I (Will) have been reading through Radical by David Platt over the past few months. Most (if not all) of the content I’ve heard before through the sermon podcasts. But there’s been a smaller theme in the book that’s really resonated with me and caused some soul searching on my part.
Platt spends one section talking about how [my paraphase] if we wanted to, church leaders in America could grow a huge mega-church without any help from the Holy Spirit. All we have to do is find the outgoing, charismatic speaker; build the greatest facilities w/ best technology; organize top-notch programs; and target the upper and middle suburban class. Before long, the church is booming and the leaders are being invited to all the speaking circuits with the other celeb-evangelicals. Yet, no where to be found is the Holy Spirit actually changing hearts rather than man playing with emotions.
As I read this, I began to think about who is really behind my gospel ministry. I’ve lived overseas for 2 years engaging unreached people groups; I’ve traveled around the southeast for 8 months promoting and recruiting for missions. I’ve had chance to preach and teach at churches. I’ve trained national church planter and pastors in Asia. Yet, I think I’ve come to the realization that much of my “ministry” falls into the category Platt is describing. Reflecting on the state of my personal walk with Christ during these times, I know that many of these efforts were completed in my own power. Bible reading was scarce; prayer even scarcer. Now, the Bible has plenty of examples of using someone’s sin or faults for the greater purpose (Joseph’s brothers, Cyrus, Judas, etc); so I don’t doubt that any who were impacted by what I said or did were impacted for the wrong reason necessarily. Yet, I have been reminded over and over the past few weeks about the missed opportunities this spiritless-ministry left on the table.
For too long, I’ve mostly relied on my head knowledge to carry me through ministry (and seminary) rather than opening my mind and heart to hear the Spirit’s leading. I know that the only way to completely follow God is 100% submission to him. I don’t doubt my salvation; I know that Christ is my Savior. What I look back on are the many times where my disobedience prevented me from seeing God at work through me, missing the opportunity to know him better. Yet, I know that the Spirit is always here in me. I trust God’s Word that the Spirit will lead and guide me; I trust that the Spirit will intercede for me when I know not what to say. I need to be more committed to being in God’s Word, to spending time in prayer, to listening to his voice. Only then will I be able to actually see the power of the Spirit in my gospel ministry.
I write this post not to publically confess my shortcomings. I write to possibly help and encourage any of the few readers we have to not fall into the same trap that I did. Don’t rely only on your own gifts, because your gifts and talents without the power of the Holy Spirit are fruitless. Gospel ministry without the power of the Spirit is no Gospel ministry at all.