When Christians talk about spiritual gifts, often we imagine holy superpowers. We teach they’re for serving but silently believe they make us more than human. We jockey for the gifts that we think will position us above one another in influence and significance. With fingers crossed, we hope we’ll receive something amazing.

This thinking is entirely opposite of how Scripture speaks about spiritual gifts. Holy superpower thinking leads us to elevate certain ones — pastoring and leadership — while degrading others — administration and serving. Some are so challenging to wrap our minds around that we teach God isn’t using them anymore — like miracles and speaking in tongues.

But the spiritual gifts are so much more than mere superhuman abilities. Truth is, they aren’t superhuman at all. They’re puzzle pieces of what redeemed humanity looks like and their purpose is more than what we imagine.

There are three places in Scripture we go to when thinking about spiritual gifts: Romans 12:4-8, Ephesians 4:7-8, 11-16, 1 Corinthians 12-14. In every case, the Apostle Paul isn’t introducing the original audience to new information, he’s refining the understanding of the purpose and function of a Holy Spirit work they were already living. They had been given and were operating in gifts, and Paul wants to mature their application.

Present in every teaching is the foundational element of unity. The early believers weren’t given spiritual abilities to make them feel powerful. They were given individual functions within the one ministry of making disciples — cultivating a holy family of “be-ers” in Christ … not just “do-ers” for Christ. These gifts equip us to carry out Jesus’ continued redemptive ministry on earth, but their primary function is to build up the body of Christ.

The latter statement shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. In John 17, Jesus prays all disciples will come to faith in him through the apostles’ work. He could have asked the Father for anything at that moment, but he didn’t. He specifically prayed we would be one and proceeded to hinge our effective witness on that unity.

He prayed, “I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me” (John 17:23). Jesus hangs our witness of the Father’s love and his life squarely on our being unified through the indwelling, communal love of the Triune God. That’s where the deeper purpose of spiritual gifts is revealed.

The church has been given access to limitless power. In the Holy Spirit’s infinite wisdom, that power has been individually tapered, requiring our unity to look like Jesus to the world. No one person can fulfill the ministry of Christ alone. We need each other.

While all of 1 Corinthians declares this truth implicitly, Paul gets after it directly in chapters 12-14. From the Spirit, different gifts are given to continue Jesus’ one earthly ministry. He uses the analogy of Christians being the body of Christ. Like the individual human body parts need the others to fully function, Christians depend on the Spirit and one another to be the body of Christ. It’s Spirit-led unity that makes Jesus known to a desperate world and points directly to the Father’s love.

There’s much to be said about these gifts but in brief, let’s break them down into four gift groups.

Heart: Pastoring, prophecy, evangelism, apostleship, teaching.

These gifts are designed to develop, equip and multiply the church. Functionally, they prepare the church for the work of ministry.

Hands: Administration, giving, serving, mercy, exhortation.

There’s a temptation to miss the anointing in these gifts; but we must actively affirm God is in them. These spiritual gifts ensure that all other roles in the body of Christ are operating orderly: allowing all the others to function well.

Mind: Leadership, discerning of spirits, wisdom, knowledge.

Jesus is the head of the body, but these gifts highlight what Jesus knows about people, spirits, nature, order, and common and uncommon sense. Mind gifts tend to be more prone to deep cerebral processing and execution but that doesn’t mean they’re absent of emotion, physical engagement or Holy Spirit guidance. They highlight God’s creative genius in designing the mind to process deeply and execute masterfully.

Soul: Speaking/interpretation of tongues, miracles, healing, faith.[1]

The soul gifts often feel mysterious. We can see patterns in them but like the human soul, we can’t pretend to know exactly how they work. Their primary role is to create awe in us about God. They strengthen our trust, challenge disbelief and encourage us to ascribe the appropriate bigness to the God of the universe. Without them, we may fall prey to the deception that we can fit God into the constraints of our imagination.

There’s much more to be said about these gifts but consider these offered descriptions a primer for further prayer and processing.

We need all spiritual gifts for Christ to be dynamically revealed in the church. We want revival and to effectively make disciples but that won’t happen unless we minister together, love unconditionally and trust one another to fulfill our interdependent functions of the body of Christ as we live into our spiritual giftings. When we do, the fullness of the Spirit’s power will be evident, the world will know we’re Jesus’ disciples and we’ll bear witness to the Father’s love.

Chase Rashad is lead pastor of Unison Christian Church, regional board member for the Great Lakes Region and General Board member of The Wesleyan Church.


Questions for reflection and conversation

  • The early Christians were not given spiritual gifts to make them powerful. They were given their individual gifts to be used in the ministry of making disciples. We too have received spiritual gifts for the equipping of believers to carry out Jesus’ redemptive mission. How do you use your spiritual abilities to build up the body of Christ in your daily life?
  • Spiritual gifts are meant to be used in unity with one another as believers. Looking at your own church setting, how do you see those gifts being used together to strengthen the reach of the ministry?
  • No single person can fulfill the ministry of Christ alone. Considering your own personal gifting, how do you need to incorporate your gifts within the church body to maximize your impact for Christ?
  • Assess the spiritual gifting represented in your church. Is your church particularly strong in some areas or even overlooking some of the more mysterious gifts? What are some ways your church can embrace and appreciate all of the gifts of the Spirit?


All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

[1] “The Wesleyan Church believes in the miraculous use of languages and the interpretation of languages in its biblical and historical setting.” See “The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church 2022,” paragraph 265:10 for full reference.