What is anointing? It’s one of those elusive terms we often use in church circles, but don’t have a clear definition for. And as such we can end up confusing it with related but subtly different concepts.
Talents: These are areas where we have a natural aptitude. People can have talents in areas as diverse as sports, creative arts, learning languages, solving problems, getting on with people, and so much more. It can be easy to take credit for talents ourselves, but we need to remember that all our talents are given by God, whether we consider them to be ‘spiritual’ talents or not.
Spiritual Gifts: These are gifts God gives to us so we can glorify Him and serve others. They are the contributions we make as team members of the body of Christ, and they are the result of God’s grace and God’s Spirit at work in our lives. There is no exhaustive list of spiritual gifts in the Bible, but many commentators agree on around 24-28 of them. They include things as diverse as administration, giving generously and speaking in tongues. (To study more on them read 1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4, Romans 12 and 1 Peter 4.) They can overlap with areas where we already have a talent, but they can also be in completely different areas.
Skills: These are things we’ve become good at doing through repeated practice. Often we develop skills in the areas where we have natural talents and spiritual gifts – it makes sense to work on these strength areas. And I’d encourage you to develop skills in your areas of talent and spiritual gifts, since I believe that gives you and God greater freedom in then using them to serve others. But skills differ from the above two because we’ve put some effort into developing them ourselves.
Anointing: This is when God supernaturally blesses our ministry, and works through us in such a measure that we know it wasn’t just us. Our talent or skills may achieve some things, but when God anoints us the fruit and the impact is greater than anything we can achieve alone. Anointing is often accompanied by a greater awareness of God’s presence, both in the one serving, and in those receiving. We should be constantly offering our talents and skills to God, asking Him to anoint them so we can bless others. And anointing should be the standard way in which we use our spiritual gifts. In fact, anointing is the ‘extra plus’, the ‘spiritual factor’ that makes spiritual gifts truly come alive.
A great question therefore, after ‘what is anointing?’ is ‘what work of yours is God currently anointing?’ Not just what are your talents, your gifts, or your skills, important though these are. But where is God currently bearing fruit through your work? Where do you see His impact and feel His presence as you serve Him?
Whatever He is anointing you for is a great clue towards His vision for your life.
I believe two areas in which God has anointed me is in teaching biblical truths, and in drawing church leaders together for mission. One of these is a more classic spiritual gift (teaching), the other (church leader unity) is perhaps less common. But it seems to be something that God anoints me to do. So I’m learning to try doing more of those things where He does anoint me, and see what ministry happens and what Kingdom doors are opened as a result.
Mark Williamson works as a director of One Rock. He’s an experienced leadership trainer, author of biographies on John Wesley and William Wilberforce, and is also passionate about praying for London. He enjoys good films, good food, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markonerock.