Tuesday, March 1, 2011


"It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following
requirements ..."- Acts 15:28

Most are well aware of the Jerusalem Council described in Acts 15 and its critical role in unifying the fledgling church and confirming to the mission to the Gentiles.  We often focus on and learn from those agreed upon outcomes as outlined by James.  But I wonder how often we pay attention to the opening of that announcement, the words that Luke was careful to record.  "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us ..."  I wonder how often we take note of the word order - Holy Spirit, then us.

Quite often we make plans as the church.  We even are careful to arrive at a constructive consensus.  But how is that consensus arrived at?  And what is the role of the Holy Spirit in all of this?  Do we prayerfully together seek the mind of the Spirit and then try to discern what we agree He has told us?  Or do we decide together what we are going to do and then ask the Holy Spirit to bless what has actually been our decision?

It is no small question.

In my journey of the congregation I lead from a traditional and inward focus to a missional and outward focus, nothing has been more critical to our faithfulness and fruitfulness. We have agreed that the Holy Spirit is and must be the leader of the church. Not the pastor, or elders, or council, and certainly the majority of the people; but the Holy Spirit of God.  And we have agreed that this cannot be a statement to which we pay lip service, but a basic operating principle that we constantly work to make and stay a reality.

In practice, what does this mean?  When I first published my D. Min. Project on becoming a church led by the Spirit, I was asked by a fellow graduate in the commencement line, "In brief, what does it mean to be a church led by the Holy Spirit?" (The brief was referring to the monumental length of that publication.)  My response, "First, you have to believe in the Holy Spirit."

1. A church that is led by the Holy Spirit must give up its organizational thinking. It is not a human association of mutually agreed upon goals.  The church is a supernatural organism. It is the literal and continuing Body of Christ.  That means that as a body it will reflect the character of Christ. In action, we will live by the values of Christ. In vision, we will live by the mission of Christ.  And we will be open to let the Holy Spirit lead us into all truth about these matters. (More about this later.)

2. A church that is led by the Holy Spirit must possess a leadership  lifestyle that is wedded to the Word and embedded with prayer.  The human leadership of the church understands that its actions must at all times be consistent with what the Word teaches.  Its values must be the values of scripture. Its policies and decisions must have a clear scriptural foundation that is consistently communicated to the Body.  And those decisions, from beginning to end, must be bathed in prayer.

This post is to be continued ....

(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn

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