Friday, December 21, 2012


Church and Spirit

Bobby Jamieson @ 9Marks:
Nineteenth-century Baptist Francis Wayland suggests that there are basically two ways to fill a church (Notes on the Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches, 43-47). One is to preach in a way that is agreeable and inoffensive to both believers and unbelievers. The other is to preach in a way that highlights the difference between true religion and mere profession, and thus creates a sharp contrast between the church and the world.
The first approach seems reasonable. After all, why would non-Christians come to hear sermons about things they’ve never experienced and can’t understand? Why would non-Christians come to a church that highlights the fact that they are outsiders?
Yet Wayland argues that the price of this approach is far too steep. In order for his preaching to equally please Christians and non-Christians, a minister must “talk of generalities that mean nothing, or the trumpet must give an uncertain sound, so that no one will prepare himself for battle.”

Anticipating the natural objection, Wayland writes, “But it will be said, Are we then to drive away all but the children of God?”

His response compresses volumes of biblical wisdom into a mere five words: “I reply, Is there any Holy Ghost?”
It’s easy to see, for example, how the promise of wealth will draw a crowd and convert them to your team. Same thing for the promise of better relationships, fewer conflicts, lower stress, or a better self-image. It’s easy to see how consummate presentation, engrossing music, and pleading appeals can generate adherents to whatever cause you’re promoting.

But none of these things need the Holy Spirit to make them work. All those strategies and messages can get along just fine without him.
Jamieson then goes on to argue that, "Spirit-dependent ministry is by definition Word-centered and Word-driven ministry." Now, one cannot argue with that on its face, but I know many, and I mean many, ministries that are "Word-driven" to the exclusion of the Holy Spirit. So wrapped up in the intellectual pursuits of the Bible and theology, the real workings and urgings of the Holy Spirit are ignored.

The Holy Spirit works both directly and indirectly. One of the prominent indirect effects is as a leavening agent, causing all aspects of the church to work harmoniously so the loaf rises evenly, if you will. No, Spirit-dependent ministry is definitionally Spirit-dependent. And that means nothing more for the church than listening, just listening. Less ideas and agendas and more concentration on waiting.
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