The week of June 15th (2009), we conducted a workshop to prepare the materials for a course called Growing the Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit.
The challenge and pressing need for the church today is to grow in depth of fellowship, in engagement in advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in numbers. The Christian Church faces vast challenges from Islam and the onslaught of secularization throughout the Western World.
We believe that the Holy Spirit is calling PRMI to play its part in meeting the challenges by providing equipping on what we all know is the key to the church growing and meeting the challenges: being alive in Jesus Christ, rooted in the Bible as the Word of God, and cooperating with the Holy Spirit in His mission of growing and expanding the Church worldwide.
We have put this teaching together into what we are calling the Two Foundations and the Seven Dynamics of Cooperating with the Holy Spirit. These are based on the foundations that Jesus provides us in his ministry as recorded in the gospels and what the Holy Spirit reveals through the practical life in the church in the Book of Acts.
The formation of what we find in Scripture into this framework of the Two Foundations and the Seven Dynamics has been shaped by our participation in the worldwide movement of the Holy Spirit beginning in the 1960’s. We have also distilled 20 years of teaching and practical equipping of leaders in the Dunamis Project.
We really look forward to seeing how the Lord will use this approach that moves beyond programs to the heart of the Gospel and to the dynamic of the Holy Spirit who makes all of our programs effective and our work fruitful.
As a summary of this approach the following is a description of the core concepts.
The Two Foundations for the Dance of Cooperation
In Acts we find that the ability to cooperate with the Spirit requires first of all that certain spiritual foundations are in place.
People need to be converted and committed to Jesus Christ, be growing in the Spirit’s fruit of Christ-like character, in knowing God and be welcoming the Spirit’s empowering presence and activity.
This is true for those in leadership and it is also true for the congregation as a whole. Without these foundations all our programs and administrative structures might still point to Jesus Christ, but they will fail to provide the context in which Jesus Christ may actively and actually work. However, when these foundations are in place then the great dance of cooperating with the Holy Spirit to do the work of Jesus as Prophet, Priest and King may begin.
We refer to this fundamental spiritual necessity for leaders and for congregations as the Two Foundations. Together they create a church culture in which the dance of cooperation with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit may take place.
We will give special attention to the First Foundation, namely leadership that embodies the reality of the Kingdom of God.
This form of spiritual leadership is modeled in Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh, who is the head of his body, the Church, and through his teaching and example we discover how to prepare people for this incarnational role. This foundation must be put in place if the Church is to be the fusion of the human and divine that God intends for his work on earth.
The Second Foundation is a congregation which likewise embodies the reality of the Kingdom of God.
We shall use the concept of “growing to fullness in Christ,” reflecting Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 4:13. The responsibility for nurturing such a congregation rests in the hands of those in leadership, who need to be able to say to the people: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”(1 Cor. 11:1)
The Seven Dynamics of Cooperating with the Holy Spirit
We then consider in detail what we have identified as the Seven Dynamics of cooperating with the Holy Spirit. These are like the dance steps that may be learned and implemented, in which we work with the Holy Spirit, and through which Jesus’ headship of the Church becomes an experienced reality. These seven dynamics are as follows:
- Dynamic # 1 Divine Love Drawing Us into Participation – this was the starting motivation of Jesus’ own ministry and it opens the door for us to engage in ministry too.
- Dynamic # 2 Intercessory Prayer: Inviting God’s Engagement – the Holy Spirit prompts us to pray which opens the door for God to work in our situations but he then guides and directs us in cooperating with him.
- Dynamic # 3 Faith Clothed in Obedience: Opening the Door to God’s Activity– The gift of mountain-moving faith opens the door for God to act in our midst.
- Dynamic # 4 Receiving Divine Guidance for Cooperating with the Holy Spirit – how individuals and the community engage in the discipline of listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit so we may take part in the dance of cooperation.
- Dynamic # 5 Spiritual Discernment: Making Listening and Obedience Safe – the theological safety-net enabling us to avoid both gullibility and skepticism and, instead, identify and affirm what is truly from God so that we can step out in obedience.
- Dynamic # 6 Welcoming the Gifts and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit – affirming and clarifying the normality, purpose and practice of spiritual gifts in the congregation; these are the power tools for building the Kingdom of God.
- Dynamic # 7 Seeing and Responding to Kairos Moments – learning to identify and cooperate with the activity of the Spirit in spiritually-pregnant moments, and so going deeper into engagement with the work of God.
These are simply descriptive of the dynamic of our working with the Holy Spirit. We will explore each in turn and will make practical suggestions of how they may be cultivated in the local congregation. We will also explore briefly the ways in which the dance is blocked. Obstacles to the dance of cooperation exist in our churches and we need to take them seriously if we want to see churches growing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Synergy Of The Dance
Of course, these dynamics do not normally occur in isolation or in a sequence. Instead there is a fluid interplay with a tremendous synergy as they combine together, facilitated by the congregation’s leadership but made reality by the
activity of the Holy Spirit. Human and divine dimensions are intermingled, woven together under the direction of the Holy Spirit and the cooperation of God’s people.
This is a complex reality, one that evidences Jesus’ presence and reign as head of his Body, the Church, and is expressed through concrete activities and ministries.
In these, the Church as the body of Christ is formed not as a spiritual ideal, but as an actuality. In this place Jesus Christ is actually experienced as present and at work on earth and in the lives of ordinary human beings as Prophet, Priest and King.
Implementation In The Congregation
Throughout the course we will consider the practicalities of introducing these dynamics into the life of local congregations, illustrating it from case studies. There are unique advantages when planting new churches, but we will focus especially on the task of transforming the attitudes, understanding, ethos and practices of existing congregations, for this is the probable context for the majority of the course participants. There are significant obstacles that emerge as one seeks to keep in step with the Spirit, and we will identify some of these in order that they may more readily be avoided.
We have to emphasize that the fresh approach advocated in this course is not about styles of worship or activities.
Instead it is concerned with the practicalities of the more fundamental matter of allowing the Lord to direct the life of his people and his Church. As leaders enable their congregations to actively cooperate with the Holy Spirit, the church rightly serves as the vanguard and agent of the Kingdom of God.
The aim of the course, therefore, is to help equip leaders and churches in the practicalities of seeking, discerning and then acting on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
This course is intended as a hands-on road map for intentionally working in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, whose purpose is growing congregations which are effective in advancing the Kingdom of God in the world today.
(This material is based on the book to be published by Zondervan, Growing the Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit, the Seven Dynamics of Cooperation, by Brad Long, Paul Stokes and Cindy Strickler. © Copyright 2009)