Growing the Church Below the surface, unseen to most who attend the church on the typical Sunday, lies the fundamental question: How can leaders and churches be enabled to discern and obediently cooperate with the guidance and the power of the Holy Spirit? The kingdom of God is an active expression of the reign of Christ on earth. That reign is presently revealed in weakness and power. This is the paradoxical nature of the present expression of Christ’s kingdom. His kingdom comes, on earth as it is in heaven, when individuals and churches seek and submit to the will and purpose of the Triune God. This requires the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, the silent person in the Trinity that we rarely talk about or seek.

How do leaders and churches seek the empowering of the Holy Spirit? Is there a necessary precondition for discerning and cooperating with the will of the Spirit? Should we seek to know what these preconditions are before we make our plans and conduct our meetings? Time and again I have almost wanted to shout in church meetings: “Does anyone here care what the Holy Spirit might want to say to us?”

What leaders lack, and the people with them, is so obvious that you do not need a seminary degree to discover it. We are not empowered by the Spirit in most of what we undertake in the name of Christ.

Authors Brad Long, Paul Stokes and Cindy Strickler offer seven principles of dynamic cooperation for the church to work and serve in the power of the Spirit in their excellent book, Growing the Church in the Power of the Spirit (Zondervan, 2009). I really encourage those who lead the church to get a copy of this extremely well-written and urgently needed book. The three authors are all mainline ministers who were trained in mainline academic settings and serve mainline churches. collage2 And they are all involved, in various ways, in the work of Presbyterian Reformed Ministries International (PRMI), located in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

The thesis of this excellent, and highly recommended book, is that there are factors directly related to the Spirit’s dynamic ministry that can and should be facilitated by the leadership of every congregation. If we are to do compassionate service, evangelistic outreach, godly governance, healing, worship and disciple-making then we must know these principles and seek the Spirit. Believers can cooperate with the Spirit and the church can become an ever growing foretaste of the kingdom of God.

I am grateful to say that I was given this book by David Strickler, the son of Rev. Cindy Sticker, who will serve as a Wheaton College intern for ACT 3 in the coming school year. I expect to learn even more from the mission of PRMI in the coming year.

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