by Joyce K. Ellis
Is writing a spiritual gift? This question often surfaces in Christian writing circles.
Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit has given each believer at least one spiritual gift—an ability entrusted to us when we began our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 12:11). God gives us the particular gifts we can use. And he expects us to use these “presents” to bring him glory and expand his kingdom.
The lists of spiritual gifts that Paul and Peter give in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4 may not be exhaustive, but they reveal types of gifts that come from the Holy Spirit. We find general categories—teaching, encouraging, and leading. Not specifics, such as spring-break beach witnessing, singing with a worship team, or even writing.
But we can use each spiritual gift in many ways. Paul wrote, “There are different kinds of gifts…different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (1 Cor. 12:4-6).
So, personally, I don’t believe that writing is one of “the spiritual gifts,” but it is an avenue through which we can express them.
Just as some pastor-teachers use their gift in large congregations, others at racetracks, and others in children’s work, some of us use ours in print.
Other writers use their gifts of encouragement, healing, or evangelism in their writing.
Sometimes a believer uses the same gift in multiple venues. Paul obviously put his pastor-teacher gift to work in preaching and in his writings—all of them originally letters, remember. With his spiritual gift of encouragement, he restored the once-AWOL John Mark to meaningful service—and also wrote to the Philippians, from a prison cell, about joy in difficult circumstances.
Understanding our spiritual gifts may provide direction for our writing, too. If one writer identifies his spiritual gifts as leadership, giving, and mercy, he may write about those topics, avoiding what Charles Swindoll calls “trafficking in unlived truths.” But the Lord may also lead him to write direct-appeal letters for relief organizations. Or perhaps he’ll be drawn to writing profiles about people in need, including sidebars about practical ways to help.
If another writer’s spiritual gifts include teaching and encouragement, she may find her best opportunities in expository articles or practical Christian living articles.
Often, writing frustrations come from working outside our spiritual gifts. Some years ago, I helped a retired pastor with some writing projects. Each time we met he brought short devotionals, and he lamented his quick-turnaround rejections.
A brilliant theologian and preacher, he could have been writing expository articles and books—clarifying deep truths. So I encouraged him to use his spiritual gift of teaching to help his readers go deeper in God’s Word.
Peter reminds us, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).
So unwrap your spiritual gift package and look for ways to use these presents in your writing—for God.