Toward An Ecclesiocentric Model of Spiritual Gift Identification
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Gifts, Spiritual--Biblical teaching
This dissertation seeks to answer the question: "Is the use of a spiritual gift identification instrument the best way for people to find their place of joyful service within the church?" Chapter 1 provides a history of the Church Growth Movement (CGM) through 1972 as an important backdrop for the development of spiritual gift identification instruments, the first of which was the SGI-McMinn. One of the key factors in the early popularizing of the SGI-McMinn was the CGM's emphasis on every member serving in the church by using his or her spiritual gift. The early 1970s saw a marked increase in the interest of spiritual gifts and their identification that was largely due to the influence of the CGM. This emphasis led to the popularization of the SGI-McMinn, which had been in development since the mid 1960s. The popularization of the SGI-McMinn led to the problematic issue of whether the instrument was based on solid theological and methodological ground. Chapter 2 provides a thorough examination of the historical development of the SGI-McMinn. This chapter includes an assessment of the relationship between the CGM's emphasis on spiritual gift utilization and the development of a tool for spiritual gift identification. This chapter examines the development of spiritual gift identification instruments beginning with the SGI-McMinn (1972), moving to the SGI-L (1984), the SGI-WHMQ (1979), and SGI-Gilbert (1986). Chapter 3 demonstrates that spiritual gift identification instruments are dependent upon defining spiritual gifts as abilities that may be accurately self-reported. Further, the design of spiritual gift identification instruments is inherently influenced by the biblical and theological bias of those designing them. Two popular spiritual gift identification instruments will be compared to demonstrate this dependence: the SGI-WHMQ and the SGI-Gilbert. Biblical bias is demonstrated as some spiritual gift identification instruments hold firmly to a set, unchanging number of gifts tested for, while other instruments are modified significantly over time. This biblical bias is problematic as it lends to creating confusion over the number and identity of spiritual gifts. Theological bias is demonstrated by the tendency of such instruments to focus on the individual rather than the New Testament purpose for gifts as a blessing to the local church. An excursus on the problem of self-assessment concludes the chapter. Chapter 4 brings together a number of empirical analyses of spiritual gift identification instrument construct, validity, and reliability. Regardless of the supposed biblical or theological basis for utilizing spiritual gift identification instruments, the research into the construct of the instruments themselves is vital to determining their usefulness in the church. The empirical analyses demonstrate that the methodology inherent in the development of spiritual gift identification instruments is not demonstrably valid or reliable to reveal individual spiritual gifts, but is reliable for revealing broad gift categories. Chapter 5 presents an alternative approach to spiritual gift identification in which spiritual gift discovery and service is rooted in the life of the church. The chapter begins with a quick review of the inherent tendency of spiritual gift identification instruments to place the focus on the individual will be undertaken. Following that, the biblical basis for an ecclesiocentric model for spiritual gift identification is presented. A key component of that model is addressed next, namely, that spiritual gifts are best defined as ministries in and for the church. Finally, the role of the church and church leadership in particular to spiritual gift discovery is examined, including a five-step strategy to implement an ecclesiocentric model of spiritual gift identification. Chapter 6 concludes the dissertation with final thoughts on spiritual gift discovery and how further study of spiritual gift identification might be pursued.