“The Holy Spirit Factor”
Acts 19:1-7 (MSG), “Now, it happened that while Apollos was away in Corinth, Paul made his way down through the
mountains, came to Ephesus, and happened on some disciples there. The first thing he said was, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?" "We've never even heard of that—a Holy Spirit? God within us?" "How were you baptized, then?" asked Paul. "In John's baptism." "That explains it," said Paul. "John preached a baptism of radical life-change so that people would be ready to receive the One coming after him, who turned out to be Jesus. If you've been baptized in John's baptism, you're ready now for the real thing, for Jesus." And they were. As soon as they heard of it, they were baptized in the name of the Master Jesus. Paul put his hands on their heads and the Holy Spirit entered them. From that moment on, they were praising God in tongues and talking about God's actions. Altogether there were about twelve people there that day.”
Spiritless Christianity at Ephesus
Paul heard that Apollos was away and went to visit Christians in Ephesus. So he asked them this simple question: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Now, we can argue endlessly about the true meaning or implications of this question.
We can argue that, of course, we all received the Holy Spirit when we first believed because there is no such thing as receiving one person of the Trinity without receiving “the whole package”.
In the MSG version Eugene Peterson goes ahead in trying to unpack this for us: “Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?” (v. 2). I believe Paul had heard about a form of “Spiritless Christianity” that had been proclaimed at Ephesus. The religion of the mind, the religion of solid theological definitions, where the combination of a well-trained mind with fire in the heart was not evident, a form of religion where the Holy Spirit was not “inside of them”. In fact, they had not even heard about the Holy Spirit!
The Religion of the Heart
I believe through the years we have developed a “cold-hearted” form of religion, the religion of the bright minds and sharp theological definitions without the fervor, the passion and the power that comes from a true movement of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
I believe we have become less effective and less relevant because we trust so much in our techniques, and having the right data, and orthodoxy and trainings and human efforts that we have totally missed the initial spark, the moving force, the gas that ignites the engines of the church.
Leadership inflamed by the Holy Spirit
We’ve talked a lot about “leadership” in the past 8 years. As teams in the SW District we’ve tried to do lots of things to improve the effectiveness of our leadership skills – some of that has been accomplished. Personally, I have not spent a lot of time teaching/preaching about what I believe is the single most important factor in leadership effectiveness – the power of the Holy Spirit.
Faithfulness and Fruitfulness
We’ve spent a lot of time talking in Clergy Meetings, Charge Conferences, Thrive Conferences and other events about faithfulness and fruitfulness. The type of relationship we have with the Living Christ determines the effectiveness of our leadership. Consequently, we’ve been pushing for a more intentional practice of spiritual disciplines, both personally and collectively through our Clergy Area Teams.
The principle we’ve been trying to practice is to hold each other accountable to a more intense relationship with Christ that would be reflected in increased ministry effectiveness and fruitfulness. We are using a common language to refer to ineffective leadership and what is causing us not to be missionally relevant in many of our communities. We’ve been teaching about the need to do ministry together with others and not playing the “heroic solo leader” style.
We still believe that effective ministry happens more often in teams of Christians committed to be fully devoted disciples of Christ – and we have had some success in doing that. And yet I believe we’ve not been making enough emphasis in the spark that inflames the wheel of faithfulness and fruitfulness, the fuel that heightens our desire to please God and to serve our communities, the power that pushes us outside of our comfort zones and ignites us to a closer relationship with Christ and a ministry filled with spiritual power – a Pentecost, the Holy Spirit factor.
The Holy Spirit Factor
It was the Holy Spirit Factor the one who set in motion the revival that happened in the First Century of Christianity – the Early Church expanded throughout the Mediterranean world, Egypt, Syria and Ethiopia.
It was the Holy Spirit Factor that brought back to the church a renewed appreciation and respect for Scripture and a passion for the poor and the marginalized through Martin Luther and the Reformation.
