Resource Sheet 6 - Special Ministry Gifts:
The power of the Spirit
When we are called by the Lord into an area of ministry, then he gifts us in special ways to enable us to fulfil that ministry. We've seen during this course that there are many spiritual gifts. Paul writes about some of them. They are available to all believers as needed. Now, however, I wish to speak about special gifts, abilities and personal characteristics that the Lord draws out of a person, which are fairly unique to that person.
What is it about someone that causes people with a particular problem to go to them for help? Part of the answer is what I call special ministry gifts. There is no complete list of these. The Lord is not bound by tradition, convention or law when he creates them in someone. I will mention a few I have encountered in my journey of healing. You, no doubt, could add others to the list once you know what to look for.
1. Unusual Uses of the Gift of Tongues
This gift first came to my notice about 20 years ago, and since then I have discovered numerous ways the Lord uses it which are not explicitly explained in the Bible. This sometimes creates a problem for people who hold to a legalistic view of speaking in tongues, but how can you be legalistic when discussing a gift from the Holy Spirit - the Wind (Ruarch) of God who blows where he wills?
What are some of the main characteristics of a spiritual language that make it useful in ministry?
- It can't be understood by the human mind, meaning that the mind cannot intercept what is being said, interpret it and, as so often happens, disbelieve, block or distort the message.
- It can be received by the human spirit. This means that the Holy Spirit, through the agency of the person speaking in spiritual language, can feed into the spirit of a person truth they need to hear. This happens even if the person is asleep or in a coma, or if the person's mind would normally interfere.
Paul speaks of the gift of tongues in two contexts:
- In public, where tongues and interpretation of tongues are used in the congregation as a rough equivalent to prophecy; that is, speaking God's truth directly into the lives of individuals or groups without reasoning it through, or using previous knowledge, or attempting to persuade by intellectual means.
- In private, where it is for the spiritual edification of the person speaking. He gives little information about what this means, but it clearly involves the person being brought by the Holy Spirit into the Father's presence to be told things about themselves and their relationship with him, that they can only receive in their spirit without interference from their mind.
Can you see that apart from how many people are involved there is little difference between these two? What God appears to be doing today is combining these two together so that one person can minister to another in the Spirit. Paul does not speak of this, but in his context where everyone expected to have the gift of tongues, he had no reason to. Neither does he forbid it, he just shares about what has been his own experience. Today, with our many hang ups and fears about tongues, God is enabling one with the free use of this gift to use it to assist in the edification of one who is not so free.
Many of you will have experienced Diana or myself or someone else praying into a person's spirit using spiritual language; sometimes with interpretation, sometimes without. This is simply the Holy Spirit speaking directly into the person's spirit, telling them things that their mind's interpretation of life experiences have made it hard for them to hear. This is prophecy directly to the person, similar to a prophet speaking into their life. Interpretation takes place, but it may only be in the person's spirit, in a form they can receive only in their spirit. The test is not what their mind hears but how their whole being responds to what God says.
Also, praying in tongues while ministering edifies the spirit of the person praying, so they move more freely in gifts such as discernment. They are then able to feel or hear things which the one being ministered to might not. For example, they may feel grief which the person is not yet in touch with. In this sense, also, interpretation is occurring. They pray and the Holy Spirit reveals what needs to be known.
This can also help to explain those occasions when public tongues might result in an 'interpretation' which for some reason does not 'fit' the tongue. The person praying in tongues causes a rise in the faith (edification) of themselves or someone else who then prophesies a message from God. One results in the other but it is not an interpretation.
At other times you may have experienced the use of tongues to discern the presence, location and nature of an evil spirit in or on a person being ministered to. I first encountered this when assisting Alison Hocking in ministry to a man with deep problems. She moved her hands around his body and spoke in tongues. When an evil spirit was encountered her language changed into one completely different, with a harsh, commanding tone. The evil spirit reacted to the presence of the Holy Spirit and was exposed. Then it could be commanded to leave. This is part of the gift of discernment of spirits.
I was thrown into the deep end of deliverance by having to minister to a big, muscle-bound, ex-drug addict hotel bouncer, with a team of inexperienced ladies for support. He knew he was demonised, and wanted to be free, but I could get no response from the demons. They refused to recognise what little authority I thought I had. So, remembering something Charles Kraft had told me, I resorted to praying in tongues. The reaction was immediate - his huge arm and shoulder muscles began to tense and bunch up, so much so that I was afraid he would hurt himself or someone else - perhaps me! So I simply forbade the demons to do him or anyone else any harm, and straight away he relaxed, and so did we! The demons still would not talk to me, but the man could hear them speaking in his mind and told me that they had disagreed with everything I had said in tongues. Neither of us knew what I was praying, but the demons did and feared and hated it. We then commanded the exposed demons out. Leanne Payne lists a number of things that make demons afraid, such as the Name of Jesus, Bibles, crucifixes, and holy water, as does Charles Kraft. We can add tongues to the list. Why do you think Satan has tried to bring this gift into such disrepute by going to all the trouble of creating counterfeits and stirring up fear and controversy about it among Christians?
