Growing the church 1: STAY OPEN
In 1 Cor 3:5f, Paul describes the corporate process of growing the church. “Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. My job was to plant the seed in your hearts and Apollos watered it.” Paul describes -roughly- the distinction between the evangelist and the pastor, between the pioneer and the settler. But then, lest they over-emphasise the importance of one of those activities to the detriment of the other, he adds: “It was God -not we- who made it grow.” God is the Creator, the Initiator, the Alpha… He generates life. The church is his brainchild, his special child. It is fashioned in the image of God… the body of Christ, in fact.
So what do we have to do with growing the church? Paul is explicit: “We work together as partners who belong to God” (v9). It is an important fact, but one easily overlooked, that the church is not our possession. It belongs to God. We simply work within it “in pursuit of his glory.” We are not owners but stewards. We are junior clerks in a family business… not the board of directors!
So, that means that as the church, our priority activity is to “keep in step with the Holy Spirit.”In physical walking, there are three important elements: balance, locomotion, and direction. In walking by the Spirit, there are also some vital elements.
The first element–“setting your mind on the things of the Spirit” (read Rom. 8:5,6). This means to choose to think about every major area of your life from the perspective of God’s grace. Get your thinking into balance. Use the word of God as the yardstick. Easier said than done?
In Gal. 5-6 we find out more. . . Walking by the Spirit involves locomotion: “keeping in step with the Spirit.”
You can see that this is a parallel passage to Romans 8. The subject is the same (read Gal. 5:16). The results of walking by the Spirit are the same, only described in more detail (read 5:22,23).
Notice what Paul says in 5:25. Here, the NIV is a better translation: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” The verb (stoichew) is different than the general verb “walk” (peripatew) in 5:16. It means to “walk in a line, to proceed under another’s direction.” It was sometimes used to describe soldiers who marched in response to the directions of their commanding officer. So to “keep in step with the Spirit” means to be alert and responsive to the Spirit’s personal guidance in our life together.
The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal Force that we learn to tap into and use to accomplish our agenda for life. The Holy Spirit is a Person who personally guides us into God’s will and then empowers us to accomplish this as we choose to respond to his guidance.
The Spirit desires to direct us. Within our church, that means that we have to practise and pursue an openness to the Spirit and his leading. We expect the Spirit to speak through prophecy, through the preaching from the word of God, trhough “pictures” and impulses drawn from times of prayer. Of course, all this activity is tested and considered…. but the alternative is that we miss the Spirit’s voice to the church. And without that directing voice, we fall easily prey to our own notions and “good ideas.”