March 19, 2024

Spiritual Gifts, Discernment and an Empowered Parish Life

In the Summer of 1995, I ordered two books that changed how I experience ministry in the parishes, vestries and groups I have worked with. The two books were: Listening Hearts by Suzanne Farnham et al and Rediscovering Our Spiritual Gifts by Charles V. Bryant. I had been well trained in Organizational Development for churches but all too often the presence and power of the Holy Spirit was at best an afterthought, but never a starting place.

I have learned the better part of wisdom is to start with the Holy Spirit, home to both spiritual giftedness and discernment. I use these two practices together to understand spiritual DNA, in the same way people are born with blue or brown eyes, people are born with spiritual gifts such as healing or leadership.

In discernment great lists describing the basic signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit can be found in either Listening Hearts or Grounded in God, both by Suzanne Farnham and the Listening Hearts Community as well as basic discernment listening practices. Knowing the signs of the Holy Spirit in spiritual gift work helps us know whether we are on the right track; acting inside God’s desire for us, or not. If energy, ease, inspiration, and joy are present, you are probably heading in the right direction!

Finding out how God has gifted a person, discerning their spiritual DNA, developing those gifts in community, the body of Christ, builds our capacity to see God loving us and empowering our work now. It is a primary road in seeing the Kingdom unfold and knowing God’s desire for our lives and ministry to others. The personal, in-body experience of discernment and using the spiritual gifts demystifies how one can know and experience God. The two practices affirm that God communicates with us working within and through our gifts. We know God first-hand being active in our own lives and ministry.

I experimented with various Spiritual Gift Inventories from different Christian traditions. Unsatisfied, I and the Rev. Dawn Davis, author of Revive: Equipping Lay Leaders to be Spiritual Leaders, developed an inventory with Episcopal sensibilities. I have used the Spiritual Gift inventory in conjunction with many kinds of spiritual formation opportunities such as Holy Currencies, Asset Based Church Development, capital campaigns, youth formation, stewardship programs, adult confirmation/reception, vestry development, and long-range planning to name a few.

I particularly use discernment prayer and understanding spiritual giftedness in search processes. It shifts the search committee and Vestry away from thinking about “a hire” and into searching and desiring the call of God for everyone in ministry partnership. Desiring the call of God for each and all is at the core of a full life in Christ. Discernment and spiritual giftedness helps us each find our spiritual DNA and the life that God made us for.

To find out more about how God has gifted you, go here: