WHAT’S NEXT?: Remember the Spirit

We asked several Christian leaders, “What should churches served by CHRISTIAN STANDARD strive to be or do or look like in the next decades?”

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By Mandy Smith

We in the Christian churches have the Cane Ridge Revival in our history, but we’re not comfortable with the Holy Spirit. We’ve seen so many abuses of the Spirit that it’s easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater. So what would it look like to rediscover a scriptural approach to the Spirit’s work in our lives?

04_arrow-2_JN2I’m still learning this, but let me share two ways I’m stepping into it:

1. Guidance

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13).

I was taught that God no longer speaks directly to us. But then I started sensing things from him, not complete visions but small encouragements, thoughts too kind or wise or calm to be my own. I hadn’t sought them, and at first I refused to believe they were from God, but had to repent of the box I’d put him in. Who am I to set limits on God?

What would it look like, without forcing it or even expecting it, to be open to God’s ability to communicate in any way at any time?

2. Healing

“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14).

This year, for the first time, out of obedience to this passage, our church held a healing prayer service. We asked God to literally, physically heal folks. But we also said, “But not our will but yours be done.”

What would it look like, without manipulating God, to submit to his power over all creation and ask big things, not knowing how he’ll choose to answer?

Finding Health and Balance

I used to say, “God absolutely never acts in this way.” But once I step away from that extreme, I’m afraid of the other extreme. Both extremes involve a human desire to control the Spirit, whether we’re saying exactly what he doesn’t do or what he does. So health comes from remaining in the mysterious in-between: letting him decide how to answer healing prayers and not overinterpreting his promptings. We can share his insights with others without manipulating them by adding, “It’s yours to test whether it’s from God.”

Which brings me to this final lesson: If we believe God is one, we have nothing to fear. The same God who speaks through creation and through Scripture is in our hearts and in his church. He does not contradict himself. And so, if we sense something from him, we can test it against Scripture and ask for wisdom from other believers. When we see the same God expressing himself within us, within our brothers and sisters, within Scripture, within the church, we will come to see him in his fullness. And what a beautiful thing it will be!

Mandy Smith serves as pastor at University Christian Church, Cincinnati, Ohio (www.universitychristianchurch.net). She is the author of Making a Mess and Meeting God: Unruly Ideas and Everyday Experiments for Worship (Standard Publishing) and The Vulnerable Pastor: How Human Limitations Empower Our Ministry (InterVarsity Press, 2015). 

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