The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: Implications for Today, Part 3 – Avoiding What Does Not Result in the Spirit’s Presence and Power

Here’s the Final Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

The conclusions of this essay, then, are simple. To experience the presence and power of the Spirit on mission today we should be born again ourselves, study and teach the Bible, proclaim the gospel, baptize new disciples in the triune name, and pursue the purity of the local church.

This is so simple that I am afraid many missionaries have moved on from this unbroken apostolic paradigm. Once again, across the New Testament, everywhere the Apostles do missions, they always plant churches by preaching the gospel and baptizing converts. Perhaps missionaries have not been taught the unbroken Apostolic pattern of mission (i.e., Spirit empowered, gospel proclaiming church planting[1]), or perhaps they have tried it, decided it didn’t work, and are now trying other ideas. The little or slow growth that might result from following the apostolic program of preaching the word should summon us to prayer, not propel us into reliance upon strategies taught at Harvard Business School. Moving away from relying on the Spirit moving through the proclamation of the gospel to rely instead on worldly strategies from the business world would seem to be the modern day equivalent of Israel’s reliance upon Assyria and Egypt rather than Yahweh.

The New Testament gives no indication that the presence and power of the Spirit will be enjoyed by means of a hurly burly of “ministry activity” that has little or nothing to do with studying and teaching the Bible, proclaiming the gospel, baptizing new disciples into church membership, and pursuing purity in the church. Nor is there any indication in the Bible that the presence and power of the Spirit will be accessed by an activity such as prayer walking. In fact, there is nothing in the Bible that indicates that the Apostles ever engaged in prayer walking, nor is there any indication that they thought it a useful activity on mission. The account of Joshua walking around Jericho is a description of something God did in the history of Israel. That narrative is not a prescription to prayer walk.[2]

Starting schools, hosting events, doing mailouts, advertising on billboards and websites, opening coffeehouses, and all the other stuff that keeps missionaries busy, are all good things if they are feeding into and not detracting from the ministry of a local church which is proclaiming the gospel, teaching the Bible, and beseeching the Spirit to move in power. My fear is that far too many missionaries do not experience the power and presence of the Holy Spirit because all their “ministry” is disconnected from a particular local church, which is, after all, the temple of the Holy Spirit. If the disconnect from the local church is combined with no teaching of the Scriptures and no proclamation of the gospel there will be no presence and no power from the Holy Spirit. Building relationships is a fine thing to do, but at some point the gospel must be proclaimed. The Spirit will not work apart from the word.

We must beseech the Spirit to empower our efforts. We set ourselves up for a genuine work of God by faithfully proclaiming the gospel and calling on God to awaken people to hear and believe by the power of the Spirit. If the “ministry” prospers for the same reasons that Coca-Cola or WalMart prospers, good business practice and forward thinking methodology get the glory. On the other hand, God is glorified when his people obey him by proclaiming the gospel and praying for the Spirit to give life. God is glorified when the Spirit strengthens hearts by the formative teaching of the word. And God is glorified when the Spirit purifies the church through corrective discipline. May God be glorified as Jesus builds his church by the power of the Spirit.

[1] I am not talking here about planting churches using the same methodology that MacDonalds or Starbucks uses when they open a new international location. I am talking about planting churches on the preached word empowered by the Holy Spirit, so that God, who has empowered the growth, gets the glory, instead of the clever business strategy or cultural savvy being credited with the success.

[2] See Peter R. Schemm Jr.’s answer the question “Is prayer-walking a biblical strategy?” where he rejects “‘on site’ prayer as the required means for effecting powerful prayer” and asserts that “it is best described as an attempt to wage spiritual war ‘according to the flesh’ (2 Cor. 10:3)” in Daniel L. Akin, A Theology for the Church (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2007), 330–31.


To see all the posts in this series, go to the category “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit.”

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