For Pastors: Leadership of Public Vocal Gifts

This post is for those in Pastoral leadership or for those who lead a small group or Bible study. These are comments to get your thinking processes going about the administration of public Spiritual gifts.
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As in every aspect of spiritual leadership, the leader sets the tone for those they lead. The administration of supernatural vocal gifts is no different; the leader sets both the spiritual and communal climates in which the gifts will (or will not) flow, steering the direction of the group they oversee. Over the years I have witnessed leaders over-correct and create a climate of fear or under-correct and create a three-ring circus. Once again, balance and Spirit dependence are the critical issues.

As a general rule, it is more common to be in an environment where more gifts need to be manifested than less. This single fact should change our approach from one of pre-correction to one of cultivating an openness to the gifts. Perhaps our teaching shouldn’t begin with all of the corrective measures of 1 Corinthians 14, but instead with the enabling tone of chapter 12 first, “let’s learn about how these gifts can build us up.” Why vaccinate the whole group for a disease that only a few unteachable ones will ever catch? After the climate of openness is set, then progress to teach about divine order.

A practical starting point is to be more entry-level in our approach. Many are afraid that a public utterance in tongues will freak out the visitors. An easy solution is to simply commentate and explain what is happening. “The Bible tells us that God sometimes speaks to us through prophetic gifts; what we just heard is a public gift of tongues. You can read more about it in 1 Cor 12. The Bible instructs us that we are to now wait for someone to tell us the meaning through another gift, interpretation.” Seizing corporate teachable moments can do more than preaching a 10 week series; but don’t neglect to offer biblical teaching from an enabling perspective as well.

Seizing the moments can also facilitate helping our people enter into a new realm spiritually. “While we wait for the interpretation, God may desire to use someone who has never been used this way before. If you have ever desired God to use you in this way, why not invite Him to do it now? If you sense the Holy Spirit moving on you, ask Him if He wants you to speak out and give the interpretation today.”

A simple welcoming of the gifts to flow in your pastoral prayer each service opens people’s hearts to being used. “Holy Spirit, we welcome your supernatural gifts to flow in this service. As you desire, would you enable some who have not yet experienced your gifts to beautifully experience them today?”

As leaders, we define the culture for the expression of spiritual gifts; fear or openness. Avoid public correction unless you know from the Spirit that it is absolutely necessary, because harsh public correction will create a corporate fear of humiliation.

If you do sense that correction is necessary, ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom, he’ll give it to you. I have a pastor-friend who was having some challenges with uncorrectable, unsubmitted people arrogantly abusing the vocal gifts. Though he was tempted to call down fire from heaven upon them, he prayed earnestly for a peaceable answer. A short while later, he was visiting a shut-in who had been a spiritual pillar of the church, delivering the previous week’s recording of the church service for her to listen to. As they visited, this saint asked a beautiful question, “Pastor, when I listen to the church service tapes, I can surmise that some utterance gifts are happening at times—but I can’t hear what is being said. I love the moving of the Holy Spirit and wish there was some way that I could hear these gifts on the tapes.” God had sent the answer! The next Sunday morning, the pastor told his congregation about his conversation with the saintly shut-in, asking if those who were sensing a gift bubbling up would move to a microphone near the front. The people understood his rationale and it immediately put an end to those unaccountable manifestations. He also remarked that many people in the sanctuary later positively comment that they could now hear the utterance gifts clearly over the PA system—for the first time.

Have your leadership create a biblical policy to help those who are abusive in the gifts. Perhaps first a gentle visit after a service with a few elders. Second, if things don’t change, a visit with the pastor and the first group of elders followed up with a nice but firm letter recalling the conversation. If that doesn’t work, an official discipline and forbiddance of the offender to use vocal gifts for a set time. If the person arrogantly disregards the discipline and blurts out again, the only option is public correction—but with an adequate explanation telling of your church’s procedure. “We never correct this way publicly unless the person has disregarded our set disciplinary process.” While severe, this should stem off a culture of fear for those who humbly desire God to use them while, at the same time, reinforce the shepherd’s nature of the pastor—protecting the flock from harm.

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