Summary: The characteristics of the Holy Spirit that make Him uniquely essential to help grow the church.
[Note: this sermon is largely based on Calvin Miller’s work: "A View From the Fields".]
Any attempt to grow the church apart from the Holy Spirit will be disastrous! We can have the most clever programs conceivable, plan the most motivating promotions available, sing the sweetest songs and preach the most well-prepared sermons, but without the work of the Holy Spirit our efforts will be in vain.
The individual most essential for church growth is not the senior pastor, the outreach pastor, or any other human being. The Holy Spirit, the third person in the Trinity lit the fire on the Day of Pentecost! His fire will burn only on the individual or church bent on his purpose.
Before we get back to our text Scripture in Acts 2, witness the example of Eldad and Medad in Numbers chapter eleven. Moses and the seventy elders were visited by the Spirit at the Tabernacle, began prophesying and wouldn’t quit. (Verses 24-25)
Eldad and Medad were "laymen"; not "ordained preachers". Suddenly the Spirit captivated them too and they began prophesying. First Eldad preached and Medad said, "Amen", and then Medad preached and Eldad said, "Amen." Soon the entire camp gathered around them.
So you have Moses and the elders having a wonderful time - the fire of empowered preaching was theirs, their actions befited the tabernacle. Then came the word, "there’s revival in the camp too!"
At first the elders were surprised. "Who would begin preaching without checking with the committee in charge of the church calendar? Who do Medad and Eldad think they are?!"
A motion was made by Joshua to silence Eldad and Medad until they could be checked by the credentials committee and set aside for ordination. At this point Moses said, "Would to God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that THE LORD WOULD PUT HIS SPIRIT UPON THEM!"
Not only does that statement by the human author of the first five books of the Bible tell us that revival and church growth is a people’s movement - but it also illustrates that it is the work of God - the Holy Spirit.
There are three adjectives that describe the work of the Holy Spirit in His association with church growth.
1. The Holy Spirit is INDEPENDENT.
When I say the Holy Spirit is independent I mean what Jesus said in John 3:8 - "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."
William Golding indicted us in "The Spire". His novel tells of a priest with a compulsion to add a four-hundred-foot tower and spire to his cathedral. Father Jocelin is advised against building the ill-fated tower. He presses on, however.
The builder, Roger Mason, digs in vain for a gravel base on which to lay the foundation stones. The digging disturbs graves in the cathedral floor, releasing all sorts of foul odors, especially during the rainy season. When the pit is already too deep and no gravel has yet appeared, the tower construction is begun anyway.
On its unsure foundation the tower is doomed. The stone columns sing in the agony of trying to hold the tower steady while resting on a spongy foundation.
Fearful communicants cease coming, and finally the great church is empty. Even the swallows leave their nests in the stone arches. The cathedral, though beautiful, is unsafe. The structure prevented worship within.
The symbolism is obvious. Structure can threaten renewal and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit loves spontaneity, freedom, creativity and openness. He is threatened by rigidity, tradition, and intricate programming. Too often we ask the Holy Spirit to "come in freedom and power - but leave the machinery intact."
Unwilling to disturb our cybernetics, we force the Spirit of God to do most of his work outside the constitution. So we had Eldad and Medad preaching in the camp. We had Wesley and St. Francis in the fields. We had General Booth on the slum sidewalks. Even Christ was evicted from the Nazarene synagogue.
The Spirit of God is like that. He cannot be turned on and off at will. Once He settles in on a man or congregation, He is there. Eldad and Medad would not be silent - even when asked.
In Acts 4, Annas, Caiaphas, Alexander and John commmanded Peter and John, "Not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus." But the independent Spirit sent Peter and John back into the marketplace, and they preached Christ there.
The man born blind (John 9) became born again stubborn under the Spirit’s influence. He gave witness to Jesus under duress of excommunication from the synagogue.
The dauntless Spirit, banned in Whitfield’s church houses, went to the fields.