(In 1986 the Vineyard magazine, First Fruits, published an article by John Wimber entitled RELEASING LAY LEADERS. This is such an important subject for the church, that I have posted most of the original article in four parts. This article on SPIRITUAL GIFTS should have been posted as PART 2. Click here to view PART 1 , PART 3 , or PART 4
THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
The release and practice of spiritual gifts is another important part of equipping everyone to minister. Many Christians believe in spiritual gifts but do not practice them. But if we do not use them, the gifts are of no value. There are several ways in which the church can help everyone minister in the gifts more effectively.
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands”. (2 Timothy 1:6)
The first way is by the laying on of hands for impartation. This is referenced by Paul in 2 Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” If this has happened to you, recognize that the laying on of hands is where the process starts, and a number of years may go by while the gift is developed in you. This time of training is normal. If you are to give to others, you must first receive from God that which you are to give, and sometimes that takes time. Second Timothy 2:6 tells us, “The hard-working farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.”
Paul of Tarsus waited thirteen years after Ananias laid hands on him before he ministered significantly, and that was after receiving several confirmations of his ministry. Some of you have had false starts. Don’t become discouraged and quit. Wait. Get ratification from the leaders in your church of this calling. Walk with the Lord for awhile. Learn to be faithful in little things. You don’t want to go on your own zeal and beget an Ishmael. Wait for Isaac, your ministry of promise.
Second, the church needs to leave room for people to learn to do the works of the Father, a place where people can experiment. A place to succeed and fail. A safe place should be provided within a local church for the believer to learn to prophesy, to heal the sick, to minister in evangelism. The apostles had a safe place with Jesus. First they watched him minister. Then they assisted. Next they ministered while he watched. Finally they ministered on their own. It took time for them to learn.
Part of making room means taking people along with us and showing them, taking them by the hand and saying “You’ve seen me pray for people, now you pray.” If your church is too large to accommodate this type of learning, you probably need to break it down into smaller units for equipping. New Christians need to be trained and cared for “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12b, 13).
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesian 4:11-13
Third, contemporary churches are often built on a present-day corporation-style model of leadership rather than a Spirit-led model. The Spirit-led church chooses its leaders according to gifts, character, and ministries, recognizing the work of the Spirit in the individual’s life. The institutionalized church too often chooses its leaders according to the position they have in the secular community. That’s not entirely wrong, because in the church there are certain kinds of administrative work for which one needs technical skills, but most of the work of ministry needs to be done according to a spiritual model. If I need computer work done, it is not necessary that the worker be proficient at praying for the sick; it is better for the job if he or she had computer training. But if the worker is going to work closely with the rest of the office staff, it is very helpful for him or her not only to be a believer, but to have the same basic philosophy and values as the rest of the church.