The Holy Spirit Speaks to Us Through the Body of Christ

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LISTEN NOW

Acts 13:2-3; Rom. 12:5 NIV

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. …So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

CONSIDER THIS

In the first centuries of the Church, the pagan world of the time was set squarely against the Church flourishing. Persecutions played off of, and preyed on, the peculiarity of the Body of Christ. Christians didn’t think like others in the pagan world of their time (your God was crucified?). Christians didn’t value what they valued (you provide funerals for the poor?). Christians didn’t operate like they operated (you have a community who practices spiritual gifts and celebrates love, joy, peace—and what?).

The Church was marching to the beat of a Different Drummer, the Holy Spirit, and the wind of God’s presence was at the backs of the believers as they carried Jesus’ way of being human into the most unlikely (and dangerous) of worlds. When someone decided they wanted to become a believer, unpopular as it was, they brought all their cultural baggage with them. A long process of catechesis, transformation, and slow integration into the family of Jesus took place—a process in which the new believer learned how to love, how to pray, how to trust, how to exhibit patience (Alan Kreider), how to handle other human beings, how to worship, and yes, how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.

And how did they learn to hear? They learned through mentoring relationships with those who were filled with the Spirit and were walking together by faith—and through the example of the community hearing the Holy Spirit together.

As members of one another (Rom. 12:5), spiritually bonded through deep devotion to one another’s well-being and formation into Christ, they could trust that the Holy Spirit speaking was for the good of them all. Individualism was far less a problem in the early Church than it seems to be today. When you face persecution together, unity in your spiritual family becomes very, very important to you.

And when we see moments like Acts 13:2-3 occur, when the local body of believers was worshiping and fasting, the Holy Spirit would speak. We don’t know all the details, but we have a sense that the shared mission of the Church was owned by all the members. When Barnabus and Saul were launched into ministry, the whole body had heard the Spirit guide them, and the whole body was behind them being sent out to do the work to which the Holy Spirit had called them.

The Spirit speaks through local bodies in which we learn the ways of love, worship, service, giving, growing, being discipled, being encouraged, being challenged, responding with grace, and so on. It is with a family of believers that we are intended to be trained to hear the Spirit’s voice, and to discern the Holy Spirit’s guidance about our next steps of faith personally, and about our next steps of faith corporately.

Imperfect as a local community of faith can be, each is intended to be a source of Spirit-guided discernment and insight for our ongoing journey with Jesus.

THE PRAYER

Jesus, I receive the Holy Spirit. I thank you for the Body of Christ, and for how I am being formed by the friendships and encouragements that come as we walk together. Come, Holy Spirit, speak to me through the Body of Christ, and teach me the way of love so I can participate well in that shared hearing for the road ahead. In Jesus’ name, amen.

THE QUESTION

Have you ever been “sent” by your local congregation to do something that carried the heart of your fellowship into an area of need? What gifts were a part of that experience for you?

For the awakening,

Dan Wilt

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Dan Wilt is a member of the Seedbed farm team. He has decades experience as a pastor, worship leader, teacher, and leader of creatives across the globe.

2 COMMENTS

  1. As I read this post on how the local body of Christ provides the necessary structure for spiritual formation to occur, I could not help but realize how important small group ministry is in achieving this task. May God awaken within our overly individualistic Western Church culture to the need to reintegrate this necessary component. In my opinion the lack of intentional community will be the downfall of much of the American Church.

  2. I agree with the assessment of Bob Kersten, Currently there is a lack of intentional community formation, there is only doing something to attract more people. The way that played out in the local church was new people showed up but the overall numbers never changed and once the pastor who implemented the drastic change moved on, and other pastors arrived with different perspectives, the numbers began to drop even further. I never expected that if I stayed in a local church long enough, a whole new church would emerge with a completely different personality.

    I am now on a mission to follow John Wesley’s advice: always save yourself. It is not the way it should be and it is most certainly not the way I want it to be but it is the current reality. I have even come across a refugee from a local blowing and going non-denominational church who walked away because the church’s focus shifted to getting more people by ensuring everybody is comfortable. The church never made an impact on my life by accommodating me; rather it was something I bumped up against and I had to accommodate it with its truly counter-cultural historical liturgical worship that gave me an hour unlike any other hour I spent during the week. I never doubted the existence of God and that there was something much larger and better going on than my daily life. Ultimately, it took the communion of saints past and present to straighten out the muddle of understanding I had been packing around for way too long and enable me to finally stand in the wide open space of God’s most amazing grace.

    If Christianity in American has become individualistic, it is because there was never any clear, consistent teaching and there was no concern about who sits in a pew as long as somebody sits in the pew.

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