I’ve been told many times that if the Holy Spirit is involved in my church there will be growth in numbers. I’ve been told that the Holy Spirit will always provide money, resources, volunteers, and anything else to carry out the ministry. If the Spirit is in your church, your church will be the awesomest church ever!
When people start telling me that the Holy Spirit guarantees external, material, measurable success, I wonder if they’ve ever read the Bible.
The Spirit called a number of prophets to go talk to a group of people who were not going to listen. They were told up front: Go talk to them, but understand that they aren’t going to listen to you. They’ll probably try to kill you.
Jesus Christ had no place to lay His head. He had 72 disciples, then 12, then 11, then zero for a bit. The Apostle Paul said he was left alone, no man stood with him. He learned to be content even when he was in famine, nakedness, and distress.
There is nothing in the Bible that leads me to believe that when the Holy Spirit shows up everything is externally, measurably awesome. Hebrews 11, people. Some believers were sawn in pieces!
We want to determine the Spirit’s effectiveness by measures of human effectiveness. Lately the church has been led to believe we must have success like businesses do: more money, bigger buildings, sprawling campuses, more people/employees, etc. If your church looks like Amazon and Apple, then God has blessed you and the Spirit is doing amazing things (Just like He is at Amazon and Apple apparently).
If your church is muddling along in mediocrity and can’t build a sign let alone a building, then obviously God’s blessing is removed, you guys need revival, and certainly you don’t have the Spirit.
This is all nauseating, offensive, proud, flippant, unrealistic, and contrary to much of God’s biblical revelation to us. Man judges on externals; God judges the heart.
The sign the Holy Spirit is working in your ministry is that YOU are growing in Christ. YOU are becoming like Christ. YOU are decreasing; He is increasing.
When this begins in you, your church might get worse. I can honestly say that right around the time I made strides spiritually is when the most people left my church. And, quite frankly, them leaving my church caused me even more spiritual growth.
Now, I’m not talking proud selfishness here, nor is this some sort of flippant, “Well, as long as I’m ok, let them eat cake.”
Growing in Christ means serving people. Christ served people. Remember what the people He served did to Him? They killed Him.
If you aren’t growing in Christ as the pastor, then the Holy Spirit is not involved in your ministry.
If you grow in Christ, the Spirit is involved in your ministry. Odds are, at least one or two other people will notice this and they’ll grow into Christ too. I say “at least one or two” because I think that’s a more accurate expectation than having thousands show up. This seems more accurate to Scripture as well. Exceptions, as always, are possible, but thousands are clearly not the norm.
And please spare me the, “you don’t have enough faith. If you expected more from the Spirit you’d get more” lecture here too. Been there, done that.
What I do know is that if one or two or a hundred or a thousand grow in Christ, it takes a long time. Be patient. The people in the Bible chosen by the Spirit to serve the Lord served for a long time and mostly got nothing but hassle for doing so. Remember Moses?
The way you know the Spirit is involved in your ministry is not by external, measurable signs of human success. There are plenty of people out there who have thousands of fans who are nothing like Christ. Remember Steve Jobs?
If you have tons of what you determine to be ministry success and yet aren’t growing in Christ personally, the Spirit is not in your ministry. Everything that God does on this planet is to get people to grow into Christ. If that’s not happening, I don’t care how many people are following you or how many buildings you’re building, the Spirit is not at work.
The way to know the Spirit is involved in your ministry is if you are increasingly knowing Christ, the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, and being made conformable unto His death. Not quite as much fun, but it’s way better.
Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
–1 Timothy 4:15-16