Joseph Kidder, DMin, is professor of Christian ministry and discipleship at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, MI, USA.

David Penno is associate professor of Christian Ministry, at the Seventh-day Adventist Theology Seminary at Andrews University

When we think of biblical spirituality, we often limit ourselves to the spiritual practices such as prayer, devotions, fasting, worship, etc. These are certainly all vital components of our spiritual life. But less often do we consider ministry for others as part of our own walk with Jesus. Sometimes we see ministry as an optional part of spirituality, often left to those we perceive as “really spiritual.” But the Word of God indicates that a very important part of our walk with Jesus is our service to His body, the church, and to the lost sheep outside the church.

In the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14–30) Jesus says that God expects us to use our spiritual gifts in service of others. We are not to bury our gifts, depriving others of the service we are called to render. The master calls the servant who buried his talent “wicked” and “lazy” (v. 26). His talent is taken away and given to others (v. 28). And verse 30 indicates there are serious consequences for those who do not minister to others. The “worthless” servant is cast into “the outer darkness.” So Jesus takes seriously this issue of ministry; it is not something optional, reserved for the “most gifted” among us.

Ellen G. White tells us there is a strong link between our spiritual life and our service to others. She says that when we do not actively use our spiritual gifts in loving work for others, our intimate relationship with Jesus is weakened, and our devotional experience becomes dry.

God does not mean that any of us should become hermits or monks and retire from the world in order to devote ourselves to acts of worship. The life must be like Christ’s life—between the mountain and the multitude. He who does nothing but pray will soon cease to pray, or his prayers will become a formal routine. When men take themselves out of social life, away from the sphere of Christian duty and cross bearing; when they cease to work earnestly for the Master, who worked earnestly for them, they lose the subject matter of prayer and have no incentive to devotion. Their prayers become personal and selfish. They cannot pray in regard to the wants of humanity or the upbuilding of Christ’s kingdom, pleading for strength wherewith to work.1

There seems to be a synergetic relationship between spiritual practices generally experienced in solitude, and the more public, active work for others using spiritual gifts. A healthy balance between these two types of spiritual activities prevents the believer from becoming self-centered and focused only on personal needs or desires. Addressing the needs of others is part of the spiritual journey that allows the spirit of Jesus to be reflected in the life of the disciple.


Paul indicates that as members of the body of Christ, we are all connected together in a web of life and growth (1 Cor 12:12). The Holy Spirit gives every believer spiritual gifts so that the followers of Christ might be equipped to be a blessing in service to others. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (v. 7). So the work of ministry is not dependent on the disciple’s abilities. Rather, effective service comes from the divine power and enabling of the Holy Spirit. This dependence on God is part of biblical spirituality.

In Romans 12, Paul states that our focus on ministry is defined by our gifts.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully (vv. 6–8).

This could be called the “nominating committee” passage. Paul is saying that our spiritual gifts determine the position or role we have in the church. When a member’s gifts are known, it is rather simple to decide where he or she should be serving. One’s position or office in the church should be based on their gifting and passion, not their popularity or wealth.

But as well as using spiritual gifts, the disciple of Jesus should grow in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22– 24). The fruit of the Spirit has to do with character: how we behave toward others, and what kind of attitude we have toward them. Our spirituality is kept alive by the combination of a Christ-like character (fruit) and loving service to other people (gifts).


Every pastor has heard members say, “I don’t know what my spiritual gifts are” or “I don’t think I have any spiritual gifts.” But we believe that spiritual gifts are bestowed by God at the believer’s conversion. Just as the Spirit alighted on Jesus when He came up out of the Jordan, we believe the Spirit descends on the newly baptized and empowers them with gifts for ministry. Our role as leaders is to help them discover and use their gifts.

We developed and used in our churches the following process of gift discovery and mentoring to empower members to minister effectively:

  1. Pray, asking the same Holy Spirit who gave you your gifts to reveal to you what they are.
  2. Study what the Bible and Ellen G. White say about spiritual gifts, or read a book on the topic.
  3. Take a spiritual gifts inventory, preferably under the guidance of someone knowledgeable about the process.
  4. Determine if you have a sense of calling to a particular area of ministry or service. Is there a growing passion in your heart for a particular group of people, or for a certain type of spiritual work?
  5. Ask friends who know you well if they see evidence of the potential gifts you identified so far.
  6. Counsel with your pastor and church leaders to identify a particular area of ministry to try for a short period of time—maybe two or three months. It is best if you have a ministry leader who can mentor and guide you.
  7. Evaluate your effectiveness in this area of ministry.
    a. Self-evaluation: Do you feel a sense of fulfillment? Is there tangible spiritual fruit to your labor?
    b. Evaluation from others: How do your ministry leader and partners feel? Do they see God working through you to the blessing of others? Depending on the type of ministry, a part or the entire church may be able to give you honest feedback, to either affirm your gifting or guide you in a different direction.
  8. Continue in this area of ministry if the feedback indicates the Lord is working, and if there is evidence of the gift via good fruit. If there is strong evidence that you are not gifted in this area, then review the previous steps in the process and try a different area of service. Sometimes the feedback will indicate where your gifting might actually be.
  9. Repeat these steps until you find your place in spiritual ministry.


We have observed that members who went through the process reported they spent more time in prayer and devotions, and were more committed to attend church and give faithfully in tithes and offerings. This demonstrates the vital relationship between personal spiritual practices and gift-based service to others.

When this process was applied, the number of members involved in ministry and witnessing increased dramatically—from thirty to fifty percent in one congregation. And the level of satisfaction in ministry also grew significantly. We saw members get involved in ministries such as Bible studies, community services, children’s ministry, evangelism, and more.

A wonderful example of newly discovered spiritual gifts helped develop a prayer ministry in one of our churches: Four or five people in the congregation found they had gifts of intercessory prayer, and other members confirmed the presence of their gifts. They formed a prayer team, and soon every activity and ministry in the church was bathed in prayer. We had weekends of fasting and prayer, spontaneous prayer at church, home, and work, and formed pray chains. We began to sense and experience God’s presence in our lives. Soon powerful testimonies of answered prayer and miracles in members’ lives were a weekly witness to what God was doing through these gifted believers.


You and your congregation can experience similar growth and energy by following God’s plan to develop biblical spirituality. With a balanced approach of nurturing the fruit of the Spirit in each member’s life through spiritual practices, and discovering their gifts and deploying them in active ministry, healthy disciples and healthy churches will be a reality.

God’s church is the court of holy life, filled with varied gifts, and endowed with the Holy Spirit. The members are to find their happiness in the happiness of those whom they help and bless. Wonderful is the work which the Lord designs to accomplish through His church, that His name may be glorified.2

Will you answer the call to be what Christ has designed you to be—a coworker with Him, to bring joy and happiness to others, as you grow in grace, reflecting His image to the world?

1 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ. 101.
2 Ellen G. White, Christian Service. 14.

Joseph Kidder is professor of Christian Ministry and Discipleship, and David Penno is associate professor of Christian Ministry, at the Seventh-day Adventist Theology Seminary at Andrews University

Joseph Kidder, DMin, is professor of Christian ministry and discipleship at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, MI, USA.

David Penno is associate professor of Christian Ministry, at the Seventh-day Adventist Theology Seminary at Andrews University