I stood in front of a crowd of women and announced my gifts.
“I have the gift of teaching,” I said.
“And wisdom . . .”
“And I am a gatherer of people” (aka hospitality).
I let the announcement hang in the air for a moment, and then I said, “Raise your hand if a woman boldly announcing her gifts makes you uncomfortable.”
Most of the hands in the room went up.
There is something about a woman knowing and acting on her gifts that makes us squirm. My experience in women’s ministry reveals that when it comes to spiritual gifts, two things are often true. Women either: a) don’t know their spiritual gifts or b) they are waiting for someone to give them a permission slip to use them. Less often, there is a third option. Women know their gifts, they used them for a season, and no one seemed to notice, so they quit.
Regardless of the reason, there are far too many women sitting on the bench. The consequences of this are truly devastating.
When Half the Team Is Sidelined
While women make up half of the adult population, they represent a significantly higher portion of church attenders. Researchers have repeatedly identified a gender gap in church attendance, with forty percent of women attending church weekly and only twenty-five percent of men. The reasons and implications for this gender gap are vast and varied, but the bottom line is that there are more women than men within the Church. With women making up the largest demographic of church attenders, if we are not using our gifts, the Church is operating without the aid of more than half of its members.
Consider any other team or organization trying to function with more than half of its contributors sidelined.
- A sports team could not win with half its players sitting on the bench.
- Congress could not legislate if half its members couldn’t vote.
- A marriage would fail if only one person invested in the relationship.
And the Church will fail to be all God has called her to be as long as half of us neglect our God-given gifts.
What can you do to inspire women to know and use their gifts in your church? Here are four passages to study with the women in your church.
1. “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed” (1 Cor. 12:1).
Misunderstanding spiritual gifts is not a new trend. Paul dedicated much of his first letter to the Corinthians to this topic, and here he says it plainly: when it comes to spiritual gifts, we need the church to be well-informed.
As you consider the scope of discipleship in your own area of influence, is this a topic you visit regularly?
2. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (1 Cor. 12:4–6).
In my own church, I make a habit of looking women in the eye and asking them, “What is your spiritual gift?” More often than not, feet shuffle and eyes drop to the floor. Women don’t know how to answer or worry that sharing their spiritual gift will somehow appear prideful. But the Bible never tells us that our gifts are a secret.
Let’s think of it a different way. Imagine it’s the day after Christmas and you asked a woman you know about the gifts she received. Would she feel embarrassed to tell you? Would it be an indicator of pride? No! Whatever she unwrapped on Christmas morning was a gift, given to her by someone who loves her. She didn’t earn those gifts. Such is the nature of gifts.
Spiritual gifts are the same. They are given to us by a loving God for the good of the Church. When we talk about the gifts, we aren’t boasting on ourselves, we are bragging on our unbelievably good God.
Give women permission to talk about their gifts openly with this context in mind.
3. “That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Cor. 12:25–26).
There is another, more devastating reason why women aren’t using their gifts—spiritual envy. Our sinful tendency to compare creeps into the church and gives us paralysis. I’ve seen it look this way often in my own heart:
- A friend is asked to be the speaker at a women's event. She hits it out of the park, and there's a huge response.
- Someone gets a deal to write a Bible study with a big-time publisher.
- A family moves to the foreign mission field and are part of a mighty move of God.
- A sister is a gifted prayer warrior. When she prays, things happen.
- God clearly intervenes in someone's marriage, or with their child, or with their health while we continue to pray for Him to do the same in our life.
We know these are good things—kingdom-building things—and yet, somewhere deep down we often feel something other than excitement, joy, and the need to celebrate. We feel something a lot like envy.
Pride often rears its ugly head in my life when God is clearly using and working in the lives of others. I know better, and yet . . . I still feel a little jealous when God's hand rests on someone else's shoulders. It’s far too easy to play the comparison game with gifts.
What flips the switch for me is the reminder that we are members of one Body. Just like my physical body, when my left eye is working well, the rest of me is better off. When my hand cramps and loses function, the rest of me struggles.
So it is with the Church. My gifts belong to you. Your gifts belong to me. Instead of being jealous of each other or comparing each other’s gifts, God’s Word reminds us to champion each other for the collective health of Christ’s Bride.
4. “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Rom. 12:6).
We need to do more than just talk about spiritual gifts, we need to get busy using them. Truly, the harvest is ready and the workers are few (Matt. 9:35–38).
It’s all hands on deck, Church!
Every believer is needed. Every gift is valuable. Every act of service counts toward the goal of building God’s kingdom.
We have gifts, let’s help other women get busy using them!
Let’s Start the Wave
My favorite moment in every baseball game is when the fans do “the wave.” (What can I say, I’m in it for the crowd watching). One section stands, hands in the air, which inspires the section beside them to do the same. The trend continues until “the wave” has circled the stadium and everyone cheers.
I’m asking you, women’s ministry leaders, to stand and wave with me. Let’s look women in the eye and challenge them to know and use their spiritual gifts. Let’s cheer loudly when women use their gifts for the good of the Church. Let’s nudge those who are reluctant to celebrate their own gifts to do so anyway, giving God every ounce of glory as the gift-giver.
It starts with us.