the shape of leadership

Have They Received the Holy Spirit?

Four keys to building a Spirit-receptive culture in your church

Jeremy Dunn on January 11, 2019

Church leaders often talk about building culture. The word “culture” has agricultural implications, deriving from the same Latin root as “cultivate.” It remains a fitting association. After all, it takes special care to grow a healthy, flourishing, Spirit-receptive church culture.

The process must begin with the seed of the Word of God and the irrigation of the Holy Spirit. We see this in the Early Church, where the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the proclamation of the gospel were inseparable (Acts 1:8; 2:38; 4:31; 8:14-17; 10:44; 19:4-6).

This is the kind of church culture people are hungry for today. It’s not about being on-trend; it’s about being on fire with a desire for more of the presence of God. We can fill our churches with bells and whistles, but until the Holy Spirit fills the people, we can’t expect to see the kind of life change we find in Scripture.

Here are four keys to building a Spirit-receptive culture in your church:

Say “Yes” to God’s Model

Years ago, as an aspiring church planter and future senior pastor, I had a face-off with the question every executive leader must answer: Do I follow the cultural template of the Early Church in relation to the Holy Spirit? I chose an emphatic “yes!”

Building a Spirit-receptive culture requires unflinching conviction from senior leadership. You will encounter questions, skepticism and opposition. There will be distractions that threaten to shake your resolve. However, you must not lose sight of your “yes.” Keep it at the forefront of your mission, and stay focused on pleasing God over people (Galatians 1:10).

Start Teaching People

Your role is not to fill people with the Holy Spirit. Trying to do God’s job will lead to catastrophic failure and endless frustration. Your job is to teach biblical truth and allow the Holy Spirit to do the filling.

It’s not about being on-trend; it’s about being on fire with a desire for more of the presence of God.

In our church, we intentionally use all avenues to teach about the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. Through our main services, small groups and next steps classes, repeated exposure to these truths conditions people to open their hearts to all God has to offer.

After five years of building a Spirit-receptive culture, we are reaping a harvest. Last Pentecost Sunday, more than 100 people received the baptism in the Holy Spirit!

Surrender to the Spirit’s Leadership

If you’ve encountered misguided excess in the name of spirituality, you may be hesitant to open the floodgate on charismatic expressions. I ask that for a moment you turn off the learned church behaviors and turn on an open heart for what the Holy Spirit wants to do in the lives of the people you lead.

We must not allow someone else’s misrepresentation of the Bible to keep us from accurately and fully representing God’s Word. Our attempts at relevancy are never as relevant as an encounter with the eternal, omniscient God.

The Holy Spirit wants to meet people where they are and connect them to their unique divine design. Invite the Spirit to lead, and watch Him accomplish infinitely more than you could ever do in your own power.

Submit to Private Encounters

Early on, I made it a priority to have personal encounters with the Holy Spirit, knowing that I could never lead publicly what I do not practice privately. This pursuit helped me develop sensitivity to the Spirit. Personally acknowledging and yielding to the Spirit has allowed me to see corporate moments of deliverance, healings and baptisms in the Holy Spirit, with the evidence of speaking in tongues.

When the Spirit sovereignly moves in our services, I intentionally take a moment to educate people on the biblical reason for what they are witnessing and experiencing. Biblical revelation protects the reputation of the Spirit-receptive church.

The most current stylistic approaches to church will never be as effective as following the lead of the Holy Spirit. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t strive to be culturally relevant and impeccably excellent.

You can be systematic, excellent, trendy and relevant without sacrificing obedience to the Spirit. But human efforts are no substitute for the work of the Spirit. For, it’s “‘not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 edition of Influence magazine.

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