We must avoid the tendency to elevate some gifts (such as teaching) over others (such as hospitality).
Gifts are clearly for the purpose of the building up of the body in Christ. All gifts are needed. Let's encourage one another to embrace the God who gives these gifts; may we use them wisely and in a loving manner.