One tends to think of the gifts of serving as menial tasks in the church that no one wants to do. Nothing could be further from the truth. These gifts keep the church running at maximum efficiency. So what are the differences between the gift of helps, hospitality, administration and serving? Are they individual gifts or were the writers of the New Testament using different words, but talking about the same thing? Let’s look at the verses where these words are mentioned and figure things out from there.
And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:28).
The Gift of Helps
The word “helps” comes from the Greek word antilēmpsis, and it means “a laying hold of, an exchange” (anti, “in exchange,” and lambano, “to take, lay hold of,” so as to support). In the verse above it is meant as rendering assistance or support to those in need. It is often thought of as someone who comes alongside others in the body of Christ, to free them up for ministry. Take for example the Sunday school teacher. She has lessons to prepare, but she also needs to get her handouts ready, or perhaps develop a PowerPoint presentation. The person with the gift of helps would come alongside her and offer to print the handouts or help with the presentation. The person with the gift of helps, will see a need and fulfill it. She or he is eager to be of service to those already in ministry.
The Gift of Administration
The word “administrations” comes from the Greek word kybernēsis and means “to guide” or “govern”. Whereas someone with the gift of helps comes alongside those already in ministry positions to offer assistance, the person with the gift of administration may work behind the scenes or be in a ministry position. The difference between the two gifts is that the gift of administration brings with it the ability to organize, plan and supervise others. In fact, a person with the gift of helps may say to the person with the gift of administration, “Let me assist you with something this week. Give me a job to do.”
You will often find people with the gift of administration working behind the scenes in volunteer positions or they will be on staff. Most people think those with this gift are secretaries, but that just isn’t so. While secretaries are naturally (or should be) organized, those with this gift can also be the director of Sunday school or Vacation Bible School for example. They may be in charge of the Library or the choir. They will be those who can develop a plan, organize what needs to be done to execute that plan and supervise others to get the job done. They are an invaluable part of the church body as they keep things running smoothly.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:6-8, NKJV).
The Gift of Service or Ministry
The NKJV translates the word “service” to “ministry” mainly because the Greek word used is diakonia and means a "minister, servant or deacon." In fact, it is where we get the word “deacon”. While I discussed the gift of service in a previous post, upon further reflection, I would add that the person with the gift of service usually (but not always) operates in an “official” capacity within the church. As set out in Acts 6:1-6, where the first deacons to serve in the church were chosen. Their purpose was well defined by the Apostles:
“It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2-4).
“This business” was the daily distribution of food to the disciples. Their purpose was clear – to free up the Apostles so they could devote themselves to studying the Word of God, prayer and sharing the Gospel. While those with this gift may have much in common with those with the gift of helps, one might argue that the “gift of service” is more of a position than a gift, due to the qualifications deacons had to have (1 Timothy 3:8-13). However, one might also argue that the gift of helps and the gift of service are one and the same thing. Both desire to come alongside those in ministry and help or serve in whatever capacity they can. Both will look to the needs of others before themselves, and both truly have a “servant’s, heart”.
The Gift of Hospitality
I am not sure how hospitality became known as a “spiritual gift”. It is not listed anywhere in the New Testament as a spiritual gift. In fact, it is only talked about twice, once by the Apostle Peter and once by the Apostle Paul. In each instance it was in regards to how Christians should treat each other:
Be hospitable to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9).
Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality (Romans 12:10-13).
Certainly there are those who tend to have a talent or "gift" in making people feel at ease and in making them feel welcome. But when we keep the Scriptures in context, it is clear that the “gift of hospitality” is not a gift at all, but an admonition to all Christians to be hospitable.
And so this ends my series on the Spiritual Gifts. I hope you have found it enlightening and helpful.