The purpose of this blog post is to begin to introduce you to a daily regimen of “exercising in godliness”, or spiritual training that would be necessary for us to minister consistently in the power of the Holy Spirit. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is a divine-human thing. We understand that we minister not out of our own works but by the grace of God. What’s not often understood is that this grace is not held aloof from our humanity, but is worked into our habits, our soul, and even our bodies – but always by grace.
Another way of thinking about this is that just as the Son of God was incarnated by the Spirit into a flesh-and-blood human, so too the life of the Spirit has an inescapable human aspect that is subject to all our human traits. If Jesus often said that healing was “according to your faith” and there are degrees of faith, then it is therefore true that we are like spiritual athletes that bring into the ministry situations, a certain condition of spirit that does have an effect on our effectiveness. If you read Paul’s 2 epistles to Timothy, much of it sounds like a coach, advising his athlete on the inner workings of effective ministry.
Context of Training
One thing that is distinctive about spiritual training is that it is always in the context of God’s River moving dynamically to minister to the dry places of people’s lives. He is now moving you into position to be an answer to people’s hearts’ cries. I’m always finding that ministry never stops even outside church! That means that everything we do in training is in real situations where the Holy Spirit is calling out to His children, always wanting to find a harvester who can be sensitive to that. If we refuse to be like the shepherds of Is 56 who “always look their own way”, we will find God at work calling His children everywhere. We are never in a situation in which we are able to extract ourselves from God’s presence. In other words, training is never offline.
As a community of practice, we do have our fields of harvest, both in church as well as in our lands. Those who came to our last Spirit training received the Spirit Tool and how to use it to correlate what happens in prayer with what happens in the external world, e.g., in church as well as in our lands. Please use the tool often! In addition, I would like to remind you to carry a notebook with you so that you can note often the situations of ministry, what happened, what worked, what didn’t.
Daily Training – Practicing Sets
To use the analogy from competitive swimming, like any serious sports team, its activities don’t only take place once a month, or even once a week. There is a daily practice and engagement that individuals do on a regular basis. Without that daily lifestyle of spiritual practice, the depth of skill will still be pretty shallow, and the talk about the ministry will be far greater than the practice of it. But if we are taking seriously Jesus’ call to taking up our cross daily, then we move from being mere weekend warriors who do ministry recreationally, to a whole different category of Christian – not as subject to the flesh and spiritual inconsistency, and always going deeper and having deeper effects in our ministries. The change is radical and in this the cost should be counted. What we are going for is a quantumly different ministry that is akin to the difference between “weekend- warrioring” and everyday living as anointed ministers of God. It involves a whole different self understanding and call.
So just as a club swim team practices sets every day (and not practicing every day does affect performance) so too I would like to introduce a regimen of spiritual sets every week in order for people to grow. This would not be confined to corporate meetings at church but especially practiced at home and in the land. The fact is that we are called to minister out of our store of real being, so how we live in the habit of practicing the presence of God and being led by the Spirit is critical to embodying what we minister to others. Either it’s real every day in our lives, or it’s not. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have hard, even bad days. Actually those hard days may sometimes be harder, but they will now be an integral part of our life with God and His training of us. That’s because He will constantly be pushing us up against our barriers and eventually, through that process, breaking through to greater freedom. Swimming sensation Katie Ledecky, a few days ago at the Golden Goggles Awards, said very simply, “This award represents a process”.
Each week I will have “sets” for us to practice. That would be the nearest thing to centralized training in a training college that I can think of. That way, training does not just happen once a month, but everyday. Each of us will be doing our sets (spiritual exercises) at the level of maturity that we are at.
One Note of Caution
One thing that is important to watch out for is that the spirit in which we do this sets has to be one of worship, and not performance-orientation or self-empowerment. These exercises actually move in the opposite direction. In all this, we are decreasing as He is increasing. If you find that they actually make you feel less liberty in your heart, or more stressed out, please stop them and see me about it. What may be needed is just a few clarifications and reorientations.