How can a church learn to cooperate with the Holy Spirit?
St Paul wrote that we should “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
For me this brings to mind images of ballroom or Latin dancing, where the woman’s dancing follows the lead given by her partner.
In a similar way the church needs to follow the lead that is given by the Holy Spirit.
In practical terms this means we need to learn some basic ‘dance steps’.
These can then weave together in a dynamic flow, keeping in step with whatever the Holy Spirit is doing.
When learning to dance, the instructor teaches the discrete steps one by one. But when we are actually dancing these steps merge together in one fluid, graceful movement.
Seven dynamics or ‘dance steps’
Dynamic # 1 – Divine love drawing us into participation
Love is the only possible starting point. Love draws us into the dance because love reflects the very nature of God.
It was the starting point for Jesus’ ministry, and opens the door for us to engage in this work too.
Jesus refused to ‘perform’ miracles merely to satisfy curiosity, but he gladly touched peoples’ lives out of his deep compassion.
1 Corinthians 13 makes it clear that the Spirit requires love to be the context in which he acts, and so we need to cultivate love in our own lives and in our churches.
Dynamic # 2 – Intercessory prayer; inviting God’s engagement
When Jesus raised Lazarus, his visit to the village and the miracle at the tomb all occur because Mary and Martha invite him.
Today that invitation is extended through the work of intercessory prayer.
When battling the Amalekites, Moses’ role of intercession was vital. When Peter was imprisoned the early Church interceded.
Seeking vision in the context of prayer, and then the intercessory work of praying it into reality, is the key to engaging in the Lord’s programs and initiatives.
Dynamic #3 – The gift of faith clothed in obedience; opening the door to God’s activity
Faith is the conviction that God can and will act. It is evidenced by actions based on that conviction.
As Mary takes Jesus to where her brother lies, and as bystanders obediently remove the stone from the tomb, we see that true faith is clothed in obedience.
This same faith clothed in obedience saw Peter walk on water, and saw him be an active participant in the healing of the beggar on the Temple steps.
Faith leads us to be willing to take risky steps of obedience, drawing us into the realm of depending on God where he may work supernaturally.
Dynamic # 4 – Receiving Divine guidance for cooperating with the Holy Spirit
Guidance ensures that we engage in Jesus’ agenda and not merely our own good ideas.
Paul’s visit to Philippi, and Peter’s visit to Cornelius, began with revelatory guidance from the Holy Spirit.
The Bible is God’s foundational, unchangeable revelation, but it also teaches us to expect revelation through gifts of the Holy Spirit such as words of prophecy, knowledge or wisdom.
This guidance makes it possible for us, like Jesus, to join in with what the Father is doing. The church’s challenge is to learn how to be attentive.
Dynamic # 5 –Spiritual Discernment; making listening and obedience safe
Discernment creates an environment that makes it safe for us to welcome the guidance and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
It is the practical theological safety-net that enables us to avoid the twin extremes of unthinking gullibility and obstructive skepticism so that we can identify and keep in step with the guidance that is truly from God.
We therefore need to learn how to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1) so that we are neither led astray nor afraid to welcome the supernatural activity of God. (See: Four Discernment Tests)
Dynamic # 6 – Welcoming the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit
Spiritual gifts and manifestations of the Spirit’s power enable us to act as agents of God’s Kingdom on earth. They are normal and essential expressions of the Holy Spirit’s power and presence.
Jesus not only knew what to say, but also exercised miraculous powers, delivered people from evil spirits and brought healing to people afflicted by a wide range of sickness and diseases …and he promised that we would do the same kind of works as he did (John 14:12).
We therefore need to learn how these should be understood and expressed in a helpful manner, welcoming the full variety of the Holy Spirit’s gifts and not place any constraints on his sovereign freedom.
Dynamic # 7 – Seeing and responding to “kairos” moments
In all dances tempo is crucial, and so the final step is to recognise and respond to kairos moments of God’s timing.
These are occasions of pregnant opportunity as God prepares to act and seeks human cooperation.
By learning to discern kairos moments we discover how to synchronize ourselves with the activity of the Holy Spirit’s timing; neither pre-empting his activity nor tarrying and missing the moment.
We learn not only to do what the Father is doing, but to do it when the Father is doing it.
These seven dynamics or ‘dance steps’ combine to form a fluid dance of cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
They are the practicalities of seeking, discerning and then acting on the Spirit’s guidance, drawing us into active cooperation with the work that Jesus is doing.
Get the Book:
The above article is elaborated at length in our book, Growing the Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit.
These books are available in English and Spanish. Published by Zondervan