Common sense is a part of discerning your church’s missionary call. The gifts of the people that comprise your local body should impact deeply the direction you move in mission. But there is also a spiritual aspect—something supernatural and beyond our control.
That is, the work of the Holy Spirit.
We must not forget, our missional endeavors are not on our own, they are God’s. As such, God guides us by His Spirit.
What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer? (John 16:7-8; 14:26; Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18, 25, et al.) In accordance with the list you just made, how does the Spirit’s role relate to our ability to effectively join God on mission?
The Leadership Void
Imagine the fear, wonder, excitement, doubt, questions, and awe that must have flooded the minds of Jesus’ followers as they watched Him ascend into the clouds. He had been killed for the mission that He had just assigned to them. And He had stayed among the Jews. He wanted them to go to all the nations with the good news of God’s kingdom.
But how? Who would lead them? Who would show them where and how to go?
Jesus had been their leader. They went where He sent them and did what He said to do. But now He was gone. But He had not left them alone (John 14:25-31). After a time of waiting (a week or so), the leadership void was filled—powerfully! The Holy Spirit came to indwell Jesus’ followers and empower them as witnesses to all the earth (Acts 1:8; 2:1-12). In short, it was the Holy Spirit who came to lead Jesus’ followers on the mission He had entrusted to them; and the Holy Spirit remains our leader as we join God on mission today (Galatians 5:25).
...our necessary dependence on the step-by-step leadership of the Holy Spirit is often an afterthought in mission. We tend to consult Him once, then ask for His blessing on our strategy rather than allow Him to guide our every turn along the way. Our mission depends on the Holy Spirit’s guidance every step of the way. —Caleb Crider, co-founder of The Upstream Collective
“There is no question that God’s people can look for and expect ‘leadings,’ ‘guidance,’ ‘indications’ of what they are meant to do.’” Our tendency as individuals and as local churches and mission agencies is to subscribe, sometimes blindly, to a prescribed strategy without a constant listening and discerning ear tuned into the heartbeat of our Lord.
Set aside for a moment the leadership of the Spirit. Imagine your local church felt a call to a certain people. What steps would you naturally take to begin to develop strategy (i.e. Internet searches, partnerships with agencies, meeting locals, vision trips, etc.)? How might it look to now think through that list under the direction of the Spirit? How might He change your strategy? Are there other ways He might connect you with the people He is sending you to that are not on your list?
It seems that the main reason we hope God will work differently in our situations is control rooted in pride. God’s strength is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), which means that our part is to be weak and vulnerable, moldable, and leadable. It requires humility, such as was required of Christ to take on human form and endure the cross (Philippians 2:5-8). Straight up, it’s hard, and it requires constant communion with and deference to our King. Pray that the mind of Christ that is already in you would lead you to humbly follow the leadership of the Spirit, not just once, but continually—step-by-step. Pray that the Spirit would lead your church, and that together you would boldly follow as God leads you on mission, even in unexpected ways.