From Ability to Spiritual Gift
John Telgren


I recently read about a man who discovered that when you are truly set apart for God's purposes, he transforms your abilities and talents into ministries. In 1981, George Ewing was working as a food engineer with General Mills. When he considered how plentiful food was in America to the point that there could be food engineers, and then considered how people in other parts of the world were starving, it troubled him.

Then he had an idea. He and his fellow engineers in the food industry and might be able to come up with ideas to combat hunger in the world. Ewing, along with nine other General Mills scientists, engineers, and executives, all of whom were Christians, organized a nonprofit called Compatible Technology to research and develop foods and equipment for use in Third World countries and be compatible with the slim resources and know how of the people in those countries. Since then, many people in these countries have benefited from the creativity of Compatible Technology.

According to Ewing, the group's motivation came from Jesus himself. He relates how they understood Jesus' instruction to care for the poor as a loaded command for those who work in the food industry. They had skills, talents, and abilities that they had been using to benefit a company and their own careers, but they hadn't done anything about the hungry. However, after they began to put their abilities and talents together, their abilities were transformed into spiritual gifts, or ministries.

It is interesting to note that the Bible uses the terms, "gifts," "ministries," and "activities/operations" interchangeably (1 Cor 12:6). Other passages uses terms such as "function," (Rom 12:4), or simply a "work of service" (Eph 4:12). The metaphor for the people of God with their varieties of ministries in these passages is the body of Christ. These passages remind us that each individual in the body is important. Every part of the body has an important function. The lists of functions given in these passages are obviously representative, not exhaustive lists. This is likely why the lists do not all match. There are abilities and skills not on these lists that can be useful in fulfilling God's purposes.

All of this means that you may have abilities and skills not listed in these passages that could be a gift or ministry to serve with. What makes a particular ability a ministry is when it is set apart, dedicated, and sanctified to the Lord. When we devote ourselves and our work to the Lord, we become, "...a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work" (2 Tim 2:21). This means all of our talents, abilities, skills, and resources are transformed and dedicated to God and become spiritual gifts, or ministries. Perhaps this is why Paul refers to them as a "manifestation of the Spirit" (1 Cor 12:7).

Think of all the potential gifts or ministries we have. It could include encouragement, writing cards, cleaning, cooking, organizing, hospitality, fixing things, art, writing, building, technology, talking to strangers, teaching, leadership, and the list goes on and on.