It was the Holy Spirit Factor what initiated the Wesleyan movement with the experience of the burning heart at Aldersgate and the innovative spirit that moved passionate, enthusiastic Christians out of the churches to the mines and the marketplaces to proclaim – “the world is our parish”
It was the Holy Spirit fire the one who ignited the missionary movement and the deep passion to fulfill the Great Commission in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands.
It was Pentecostal fire which fell down on a small island called CUBA in the mid-1970’s when Christians fell discouraged and Christianity was shrinking due to persecution and very harsh conditions to develop the mission of God under Communist rule. The Holy Spirit fell down and suddenly we roared like lions, and practiced one-on-one evangelism, and lost all fear of reprisals, and made “CUBA PARA CRISTO” (Cuba for Christ) our motto, and increased membership and places of worship at a rhythm that was difficult to predict or follow. It’s people on fire that create churches on fire. It’s spiritual power what brings about growth and effectiveness and a passion for God and God’s people.
A nice summer religion
John Wesley refers to his relationship with God prior to Aldersgate as “a nice summer religion”. I believe that is what Christianity has come to mean to many disciples of Christ here in America. John Wesley had an interest in biblical languages and in methods of life before Aldersgate (and kept that after Aldersgate) but the academia and the spiritual methods are no substitutes for what is indispensable – the power of God.
Paul laid hands… the Holy Spirit entered
Paul laid hands on the Ephesians, “on their heads” – we have become so reactive to the abuses of the Holy Spirit that we don’t lay hands on people’s heads anymore. Don’t limit the Spirit! Don’t be scared of what the Spirit can produce!
The Holy Spirit “entered them” – how did they know? There were concrete signs: “they were praising God in tongues and prophesied” – Praising God freely and speaking God’s word freely! Oh, how much do we need that!
The power of God for ministry effectiveness
When was the last time you shared Christ and people responded by asking to know more about it or decided to open their hearts to Christ? When was the last time you felt you received “revelation” from God? – revelation for sermon preaching, revelation for missional effectiveness, revelation about things that need to be changed in our lives?
When was the last time we felt the power of the Holy Spirit moving us outside of the church, to the marketplace, to validate that “the world is (indeed) our parish”? When was the last time we felt like God was using us as a prophetic voice to convey a message to God’s people or to people outside of the faith community?
When was the last time we prayed for the sick and somebody gave testimony of the healing power of Jesus in action in their lives through your ministry? When was the last time you felt compelled by the Spirit to freely praise God in tongues and freely prophesy (give His Word)?
Ask for it!
I would certainly understand if you don’t like people laying hands on you. Maybe you are still resenting some bad experience, some abuse of the Holy Spirit, something that was imposed on you on an invasive manner. But I would definitely challenge you today to ask God to boost your ministry and to make you more relevant, and passionate and effective by asking God to give you a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit in your life.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who seeks finds, and to everyone who knocks, it will be opened. “Who are the parents among you who, if your children ask for bread, will give them a stone? Or if they ask for a fish, you would give them a snake? If you, sinful people, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
In Christ’s amazing grace and love,
SPR TRAINING - SAVE THE DATES
Rev. Hernandez and Sandy Voigt will be at the following locations for SPRC training. This training is for all SPRC committee members (outgoing and incoming).
Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018 @10am: Christ UMC, 1475 Center Rd., Venice, FL 34292
Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018 @3pm: Estero UMC, 8088 Lord's Way, Estero, FL 33928
Friday, Dec. 7, 2018 @ 6:30pm: First UMC, 126 S. Pine St., Sebring, FL 33870
CALL TO PRAYER AND FASTING FOR THE UMC
As we approach the General Conference at the end of February, the District is calling on churches to set apart one day in January or February to fast and pray for our denomination. Our hope is to have all our churches participate so that beginning January 1st through Feb 26th, at least one church a day in our district is holding the UMC before the Lord in prayer.
