This past week hundreds gathered in Franklin, Tennessee, at Seedbed’s New Room Conference. They gathered around a common hope for revival in the Church with expectation in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives in the Name of Jesus. Awaken, the theme of the conference, is a call to the Church for a spiritual awakening by sowing seeds in prayer with sincere trust in God, deep faith in Jesus, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Anyone who has been in ministry for any length of time knows the draining demands of ministry–the endless hours of weekly preparation, administrative responsibilities, frequent interruptions, the gripes, the list could go on. These are norms that are true for churches of all sizes and demographics. Often these constant demands can lull gifted and energetic leaders into a state of paralysis. Ministry leaders in this state desperately long for an awakening within the deepest recesses of the soul. Speakers Pete Greig, Danielle Strickland, and Prabhu Singh proclaimed profound truth from Scripture and invited the church to experience a great awakening. These speakers offer some inspiring insights for church leaders to awaken from trying to lead out of lulled paralysis and into life giving power.
Hope from the future.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
(Romans 15:13 ESV)
How might prayer shape your ministry? Pete Greig shared his personal journey about God’s call to lead his church to initiate a 24/7 prayer room that transformed his community and birthed a movement that spread across the world. Pete is passionate about prayer and spoke with compelling hope. His words strike a resounding chord with John Wesley who once wrote, “God does nothing except in response to prayer.” Pete Greig and John Wesley bear witness to the realization that the great outpourings of God’s Spirit happen when God’s people are awakened to pray. When God’s people come awake to pray the result is newfound hope. This hope is not a vain attempt to relive nostalgic glory days of a bygone era nor is it a naive pretense ungrounded from reality. Rather, it is hope firmly grounded in faith that dares to believe the radical good news that Jesus is raised from dead and that He is Lord. In Pete’s words, “It is faith that has hope not for the future but from the future.” The mission of the Church is to announce the in-breaking Kingdom of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. It is bearing witness of the future into the present reality. It is the struggle of ministry leaders to cast a vision with the power to bridge the future reality with the present reality. Whenever ministry leaders come to the realization that the only way to build such a bridge is by prayer, a shift happens from a dependence upon performance to a dependence upon God’s presence. This kind of hope rests in the power of the Holy Spirit and breathes new life to lead the people of God.
Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory…
(Luke 9:32 ESV)
Could suffering for the sake of the others be the life giving paradox of the Gospel? The stories by Danielle Strickland from text of the Gospel account of the Transfiguration and from the Spirit-filled history of the Salvation Army issue a challenge to embrace discomfort as a means to awaken the spiritual senses. She describes the story of the Salvation Army’s invasion upon the social institutions of Japan that enslaved young girls into a life of indentured servitude in hotels during the early 20th century. Their effort in suffering for the sake of others resulted in the freedom of many of these girls from this horrific injustice. Their liberation was possible because these saints were willing to embrace the discomfort of public harassment and beatings in order to form a human barrier around these girls to carry them to safety. Her message was a reminder that we are called to keep our eyes upon Jesus in whom we live with expectation for the Exodus that is still to come. The demands of ministry can lull the spiritual senses of ministry leaders. The spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, and serving others are practices that create enough discomfort to awaken our spiritual senses to remember that the path of God in bringing salvation to the world is first a path of suffering for the sake of others. This is the life giving paradox of the Gospel.
Stay in Step with the Spirit.
And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.
(Act 16:6 ESV)
What does the Spirit of God have to say about the direction of ministry leaders? Prabhu Singh delivered a powerful word of truth from this passage in Acts with these points:
- God’s Spirit is active among His people and in the world.
- God’s power is accessible.
- God’s people are available.
His message was a call to repent from the idolatrous reliance upon material wealth, affluence, and academic credentials. It is tempting for ministry leaders to treat ministry as if it is a career that requires strategic posturing for position while gaining every competitive edge for advancement and recognition. The life giving power of the Spirit is to be found not in prideful advancement in ministry but in humble reliance in following the steps of Jesus who Himself came not to be served but to serve. The path of “advancement” in ministry is not positioning for success but instead positioning for service. This can only happen by learning to stay in step with the Spirit, who often times points in a different direction than the one we may have in mind.
For those ministry leaders who are feeling the lull of the demands of ministry, the invitation to find the life giving power of the Holy Spirit is a call to hope from the future, embrace discomfort, and to stay in step with the Spirit.