I’ve been in the midst of a move the last couple of weeks and I just now had time to slow down & reflect, so I’ll be getting caught up.
On Saturdays, I’m writing my thoughts on sermons I hear. Today’s entry was inspired by Craig Pierce’s sermon given at Irving Bible Church, the 4th in our series, “Whatever.” This one is titled “How We Use Our Gifts Matters.”

I spent the morning of my 21st birthday taking the Modified Houts Questionnaire.

To be sure, the legal drinking age in my state at that time was 19 so maybe the luster of the 21st birthday celebration didn’t mean as much back in the day, but still. But the guy that discipled me had planned for everyone in the ministry he was leading to come to this leadership training deal and I signed up and it was only a half-day and a free lunch was in the deal, so why not? Besides, he hinted that we’d be able to discover our spiritual gift. Free lunch in college man. Self-awareness was simply an added bonus.

About mid-morning he handed out the Modified Houts Questionnaire. 125 statements like, “I feel I could enable others to learn Biblical truth in detail.” Or, “I have interpreted messages given in tongues.” Or, “I have a knack for making strangers feel at home.” Yep. For 125 questions. And there were four responses, “Much, some, little or not at all.”

Then you went to a page where you added up the scores by both rows and columns and then matched them up with the spiritual gift that corresponded to your rows and columns. Then once you got your gifts and their name you could read a definition of them in the back of the booklet. After that the plan was to discuss our results in small groups and get feedback from those we knew fairly well.

I dutifully added up the values in my rows and columns…let’s see here…

…my highest scores were in the…columns V and X.

I traced the line under “V” with my finger and read “CELIBACY.” Um. Hmmm. I’m pretty sure I know what that means.
I traced the line under “X” with my finger across the page only to read “MARTYRDOM.” Um. Hmmm. I’m pretty sure I know what that word means, too.

I double-checked, more or less hoping there was some Jesus-people definition that was used differently by the Tribe than the conventional usage. Like maybe in Ephesus in Paul’s day they were only celibate on weekends. Or possibly that a martyr in the times of Josephus was somebody under house arrest for a month. Unfortunately, the definitions didn’t give that kind of insight.

Imagine hearing on your 21st birthday that you were gifted with definitions that included using the word “joy” into two situations I didn’t see much joy in. Now, to be fair, the booklet says right up front that the booklet is only a starting point and in no way should you view the results to be final or irrefutable…just as a source of insight. My small group discussion afterward with guys who I figured would go into convulsions of laughter more or less said, “Yeah. You know, I could kinda see that.”

Some 21st birthday, right?

I kinda joked about it for a while, but that test kind of stayed with me. Figuratively, but also literally. I still have it.

Since that time I may have taken every kind of spiritual gift assessment known to evangelicalism. It’s fair to say that I’ve gotten every known spiritual gift except the ones that my Dallas Theological Seminary leanings would put the kibosh on. My guess is it’s fair to say that those types of tests should never be considered final or irrefutable and should just be used as a source of insight. Or as a party game.

Which is why I’m glad Craig gave a much more enjoyable way to gather that insight into your spiritual gifting, and he started by posing a bigger picture of why using your gift matters. He brought up four questions that might help you out in that journey of discovery.

The first one was What bothers you? What breaks your heart, usually as it relates to injustice or oppression of some type. For me, it is a type of oppression that suburban people face in their day-in, day-out lives that draws their attention away from the abundant life Christ wants us to live. It irritates me that many in suburbia buy into a completely different understanding of what abundance truly is and they act accordingly…almost unknowingly. Sure, there are other things that break my heart, but that is one that I truly “get.” Others I can sympathize with, but that one I empathize with.

The second one was What’s your spiritual gift? Now, you don’t need a Modified Houts to figure it out since Craig gave us some very helpful insights from the sermon:

I’ll just give you a short, simple way to get started on figuring out what your gift might be. Three things that you ought to be thinking about, and the first one is this: You ought to be thinking about what you enjoy doing. I know it sounds crazy in the church, but God actually wants you to enjoy what you’re doing in the Church. And he’s uniquely wired you to enjoy certain things that maybe other people don’t enjoy…

…The second question you ought to ask is, ‘What do you do well?’…Of course you do something well…

…Then you need to be thinking about how you can use your gifting for serving others…It’s not an option for you to keep your gift to yourself.

For me, I love teaching and pastoring. I do it well (and yes, I can say that humbly). And, well, my experiences and training and all that lead to doing that in some very traditional church ways. But I know musicians that have my gift, and accountants, and politicians and on and on and yes, some are school teachers. The gifts are going to have varied manifestations, but it’s the same gift…something Craig alluded to in the next question:

What opportunities are right in front of you? All too often we think we have to wait for that magical moment when the planets line up and we learn our gift definitively and the big life questions are answered and God shows us beyond a shadow of a doubt to head to Ghana to teach people about Jesus. I’d say, figure out ways to love your neighbor moment by moment and you’d be surprised how quickly you’ll discover “your ministry.”

And the final question, Am I willing to take a risk? We all have fears about what that is going to look like, or cost us, or create in us, or what others will think, or what financial realities might be created, and on and on. At some point, you just have to take the leap on loving your neighbor and using your gifts…

…and yes, sometimes it’s as simple as making lemonade and having a chat with the lonely latchkey kid next door…
…and yes, sometimes it’s as real as packing up the family and heading to Ghana…
…and yes, it’s a ton of thing in-between…
…and yes, it can even be celibacy or martyrdom…

…but whether or not you use the Modified Houts, you’ll want to ask those questions and see where it takes you. Because Craig is right…using your gift matters.

In big, fat, hairy, Kingdom ways.

Are you willing to take a risk?