As I read Sam Hamstra's recent post Controlling the Holy Spirit I felt compelled to encourage my brothers and sisters in pastoral ministry to think deeply about, and pray earnestly into, this question: "How can I, along with the church that I serve, be enabled to discern and obediently cooperate with the guidance of the Holy Spirit?" After an unexpected and yet very significant encounter with the Holy Spirit about three years into my now 15 years of pastoral ministry, this has been a question that I regularly pray over and wonder about.
In his excellent book, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, John Miller describes two occasions of people gathering for prayer. The question he poses about the difference between one prayer gathering and the other is a question that pastors could ask about any number of congregational experiences: worship services, sermons, Council meetings, and small groups. Here's what Miller writes,
What made the difference between the prayer meeting that failed and the one that came alive? The earlier gathering lacked the touch of the power of God. In the second one the King was present, moving, working, and leading. It was His meeting. He had graciously chosen to be present and to glorify Himself by changing us and answering our prayers.
By God's grace there have been seasons in my pastoral ministry when I along with numerous people in my congregation have sensed the overt presence of The King in our midst. As the Spirit manifests His presence and power in and through the lives of His people, pastors quickly come to realize that their calling brings great satisfaction and joy; as the saying goes, "There's no life like it!" To be close to the Spirit's work of transforming, healing, converting and empowering people's lives is thrilling. And there is one thing that I've learned: the work of transforming, healing, convert and empowering REALLY IS the work of the Spirit! It seems so obvious, but again and again in my ministry I have carried an unhealthy burden that this work depended a lot on me. As John Miller describes part of his own experience he writes,
What came home to me with power is the centrality of the Spirit's working for all of the Christian life and service. In my need I came to appreciate what Herman Bavinck stresses in his excellent essay "The Gift of the Spirit." He says that all the promises of Scripture — for protection, health, daily physical bread, etc. — find their root in the one supreme promise: the commitment of the risen Christ to impart the Holy Spirit as the power source for the church in answer to prayer.
How can we as leaders cultivate a deep dependency on the manifest presence of the Spirit as the power source for the church?
Thankfully, our denomination, through the sponsorship of CRHM, in partnership with Dunamis Fellowship, has offered pastors and church leaders encouragement and help in answering that question. "Growing the Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit" are conferences that teach practical ways for leaders in the church to be nurtured and sustained in the process of cooperating with the Holy Spirit.
In the past, conferences have been hosted in West Michigan and Ontario. The most recent one in Ottawa, Ontario experienced a wonderful sense of the Spirit's presence.
Two more conferences are being offered. One in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, June 1-4, 2015 and the other in Guelph, Ontario, November 9-12, 2015.