“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” This quote, from Acts 15, gives us a good biblical example of working as a team toward good decision making.
Full transparency, I used to be better at asking the Holy Spirit to bless what I was doing than to listen and watch to see how I could participate in what he was already doing. I was living under one of the misconceptions about the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, there are several misconceptions about how the Holy Spirit works in our lives and in the lives of our congregations. One of my pet peeves is the assumption that the Holy Spirit always works in the moment rather than in the planning. It comes across as if the Holy Spirit is reactive and impulsive, rather than guiding our lives 24/7. Here are a few Holy Spirit statements I’ve heard in my several years of ministry:
- Sermon preparation is simply reading the text several times in a week and then allowing the Spirit to inspire you on Sunday.
- You don’t need notes for your sermon, that prevents the Holy Spirit from inspiring you.
- The Holy Spirit woke me up this morning with a message I’m supposed to give the congregation.
- I never prepare a sermon because the Bible tells us the Holy Spirit will preach through us, and I don’t want to get in his way.
- I don’t plan an agenda for our leadership meetings, I trust the Holy Spirit to bring up what needs to be brought up.
- Why do we need a budget? God provides our needs. If God wants us to do a specific ministry, he will provide the funds to do so.
- All this Love, Hope, and Faith Avenue stuff you are putting on us is not allowing the Spirit to guide our church.
- God told me to get the congregation involved in this ministry (outreach) and I’m not resting until we all get involved.
- I don’t think through what to pray about; I allow the Holy Spirit to guide me.
- The Holy Spirit gave me the perfect plan for our congregation. Let me share it with all of you. (Who would argue against the pastor, and much less the Spirit?)
A common theme in these statements is the perceived “coming and going” of the Holy Spirit. It’s almost as if we believe the Holy Spirit shows up when he needs to (or when we beg him to come) and is off doing something else the rest of the time. He shows up on Sunday morning to inspire our preaching, but he must be doing something else on Thursday or Friday when we are preparing the sermon. He shows up at a leadership meeting, but he is apparently too busy to help us plan an agenda for the meeting. Yes, I’m being a bit snarky to make a point. Jesus didn’t teach the disciples about a helper or advocate who comes and goes; he taught about a helper and an advocate who lives in us. While we could quote numerous passages about the Holy Spirit, let’s just focus on a few verses and look at what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit in the Lord’s Supper Discourse. Perhaps this will help us see the Holy Spirit’s involvement in our lives, ministries, and missions.
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. (John 14:16-17 NRSVA)
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. (John 14:26 NRSVA)
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. (John 15:26 NRSVA)
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement: (John 16:7-8 NRSVA)
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13-14 NRSVA)
I recommend you stop a moment and ask the Triune God to help you see what you need to see from the above passages. What do they tell you about the Holy Spirit? Then I encourage you to talk to your leadership and ask what they see in these passages. Here are a few questions for discussion:
- What does Jesus mean by advocate? How does that apply to our missions and ministries?
- Do these passages imply a Spirit who comes and goes? What do they say?
- Where is the Spirit? What does this truth imply?
- What does the Spirit declare? What does this mean for your congregation?
- What does it mean the Spirit will glorify Jesus?
- What does it mean the Spirit will prove the world wrong?
We can join the apostles in saying, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” when we share in the Holy Spirit’s goal of glorifying Jesus through our Faith, Hope, and Love Avenues. When we collaborate with the Holy Spirit in the dreaming phase, as well as in the preparation and implementation of our Faith, Hope, and Love Avenues, we will see success because we are participating with him, rather than simply asking him to bless what we are doing.
The Holy Spirit loves living in you, teaching you, and pointing you to Jesus. He loves helping to prepare messages and agendas for meetings. He loves praying with you, reminding you of people and things to pray about. He loves working collaboratively with you and your teams – working together to help you become the healthiest expression of church you can be. And he loves when we participate with him in bringing others to Jesus and being helpers of their joy.
Thank you, Holy Spirit. We pray for more receptivity to your lead.