Another thing we learned from Alison was the power of singing in tongues to a disturbed person. Numerous times as Alison has sung a beautiful spiritual lullaby to someone, I have watched them relax into the Father's presence and even fall sound asleep. Diana could tell you what happened to her in this way. I have also heard Alison sing a spiritual war song which knocked 2000 people into stunned silence in the middle of a noisy worship session at the Proclaim Conference in 1993. This followed directly on from a prophecy the Lord gave me several days before about him giving her a song from him to sing. At the time I gave Alison this word neither of us had any idea what would result from it. Sometimes the Lord interprets what is sung. A related gift to this one is the ability to say or write what the Lord is saying in rhyming verse, something Diana once had an example of.
2. Drawing Pictures
Something we learned from Sandra Rule of Sonrise Family Ministries was that when ministering to children it is good for the intercessors to draw what the Lord shows us for them. Children respond to and understand things visually rather than through written words. Pictures are as much a language as writing. Be encouraged, even when praying for an adult, to draw what God shows you.
Alison's husband Ian thought he had no spectacular spiritual gifts, but when interceding in ministry he would draw. He discovered that the Lord spoke very powerfully through his pictures, and I am sure Ian has now accepted that this is one of God's special ministry gifts for him. I have a picture drawn by Ian while Alison ministered to me about my Scottish heritage. Ian was not present and heard nothing of our talk and prayer about warriors and Braveheart, violence and betrayal. Nor did he hear what the Lord said about my special relationship with him and about the sword I carry. But looking at the drawing of myself in armour and kneeling in front of Jesus while he dubbed me with his sword, I was convinced that this was a word from the Holy Spirit, through Ian to me!
3. Burden Bearing
In Galatians 6:2 we are told to bear one another's burdens. Then in Galatians 6:5 we are told that each one should bear their own load. What does this mean? The Sandfords describe burden bearing this way: "Burden bearing is predicated upon the capacity of our spirit to identify with another, to empathize, to share and shoulder emotional loads. In the same way that two physically can carry a log which one alone cannot lift, burden bearing takes one end of a load, and so enables a brother to survive and function. Whereas two must be in proximity to lift something physically, burden bearing requires no spatial nearness. We can feel, identify, share and pray about another's burdens at whatever distance we may happen to be." (Healing the Wounded Spirit, p 395)
Paul says, "[We are] always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you." (2 Corinthians 4:10-12)
I could say much about how burden bearing works, the nature of a person who becomes a burden bearer, and the difficulties burden bearers can get into. However, this is a big topic, and will form the basis of a future seminar. Instead I will make just a few comments from my own experience as a burden bearer.
I believe burden bearers are generally born, not made. I have encountered many people with this gift, and they all had it since birth. Mostly they did not know they had it, but once its nature was pointed out to them it became obvious. Usually they come for ministry and begin to describe their problem, then I say to them, "And does this ... happen, and this ...?" They say, "Yes, how did you know?"
Like prophets and intercessors (who are often also burden bearers), God makes burden bearers as a gift to the world and the church. He calls them from birth, and has already equipped them for it. They are able to sense what is happening in other people; feel what they are feeling; almost read their minds sometimes! This is a natural psychic ability, given by God. All people have it to some degree, but it is often undeveloped. Some people who think they are burden bearers are not. Again, like the office of prophet, it is not to be desired just because it sounds like a nice thing to be. It is too costly. Does anyone willingly choose to feel the anguish in the Spirit of Father God when one of his dear ones dies? In a natural burden bearer this gift generally causes them difficulty, because they do not understand where all the bad stuff they receive from others comes from, nor do they know how to get rid of it! Mark Sandford describes it as being a lightning rod, walking around getting zapped by other people's emotions.
Jesus is the true burden bearer. His own body bore the sin of the world, and carried it to death. No other human can do this, but some do try. There is a place for picking up part of someone else's load when they can't to carry it alone, but there comes a time to put it down again. If we don't it will damage us.
I used to go into the city to shop or work, and come home feeling thoroughly ill. I was like that lightning rod, being zapped by the emotional pain of everyone I came near. As well as this I would often know when someone was about to say or do something which would cause someone else pain, but I was powerless to do anything about it. I would see it coming and only be able to stand and watch. When, after many years as a Christian I finally had my spiritual eyes opened and became able to communicate with the Lord and see the world in the way he does, the Lord challenged me about my burden bearing. He showed me that I was doing it using my own psychic ability, and that I would have to renounce it. I knew that if I did I would also lose my spiritual vision. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, but I had no choice. And for quite some time I was blind again.
Jesus, in his grace, has redeemed that gift, and given it back to me in a form which no longer damages me. I only receive heavy things when I need to. I can't do it whenever I want to, but only when he wants me to. And now I can always unload the burden back onto him, though I sometimes forget to do so, and suffer. Burden bearers deserve and need to be nurtured and protected by the rest of the church. When you recognise this possibility in someone who is hurting, please point them towards someone who understands what is happening to them.
