4. Spirit-Directed Ministry
In session 3, we saw that ministry should be an all-pervasive attitude in the world, the church, and the home. This session will focus on the power that enables us to live out an attitude of ministry in all areas of our lives. That power is the Holy Spirit of God. We must seek God’s wisdom and strength through His Spirit in order to develop a vision for ministry and live it out in every context.
Individual Aim: To establish a ministry vision for each context in dependence upon the Spirit.
Group Aim: To encourage one another by listening to each group member’s ministry vision and offering feedback.
Read Session 4: Spirit-Directed Ministry.
Complete the Life Vision: Ministry Vision Statement exercise beginning on page 97.
Complete the Biblical Exercise: John 15 exercise on page 46.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation at work that made you completely confused about how to respond? You may have asked yourself, What does it look like to love my boss? or How do I make an ethical choice when all I seem to have available are unethical alternatives? You may face similar challenges at church. A kid in the youth group shares something with you in confidence, and you aren’t sure whether you need to address it with one of the pastors. The church leadership makes a decision that you think adversely affects your ministry as a Sunday school teacher. Should you respond? If so, how?
If you have a relationship with God through faith in Christ, you have without a doubt experienced the guidance of the Spirit of God. Even the moment in which you placed your faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sin was a moment of responding to wisdom revealed by the Holy Spirit. You have probably also experienced many moments since then in which you have been led by the Spirit, whether you knew it at the time or only upon later reflection. It’s helpful to reflect on those times in order to remind yourself of God’s faithfulness. If you seek His guidance, wisdom, and strength, He will provide.
Jesus compared the Spirit’s regenerating work to the wind. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). The Holy Spirit works in individuals, drawing them to the Father. Every believer is indwelled, baptized, and sealed by the Spirit. As Jesus pointed out, this work is beyond human control. Those of us who are God’s children must humbly recognize His work in our lives. Our salvation depends on the Spirit’s work.
And we are still in a state of dependence: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). We no longer walk according to the flesh but should make all of our decisions under the leadership of the Spirit. Sometimes the Spirit moves in direct ways. He makes abundantly clear the course we are to take. The most common way He does this is through the Word. Have you ever been going through your day and suddenly a Bible passage comes to mind that relates to the circumstances of that moment and tells you how to respond?
Consider an example of a father who takes his little boy to the beach. The son says, “How many grains of sand do you think there are?” The father is spontaneously reminded by the Spirit of Psalm 139:17-18. He responds, “There sure are more than we can count, aren’t there? Did you know that God has more thoughts about us than there are grains of sand?” The boy learns about God’s great love in a way that is relevant to his experience. That is a simple example of how the Spirit of God uses the Word of God.
The Spirit also uses the counsel of others in guiding us. Have you ever been discouraged and experienced the power of encouraging words from a fellow believer who motivated you to persevere in godliness?
Consider two coworkers who go out to lunch together. One is a longtime employee of the company and the other just joined the staff. Over their meal, the longtime employee discovers that the newcomer is also a believer. The newcomer shares about her struggle as a Christian in the company. The veteran tells about her early struggles at the company and how she has come to be respected for her faith and her contribution as a dependable worker. The newcomer leaves lunch with a renewed sense of dependence upon Christ at her job and a sense of hope that she can persevere through the present trials. That’s how the Spirit can provide strength and wisdom through the counsel of others. The Spirit of God indwells fellow believers and ministers through them.
At other times, the Spirit causes our hearts to burn with passion for a cause in God’s kingdom. We can think of nothing else and experience restlessness until we can pursue the course He laid before us. Sometimes the Spirit inspires us to the core of our being with a passion for serving others who have some particular need.
Consider the example of a stay-at-home mom who meets a single, teenage mom at the park. After the interaction, the older mom becomes burdened for teen mothers. She decides to start a ministry of support and encouragement for teen mothers.
The Spirit is not bound to work in one way or another and may use a combination of the Word, counsel, and the desires of our heart to guide us in ministry.
The Spirit’s guidance leads us into ministry and gives us strength and wisdom in ministry. Because each person’s life is unique, including the roles held and circumstances present, individuals need a great deal of wisdom to discern how to live with a ministry attitude. The changing life circumstances that we all face give us the opportunity to depend on the Spirit afresh every day.
In addition to giving support for daily decisions, the Spirit can also help us establish a vision for ministry that can broaden our sense of purpose and direction. In the next three sessions, you will refine your ministry vision and develop a plan for ministry in the world, the church, and the home. Seek the Spirit’s wisdom in this process.
Read John 15:1-17. Also, review “A Method for the Biblical Exercises” beginning on page 17.
Observation—“What Do I See?”
1. Who are the persons (including God) in the passage? What is the condition of those persons?
2. What subjects did Jesus discuss in the passage? What did He assert?
3. Note the sequence in which Jesus made these assertions. (You might number them in order.)
4. What did Jesus emphasize? Are there repeated ideas and themes? How are the various parts related?
5. Why did Jesus say what He said? (Did He say anything about ways He expected people to change as a result of hearing that?)
Interpretation Phase 1—“What Did It Mean Then?”
1. Coming to Terms—Are there any words in the passage that you don’t understand? Write down anything you found confusing about the passage.
2. Finding Where It Fits—What clues does the Bible give about the meaning of this passage?
• Immediate Context (the passage being studied)
• Remote Context (passages that come before and after the one being studied)
3. Getting into Their Sandals—An Exercise in Imagination
• What are the main points of this passage? Summarize or write an outline of the passage.
• What do you think the readers of this passage were supposed to take from it? How did God, inspiring John to write this passage, want it to impact those who read it?
Interpretation Phase 2—“What Does It Mean Now?”
1. What is the timeless truth in the passage? In one or two sentences, write down what you learned about God from John 15.
2. How does that truth work today?
Application—“What Can I Do to Make This Truth Real?”
1. What can I do to make this truth real for myself?
2. For my family?
3. For my friends?
4. For the people who live near me?
5. For the rest of the world?
Read Session 5: Ministry in the World.
Complete the Life Vision: Action Steps, The World exercise beginning on page 113.