Published February 1, 2007
Joe Graham, GBC specialist in Collegiate Ministries, invited me to speak to our Georgia Baptist campus ministers at their December retreat. During their meeting I was privileged to hear Jim Slack, a representative from the International Mission Board, who was speaking about the growth of Islam in Europe and America. He asked rhetorically, “How are they managing to grow so rapidly when we have the Holy Spirit and they have nothing?”
However, since that Baptist Collegiate Minister’s meeting I have wondered, “Do we really have the Holy Spirit?” Don’t get me wrong. I know that the Lord has given us the Holy Spirit. I believe that He indwells every believer. I believe that He is the divine enabler, the One who empowers and energizes us.
Yet, I fear that there has been so much misinterpretation and misunderstanding about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit that we have become reticent to preach on the subject or avail ourselves of the efficacious work of the Spirit.
It is also possible we have become so dependent upon our own ability, education, ingenuity, cleverness, and Madison Avenue promotional techniques that we have forgotten about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
A.W. Tozer, the great Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor and author, stated, “In most Christian churches the Spirit is entirely overlooked. Whether He is present or absent makes no real difference to anyone … so completely do we ignore him that it is only courtesy that we can be called Trinitarian. The idea of the Spirit held by the average church member is so vague as to be nearly nonexistent.”
We must remember that in this foreign mission field of pagan postmodern America that no matter how many gimmicks and rousements we employ to implement our ministry, no one will ever be converted apart from the power of God and the Holy Spirit and no significant work can be accomplished without His enabling grace.
Peter Hammond, the founder and director of Frontline Fellowship, asks a similar question to the one posed in this editorial. He asks, “Whatever happened to the prayer meeting?” Hammond proclaims, “What was once a major emphasis of church activities has either been relegated to the sidelines and ignored by most members, or it has been dispensed with altogether.
“Furthermore, many prayer meetings today involve little prayer. Even in meetings set aside for prayer, other activities typically crowd in and leave little time for adoration, confession, intercession, and thanksgiving to the Lord.”
It is only through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit that we can effectively confront the secular society in which we live or have any hope of seeing a revival of Christianity in our day.
The people of Isaiah’s day came to believe that God had lost His power, that somehow He was no longer omnipotent. The great statesman prophet responded to their doubts and fears by saying, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1). Isaiah was assuring the people that the ability of God was not limited in any way and that God was aware of every flutter of thought in their minds.
In verse two of Isaiah 59 the prophet declares that God is not to blame for our lack of deliverance, our bankruptcy of power, or our spiritual poverty. He insists that we, because of our iniquities, have created the wall of separation between God and ourselves.
The deadness and dearth in so many churches is not God’s fault. He has all power and authority and longs to endue us with the power of His spirit and send revival. The problem is with His people who have lost their passion for Christ and become lukewarm and lackadaisical.
Vance Havner, one of Southern Baptists’ more renowned authors and revivalists, once told about the little boys who were playing baseball. They just had one ball, but one little boy hit the ball over the centerfielder’s head and they lost it. They looked out in the grass for the ball, but their efforts were in vain. Finally, one kid said, “Let’s forget the ball and get on with the game.”
The question is obvious: How are you going to play baseball without a ball? Furthermore, how are you going to live the Christian life and how are you going to have a dynamic, heaven-blessed, God-pleasing ministry in your church without the power of the Holy Spirit?
I hope and pray that no one will ever look at your life or your church and ask the question: “Whatever happened to the Holy Spirit?”
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