There is an opposite to the burden bearer. This might be called the 'leech' or someone with a 'vampiric spirit'. This is someone who, as the Sandfords say, "does not pay the price of prayer to sustain his own life, and perhaps fails to maintain emotional or mental hygiene and discipline as well, who therefore sustains himself by drawing on the strength of others." Beware of leeches in ministry.
Intercessory burden bearing is a deliberate choice to help someone else carry their cross. Realise that Jesus did accomplish all on the cross. Redemption is a finished work. However, in God's wisdom, he intends to complete that work of redemptive suffering through the Body of Christ. This is another of those 'now and not yet' things of the Kingdom. In this way we can understand with Paul (Colossians 1:24, etc.) that it is Christ's suffering we carry with us in burden bearing.
4. A Father Heart
For the Hebrews, a mother is a provider of nurture, while a father is the source or origin of the person, and God the Father is the source of a people. This idea of source has tended to be lost today. In particular, we have forgotten that just as God is the source of Adam's human spirit, so too is our earthly father in some way the source or generator or mediator of a child's spirit.
When we read passages like Luke 1:35; 3:21-22; 23:46 and Acts 13:33, we see that Luke had a clear understanding that Jesus' first life and spirit, his new spirit, and his second life, all had their source and destination in God the Father. And so it is with us. The Lord breathed his Spirit into Adam and he became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). Then, in Ezekiel 36:26-27 God says, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you." If we go on to read the story of Elijah and Elisha, we will see, in 1 Kings 19:19-21 and 2 Kings 2:9-15 that we may also receive spirit from our earthly father.
A major role of a father is to tell a child who he or she is and to draw the child into life as a unique person. When a child ceases to be part of the mother, in the womb, the father should be the first person the child encounters who is separate from itself, and begins to learn what it is to be an individual. The father should affirm the child and encourage its individuality, to take risks and explore the world from the safety of its father's protection. And so the child's spirit is drawn into life and grows until the child can fend for itself. For the child, father represents God. And the father is to introduce the child to what God the Father is like, and eventually introduce them to Father God himself. Unfortunately, for many children this does not happen. Father is either physically or emotionally absent, or even actively abusive.
There are many times in ministry when what the person needs is fathering. For example, when ministering to a sexually abused woman, the apparent masculine imagery of God as Father can present a real problem. The answer is not to resort to Mother images of God, although these can have their place, and God certainly does have valid feminine aspects. The problem is not what God is like, the problem is what their earthly father or mother were like. Only the Holy Spirit can lead them into the Father's presence, but before they are free to allow this, it can be helpful for someone to be a father to them. If a girl has been sexually abused, then it is good, under the guidance of the Spirit, for a man to representatively say sorry for the men that have injured the child, and to seek forgiveness. Ask for forgiveness on behalf of those men in her life that failed to protect her and so allowed the abuse to happen. Many girls have never before in their lives experienced a man coming to them seeking forgiveness, and they have said so, and welcomed the opportunity to release their pain.
I have taken this role many times, and God gifts some people to minister with his Father heart. Often I will ask a man, especially one who has a daughter of his own, to father the girl, and sometimes I have asked a woman to be a mother. Their role is to sensitively comfort, to reassure, to demonstrate that the hurt one is lovable and loved, is not ugly or a thing of shame but acceptable and beautiful. I find that the Holy Spirit is very good at enabling men and women to do this, even if it is their first time, if they are willing to simply forget their own embarrassment and respond to him as he causes love to flow.
But be careful. Listen to the Lord, and never push ahead any faster than the person is willing and able to go. Do not re-abuse them by being controlling, or by showing that you know exactly what they must do to be healed. If they can't do it you will only reinforce all the bad feelings they have about themselves and the people that have dominated their lives and crushed their spirits. It takes time, so take the time.
5. Other Prophetic or Apostolic Gifts
There are many other special gifts which parallel the operation of many of the apostles and prophets in the Bible. We won't discuss them here, except to mention the function of releasing others into ministry. This is probably an apostolic gift, just as Paul established leaders in the churches he started, and frequently occurs in prayer ministry. Someone comes for healing and what transpires is that through it all God has been preparing them for a particular ministry, task or calling. One of the tasks God often gives me is to release or call them into this calling, or to encourage them onto the path towards it. It is often into a calling that I have already entered into myself.
Whatever the gift you are given by the Lord, please ensure that at all times, especially while you are learning to use it, that you do not become presumptuous and apply it where it is not being asked for. Sometimes a prophet or apostle will appear to work autonomously, against the prevailing opinions of others, but they pay a huge cost of responsibility for this measure of trust by the Lord. Yes, aspire to prophesy, but anyone who would like to be a prophet should think twice, and then discuss the cost with one who knows.
Whatever your gift(s), always listen first to what the Spirit is saying to you, and like Jesus - only do what the Father is doing.