At each of the Super Charged Conferences there will be a calendar to claim a day for your church to pray. We hope to cover all 57 days. If you would like to sign up for a day now, contact Christ UMC, Venice at 941-493-7504 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Leave your church name, contact person, and phone number or email. More information and resources will be available at the Super Charged Conferences.
We are seeking the Lord for grace, wisdom, and mercy for the UMC. We invite you to use James 4:6-10 as a focal point for the day of prayer and fasting. Let us humble ourselves before the Lord that He might lift us up.
CLERGY MATES RETREAT – November 1-3, 2018
WEEKEND THEME: COMMUNITY
Hello, Servants of Jesus!
My name is Kim Fisackerly, and I’ve been married to a clergy serving the Florida Annual Conference for over 30 years. During that time, I’ve experienced some of the most rewarding, but also challenging times of my life. Being married to a pastor is a full-time position, right along with my husband. I consider it an honor and a privilege, and it is a role I do not take lightly.
Something I’ve learned through the years is that I cannot do this alone. Being connected with other spouses brings me so much support, encouragement, accountability, and renewal. I’ve made some incredible friendships, and some of these people we consider to be our family. I was introduced to them via the connection opportunities provided by the Florida Annual Conference—both at the District and Conference levels. While there are no longer opportunities at the District level for most of us, we do still have connections at the Conference level.
Every year during the first weekend of November we offer a retreat, just for the spouses of clergy. In the past, these retreats have been held at the Life Enrichment Center in Leesburg. Due to declining attendance and increasing costs, we’re trying something new this year. We’ll be having a more informal weekend at the Riverside Retreat in LaBelle. Those of us who have attended for the past 30 years recognize the importance of these gatherings, but unfortunately most spouses now are either unaware of the retreat or don’t understand why it’s such a valuable resource for those of us in ministry.
Here’s where you can help both our Clergy Mates group and the spouse of your clergy. Please make sure he/she knows about our group (give them my contact information, if they want to know more), and encourage them to consider becoming a part of us. We have a private Facebook group where we share joys, concerns, prayers, etc.—to stay connected throughout the year. We also have an informal gathering at Annual Conference (usually a breakfast). The biggest event, though, is our retreat. The dates this year are November 1-3 (Thursday-Saturday), and registration is available on the Conference website. The cost is $125.
October is Clergy Appreciation Month, and offering to pay for your clergy spouse to attend makes a wonderful way to let them know how thankful you are for their service. Even if your church can only pay for part of it, we do have some scholarship funds available for those who need assistance (handled very discreetly) to cover the remainder (or even all of it, if necessary). Also, assisting with childcare and transportation would be another great way to show appreciation.
Please prayerfully consider how your church can care for your clergy spouse, and make sure they’re feeling the love and support necessary to thrive in this role. I appreciate any assistance you can offer in connecting them with our group. Feel free to contact me, should you have any questions or need further information. My passion is caring for my fellow mates, as they have been such a blessing to me.
Clergy Mates of the Florida Annual Conference
Galatians 6:2 (NIV) Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (Good News Translation) Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.
HAPPENINGS AROUND CONFERENCE
Winter Youth Retreats at Lake Junaluska
Come to a youth group retreat at Lake Junaluska this winter for adventure, spiritual growth and worship in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Energized worship with great bands is built into every program weekend, and groups can choose to ski, do a mission project or participate in other activities during the day. Find more information at www.lakejunaluska.com/winteryouth.
• Dec. 29 – Jan. 1 New Year’s Weekend: Andy Lambert (Speaker) and Jimmy Atkins (Worship Band)
• Jan. 18–21 Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend: Lowell McNaney (Speaker), The Advice (Worship Band)
• Jan. 25–27: Charlie Conder (Speaker) and The Advice (Worship Band)
• Feb. 8–10: Stephanie Hand (Speaker) and Zachariah Suggs (Worship Band)
• Feb. 15–18: Presidents Day Weekend: Mark Oestreicher (Speaker) and Cameron Moore (Worship Band)