Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What Kind of Spiritual Gifts are Differences of Administrations and Diversities of Operations?

4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. (1 Cor. 12:4-7)

That bit about diversities of administrations and operations has always puzzled me a bit, so today I decided to do some research and pondering on it to see if I could become a little more clear on it. 

First, I thought it might be helpful to look up definitions of “administration” and “operation.”   There were some definitions that didn’t seem to apply, but the following did.

Administrations – methods of tending to or managing the affairs of some group of people (usually financial affairs, but in the case of the church it can be spiritual affairs, both individual and collective); the act of governing or exercising authority

So differences of administration might be various ways that leaders tend and minister to individual members and to the whole congregation.  We can see differences of administrations between two different leaders in the church.  One bishop may do something or minister in a particular way, and then his successor may do it a bit differently.  When they are both led by the Spirit, the different ways they administer to the congregation are spiritual gifts to the church, appropriate for the needs of the people at that time.   And some things are church policy and other things are left to leader discretion as guided by the Spirit.

Another way we might see diversity of administrations at work is when we hear stories of people who have reached the end of their endurance and pray for a specific service and then have their prayer answered when someone else is inspired to perform that service for them, whether it is a sudden phone call, a unexpected meal delivered, a visit, a kind word, a plate of cookies, or whatever.  The Spirit knows of those diverse needs and inspires people to act to fill them.

I can remember an experience I had when I was the recipient of this myself.  It was two years ago when my husband was out of the country for a month for work.  I was struggling with feelings of depression and loneliness during that period, and one night as I went jogging in the dark I felt very down.  I wondered if anyone cared about me.  (My head knew that people did, but it was hard to convince my heart of that.) I wondered if Heavenly Father knew what I felt.  It was maybe five minutes later that I passed someone else who was jogging the other way.  It was so dark I didn’t see their face or even catch much of a glimpse of what they were wearing.  As I passed them, they exclaimed “Michaela!”  I only know it was a man’s voice.  It is hard to describe the effect that simple greeting had on me.  We were still so new in the ward that I didn’t think anyone remembered me yet, so it was a bit of a happy shock.  Someone—I didn’t know who—knew me and recognized me.  They could have only said “hi,” but instead they called me by name, and it brought me to a realization that Heavenly Father did see me, even if I couldn’t see Him.  Heavenly Father knew what I was feeling and how to help.  It was as if an angel had greeted me.

Who would have thought that running by someone in the dark and calling them by name would make such a difference?  That is such a strange way of ministering to person’s pain.  But it worked on me!

What are other places differences of administrations are needed?  I suppose parents need this gift to know how best to reach each of their children and their different personalities, or to know what privileges each child is ready for, or to know what each child is capable of doing as they develop. 

What about diversities of operations?

Operations – a planned activity involving many people performing various actions; a process or series of actions; procedure; process or manner of functioning; the performance of some composite cognitive activity.

We can see diversities of operations when we consider how the Spirit works on people, with different strokes for different folks.  There are so many ways we can feel the Spirit, and elsewhere Paul explained this:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Gal. 5:22-23)

I used to think that Paul just meant that list to enumerate all the qualities that will appear in our lives from having the Spirit, but I recently learned that these are also ways that different people may feel the Spirit.  The Spirit can also be experienced as:
·      tingles all over
·      thrills
·      warmth
·      a still small voice
·      inspiration and knowledge
·      enthusiasm
·      a sense of safety
·      comfort
·      compelling desire to do good or say good words

We don’t have to feel these all at the same time; it may be one or more, depending on the situation and what the Spirit knows you need.  The point is that it is all to profit us, meaning it is calculated to help us grow spiritually.

When I first began to recognize the Spirit, it was in tingles and thrills from hearing truth, but I’ve also felt warmth, the still small voice, inspiration, love, joy, gentleness, faith, and compelling good desires.  Not all at once, but at various times.

Diversity of operations can also refer to the type of spiritual manifestations we respond to.  As an example, if you read a large number of conversion stories, there are a variety of factors that attract people to the church.  Some may be drawn in by the valiant example of one member.  Others may be drawn by love shown to them by members they associate with.  Some hear about a church doctrine and are intrigued enough to ask about it.  Others have some sort of spiritual manifestation by dream or vision that prepares them in advance to receive the gospel.  Others are brought in because the doctrine fills a crying need in their life because of a personal crisis.  Some accept sudden invitations to come to church or meet the missionaries.  These are all different ways that the Spirit works on people to interest them in the gospel.

We can begin to see why Paul would want to discuss spiritual gifts and the different types if the Corinthian saints were confused about the different ways different leaders were doing things.  They may have felt that there was the one true way and deviation meant apostasy.  They may have been confused about reports of spiritual feelings different from what they had individually experienced and wondered if they or the other were at fault.   

Isn't it neat that we can identify these gifts in the church today?  Do you have any experiences you can share of these gifts in your life?

3 comments:

Popcorn House said...

Wow, this was great. I completely agree with you, especially regarding the ways different leaders lead and the strengths they bring to whatever calling.

Michaela Stephens said...

I'm glad you found it helpful, Popcorn House.

Cindy Foxcroft said...

You think so like I do. It's wonderful to feel so not alone. Thank you for sharing