“If we don’t take our responsibility seriously, then what need is there for Spirit-empowered living?”
One of the six strategic responses expected of PAOC churches and ministries in our 2020 Initiative1 is “Equipping for Spirit-empowered living.” Empowerment has been a popular concept in leadership circles over the last number of years. The theory is that if you give someone a responsibility or a mission to accomplish, they should also receive a corresponding amount of authority and resources to fulfil that task.
Unfortunately, a feeling of disempowerment in church or business life is more often the norm. It may stem from an initial miscommunication of what the person’s role actually was. This leads to misunderstandings about what is expected and where the boundaries are. Many church leaders come to a church as a pastor or a staff member feeling empowered to totally revitalize how ministry takes place, either in the church as a whole or in a particular ministry area such as worship or youth. But, when the consequences of new strategies and budget expenditures become evident, it is not unusual for the new leader to get reeled in.
“Oh, when we said the church was dying and we wanted the church transformed, you thought that meant you could change the way we worship, or that you could reach out to the community’s children and youth. You’ve totally misunderstood what we were saying. What we really want is just more of the same but with greater results.”
The authorization and funds quickly get pulled back and leaders are left wondering if they really are free to lead.
The scenario is common. It’s why I always take copious notes when being asked to serve in a new ministry setting. Clear, honest, openhearted communication leads to trusting relationships marked by shared vision, values and strategies. Thankfully, more often than not, I have felt empowered to do what I was called to do. I am very grateful and give kudos to my mentors and friends that I have had the privilege to serve with.
On Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the ultimate empowering relationship. Jesus made it very clear to His first followers—and those of us who would come afterwards—that He had a mission for us. His mission, summarized in the Great Command (Mark 12:30, 31) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), is a monumental calling. It begins with our own personal transformation and intimacy with God and then moves us into being agents of Christ’s transforming power in people’s lives and even in nations.
Here’s the challenge: we are totally incapable of fulfilling that task on our own! The good news is, Jesus fully understood that. He knew how disempowering it would be to give us a world-changing mission and then leave us to our own limited abilities and strengths. He’s not that cruel.
The Spirit’s power, which Jesus relied on to fulfil His calling, is promised to His followers. Jesus clearly taught His disciples that it is the Spirit who convinces people of their sinfulness and their need of a Saviour. It is the Spirit who leads them into truth and provides the authority to speak that truth. The Spirit shapes their lives so they are marked by the love, grace, mercy and wisdom of Jesus. Jesus was clear—we receive power when the Spirit comes upon us. That’s what gives us the authority to be His witnesses, with supernatural signs following. The first century Church demonstrated these dimensions of Spirit-empowered living—albeit not perfectly—and they lived and died to make Jesus known to the ends of their known world.
The implication for us today, as Pentecostal people, is to take seriously the mission we have been given by Jesus. When we clearly understand our responsibility, then we recognize how massive and overwhelming the task is. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to minimize the mission by adopting a laissez-faire attitude to all that is core to it. Our understanding of the unique nature of the Person and work of Christ in salvation is drifting toward neo-universalism—the view that somehow God works it out for everyone. As a result, the definition of mission shifts and the intensity to share Christ dissipates. If we don’t take our responsibility seriously, then what need is there for Spirit-empowered living?
So consider with me our stated expectation that our churches and ministries will equip people for Spirit-empowered ministry.
As leaders, parents and churches, our first priority is to teach the uniqueness of Christ and model our strong commitment to live out the Great Command and the Great Commission in everyday life. We must demonstrate, both by what we say and do, the value of people whom God brings into our lives, and reclaim the understanding that they are eternal beings. We are compelled to share the good news of Jesus with them.
Only when we are deeply motivated by this mission will we fully value the Spirit’s empowerment in our lives and churches, and seek Him appropriately. When they are deeply motivated by this mission, leaders will not live in fear of the Spirit but will equip their people for Spirit-filled living that is all day, every day and naturally supernatural. The gifts of the Spirit will not simply be for use in the occasional Sunday service; they will become the demonstration of God’s presence and power in every context where mission and worship take place.
“Almighty God, You have always been faithful to empower your people in order to fulfil the calling You have given us. Lord, stir us up to fully embrace Your mission and to humbly hunger for the Spirit’s baptism and power so that in 2015 we can see You at work as You have promised.”
1 Six Strategic Responses Expected of PAOC churches and ministries in the 2020 Initiative:
- Corporate Prayer and Scripture Engagement
- Equipping for Spirit-empowered living
- Incorporation of a revitalization process (especially where there are indications of plateau or decline)
- Development of leaders for revitalization and multiplication
- Participation in the formation of a new disciple-making community (plant, partner and/or provide)
- Enhanced national and international mission engagement