Post Pentecost Reflections
Two weeks ago we celebrated the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. What a tremendous gift! I was thrilled to hear of churches throughout our country setting aside time in prayer, fasting, praise and worship to mark this special occasion.
Since Pentecost I’ve been reflecting on Paul’s exhortation to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). Paul is talking less about the physical act of walking (placing one foot in front of the other) and more about the way in which we conduct our lives. It’s an imperative to surrender the totality of who you are to the power and controlling influence of the Holy Spirit in each and every moment.
don’t know about you, but I find myself increasingly desiring the
Spirit’s presence and power to move from one-off sacred encounters (as
holy and beautiful as they are) to the stuff of everyday normal
experience – as witnessed within the life of the early church. The early
church model for us a beautiful integration of power and practise.
power. In Acts 2 we see the fruit of encounter with the Holy Spirit:
“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in
other languages as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4). The tangible and
manifest presence of God brings empowerment for God’s people to join
God’s mission. Encounter leads to empowerment. Think about the
transformation of Peter and Jesus’ disciples. Teenage fishermen became
apostolic martyrs at the ends of the earth because they were empowered
by the Holy Spirit to participate fully in the mission of God. And may I
be as bold as to suggest you and I need fresh power for the mission of
God in this moment we are facing. We, as a church, don’t have the power
we need for the cultural moment we are in. We need fresh power.
practise. At the end of Acts chapter 2 (and the end of Acts 4) we see
the early church recognised they needed more than just the power of the
Holy Spirit, they also needed discipleship practises. In Acts 2:42-47 we
see they take all of the power (wind and fire) and turn it into shared
discipleship practises in the church. It’s as if they realised they had
the power but didn’t have the container to hold or sustain it. So all of
the wind and fire had to be turned into teaching and fellowship and
breaking bread and prayer and generosity and miracles in the local
context so that the idea of the power could be translated into a
community that could handle the power. We, as a church, have got to have
the kind of discipleship that can handle the power of God. As the old
saying goes, “when you’ve got more anointing than you’ve got character, a
disaster is close.”
I believe to “walk by the Spirit” means bringing power and practise together. Integration is key. We shouldn’t settle for one or the other. Why not have both? The Apostle Paul could preach philosophy to the best leading intellects of his day (practise), and then walk into a meeting and see faith (power). He could write some pretty sound theology in his epistle to the Ephesians (practise), and also raise the dead (power). As Jon Tyson has said, “When you put power and practices together you get history-shaping communities.”
My hope and prayer is this might be increasingly true of my life and the community God entrusts me to lead. And it’s the same prayer I offer over you and your church community today. May you “walk by the Spirit” bringing Pentecost blessings to your local context today and tomorrow, next week and next month. May you be empowered to witness as part of a history-shaping community. And may you know “the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honour at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else – not only in this world but also in the world to come” (Ephesians 1:19-21).
Grace and peace,
Director, Centre for Church Leadership