Spiritual Gifts Inventories

Numerous personality tests having to do with types, temperaments, traits, interests, values, and attitudes are being used and trusted. Some tests are quick and casual; others are complex and detailed. Some are interest inventories designed to assist in career choices and employment. Others are designed for self-knowledge. Because of the trust placed in these tests and inventories, Christians have developed tests to measure spiritual gifts as well.

Just as the church emulates the world in using and promoting psychological counseling theories and therapies, it emulates the world in the area of psychological testing. Especially popular among Christians are spiritual gift inventories and tests. These are often used by church leaders who are trying to inspire Christians to serve and by those Christians who desire to serve the Lord. These various spiritual gift tests (combinations of interest and personality inventories) purport to reveal a Christianís particular spiritual gifts.

The idea behind the inventories is the same as behind career testsópersonality traits and types match certain activities and preferences. Line up the traits, preferences, and activities and you end up with a possible career choice. Such tests reduce spiritual gifts and service in the Body of Christ to career interest inventories and a job in the marketplace.

Since those who create and promote such tests are copying the business world, they at least ought to follow the academic guidelines for validation. In none of these inventories have we seen anything resembling the minimum requirements needed for a statistically valid instrument. People are looking to an unproven, extrabiblical instrument to determine Godís will and Godís call to service. However, the lack of statistical validity is not the most serious problem with using spiritual gifts inventories.

In essence such inventories deny Paulís declaration that he was "made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power" (Ephesians 3:7). Was he made a minister "according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power" or by his natural personality traits and personal interests?

If people are following career-choice types of inventories to learn how to fit into the Body of Christ, they may be serving from the wrong power base (personality "strengths") and their own self-interests, rather than from the "effectual working" of Godís power and from obedience to His will and plan.

While God may indeed use a personís natural talents for His service, He is not limited to that. Nor is He limited to using His children according to any pagan temperament type. He is sovereign and may sanctify natural talents into spiritual gifts. He may also curb the use of natural talents to prevent pride from swallowing the soul. He may also endue people with power that goes far beyond their natural abilities and inclinations. While people like to think that God used Paul because of his natural talents, Paul counted all that he was and had according to the flesh as "dung." He knew the power of the resurrection of Christ indwelling him for service.

How did the Church throughout the ages, from its inception, ever function without these inventories? Very well! Spiritual gifts were recognized and exercised totally without the help of the modern-day testing movement and the penchant to worship numbers. The gifts are spiritual, not mathematical! They cannot be identified by psychological instruments except in the most superficial and erroneous way.

We recommend against the use of all such tests and inventories that purport to identify spiritual gifts. While the Bible does not speak to the issue of such tests, it does warn us about following "philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Colossians 2:8). Rather than using the ways of the world to identify spiritual gifts and callings, the New Testament believers resorted to prayer and guidance by the Holy Spirit.

Pastors have told us that spiritual gift inventories are useful to get their people to serve. They use the devices to motivate people to become involved. However, to use an instrument that purports to identify spiritual gifts when there is a high probability for error, since there has been no validation of results, is unwise and misleading.

Truth is too important an issue in the Body of Christ. Furthermore, what happens when an inventory gives someone the idea that he can (yea, should!) serve in a particular way that would be detrimental to the Body of Christ? What if the person is aggressive and demands to hold a particular position based upon his test performance? Getting a high score on any gift is no reason for a person to be placed in a particular ministry, since there is no proven validity to the results.

Spiritual gifts inventories may lead people not only to serve in the flesh, but also to depend upon their natural "strengths" rather than on the Lord in the process of serving Him. There is also the danger of focusing on self and selfís gifts rather than on the Lord who is the Giver of gifts. For both biblical and academic reasons, we strongly recommend against the use of all such spiritual gifts inventories.

[Excerpted and adapted from Four Temperaments, Astrology & Personality Testing. See book.]

(PAL V8N4 * July-August 2000)

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