February 19, 2018

Priorities Series: Church Strengthening

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NOTE FROM LUMINEX: This is the seventh entry in an 8-week series on Priorities. Today’s focus is Church Strengthening. Enjoy!

Acts 2 provides a vivid picture of the intersection between faith-based leadership and the work of the Holy Spirit. This combination gave birth to the early church, and has fueled thriving churches ever since.

Lesson 1: The Holy Spirit shows up when leaders are united in Christ and focused on God.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” (Acts 2:1)

Like the early leaders in Christ’s church, your leadership team must gather regularly to worship, pray, and wait on the Holy Spirit.  Doing so fosters trust, courage, and purpose. Just as the early church drew its life from the Holy Spirit, so must we.

Lesson 2: When and how the Holy Spirit works is not for us to know.
“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.”  (Acts 2:2-3)

We want immediate answers to our questions, immediate solutions to our problems, and immediate clarity for our future. But if we had all of that, would we need faith?  Strong, faith-based leaders remain both persistent and patient – persistent to seek the Holy Spirit, and patient to wait on the Holy Spirit.

Lesson 3: The Holy Spirit brings unity through diversity.
“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:4)

Left to ourselves, our diversity – of thought, background, ethnicity, gender – will divide us. But when we are fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit, our diversity is beautiful to behold, strengthening and uniting our leaders, and our church.

Lesson 4: Collaboration is key for discerning and following the leading of the Holy Spirit.
“Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’”  (Acts 2:12)

The manifestation of the Holy Spirit was so powerful that the people were “amazed,” yet so unpredictable that they were “perplexed.” Thus, the people wisely asked one another what all of this meant, and received their answer in short order from Peter. When we sense the Holy Spirit working in our midst, yet are unsure about what the Spirit is conveying specifically or how we are to respond, we need to ask one another, “What does this mean?” Collaboration is vital for understanding and following the leading of the Holy Spirit, and when we fail to consult with one another, we risk missing out on all that the Holy Spirit is inviting us into.

Lesson 5: When following the Holy Spirit, expect ridicule and opposition.
“Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’”  (Acts 2:13)

The more that leaders step into the call of Christ and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, the more they can expect ridicule and opposition. The good news is that while facing ridicule and opposition doesn’t feel good, if it comes out of following the leading of the Holy Spirit, it is good.

Lesson 6: Above all else, proclaim the Gospel!
“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.’” (Acts 2:14)

We can be so focused on implementing new and exciting initiatives that we lose sight of our primary call to proclaim the Gospel. Paul instructed his protégé Timothy to, “proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable.” Like Timothy, we too must be steadfast in proclaiming the Gospel.

Lesson 7: Be ready to reap the harvest.
“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’  Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:37-38)

When the seeds of the Gospel have been sown, we need to be ready and willing to reap the harvest. The workers may be few, but there is no excuse to not reap the harvest in our own backyard.

Lesson 8: Trust God to bring the increase.
“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Acts 2:41)

Three thousand people coming to Christ in a single day? Talk about a good day for evangelism!  But even as we celebrate this amazing response to the Gospel, it’s easy to overlook that those who didn’t place their faith in Christ that day likely numbered in the hundreds of thousands. This serves as a simple yet critically important reminder that God alone brings the increase.  Peter proclaimed the Gospel passionately and persuasively, and while many placed their faith in Christ, many more did not. Ultimately, our role is to be faithful in proclaiming and living in accordance with the Gospel, and to trust God to bring the increase.

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