It never ceases to amaze me that God’s work can be done apart from God. Pastors can plan, preach, pray, and speak words that bring hundreds comfort without even personally addressing God or acknowledging their need of Holy Spirit empowerment. What amazes me even more is I see the trend forming in my life. Now, I would never cognitively admit that ministry can be done outside of the power of the Holy Spirit, but during my first year of post-seminary ministry my actions have far too often spoken louder than my words. Self-reliance was the sin of Adam and Eve and quite frankly it is mine as well. That is why I am thankful for the words of Samuel Chadwick.
It is through happenstance (or providence) that I even found Samuel Chadwick. During my second year of seminary I stumbled upon his book The Way to Pentecost at a thrift shop, and Chadwick quickly became a spiritual father. Knowing he was a British Methodist pastor who later in life principled the esteemed Cliff College in Sheffield, England, I was confident I had come across a rare gem that many in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition had long forgot. I am thankful I was right.
Chadwick’s words cut my self-reliant actions like a knife and echo Christ proclaiming that humanity cannot survive through self-effort, but only from that which God gives. He reminds the church that:
The Presence of the Spirit is vital and central to the work of the Church. Nothing else avails. Apart from Him wisdom becomes folly, and strength weakness. The Church is called to be a “spiritual house” and a holy priesthood. Only spiritual people can be its “living stones,” and only the Spirit-filled its priests. Scholarship is blind to spiritual truth till He reveals. Worship is idolatry till He inspires. Preaching is powerless if it be not a demonstration of His power. Prayer is vain unless He energizes. Human resources of learning and organization, wealth and enthusiasm, reform and philanthropy, are worse than useless if there be no Holy Ghost in them. The Church always fails at the point of self-confidence. When the Church is run on the same lines as a circus, there may be crowds, but there is no Shekinah. (pg 7)
When the common wisdom of the day screams programs, trends, and just a few more hours and elbow grease, Chadwick reminds me that all too often I am:
“acting as though the only remedy for decline were method, organization, and compromise (pg 7)… the resources of the Church within herself are inadequate. In the fullness of the Spirit there is abundance of wisdom, resources, and power; but a man-managed, world-annexing, priest-pretending Church can never save the world or fulfill the mission of Christ. Suppose we try Pentecost (pg 16-17)!”
Far to often I talk about God, when I simply need to meet God. As singer-songwriter Misty Edwards penned, “I don’t want to talk about You like you’re not in the room, I want to look right at You, I want to sing right to You.” In the midst of the ebb and flow of church life, I found and am finding that I continually need to find “The Way to Pentecost” where God is the source of my life. I still struggle daily with the sin of Adam, but I want to do things differently; I want to move past the latest book, church trend, and meeting to find the upper room where God is. The “Way to Pentecost” is the simple way; the way which reminds me that I cannot do it, but I know the one who can. I am trying Pentecost.
If you are interested in reading Chadwick’s tome, you can find it here.