Missional Pattern 6: Dependence on the Holy Spirit
The missional church confesses its dependence on the Holy Spirit, shown especially in its practices of praying together and waiting on God.
Missional congregations spend a lot of time, together, in prayer. Missional congregations pray together on Sunday. They pray at committee meetings. They pray at small group meetings. They hold special prayer services. Some congregations commission people for specific prayer ministries. Some congregations hold prayer walks through the neighborhood. Some have prayer meetings early in the morning before work, or during the noon hour, or in the evening. Some congregations spend a lot of time in silent prayer. In some congregations, a group is meeting for prayer almost every day of the week. One congregation periodically cancels all activities for a week, except Sunday morning worship, so that its members can come together to pray.
The missional church seeks to put itself completely into the hands of God. It joins in Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying to God, “Not my will, but yours, be done.” Effective prayer sheds our own wishes and wants, and wants only for God’s will to be done. Prayer is not about getting what we want, but desiring what God wants. It can feel risky to put ourselves, our congregation, completely into the hands of God. But we remember that God is a loving God, who has created us and called us to participate in God’s mission in the world.
Dependence on the Holy Spirit calls the church not to rely on its own strength. The God who has given the church a missional vocation also gives the church the strength to carry out that mission. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant, giving blessing to the “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3), who know that they cannot do everything by themselves. They need other people, and they need God. They are the ones who understand the kingdom of heaven.
The church expects the Holy Spirit to act in the world and in the life of the church. Prayer praises God for what God’s Spirit has already done, and prayer anticipates God’s further action. This expectation of God’s action includes God’s leading in congregational decision making. When the church practices decision making in dependence on the Holy Spirit, it expects that the Spirit will help the congregation to align itself more closely with God’s action and purposes in the world.
The Holy Spirit will continue to lead us in the direction of Jesus Christ, as we know him through the Scriptures. Dependence on the Holy Spirit is not an alternative to biblical formation. Rather, we can count on the Holy Spirit to “remind you of all that I have said to you,” quoting the words of Jesus in John 15:26. The Spirit’s message to us in the present will be consistent with the witness of Scripture. Likewise, our encounter with Scripture and our attempts to carry out our missional vocation should lead the church to depend on the Holy Spirit even more than before.