Churches need to allow the Spirit of God to direct the church of God. When the church is spirit-directed it moves from powerlessness to power. It moves from ineffectiveness to effectiveness. It moves from going through the motions to seeing God work and lives changed.
How does a church allow the Spirit of God to direct it? The simple answer is, we will pray. We will ask God to lead us, and we go where we are led and do what we are told. This is not easy. Forces inside and outside of us want to lead us astray. Paul referred to this as “living in the flesh,” or not submitted to God’s will and God’s way. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason, the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of God does not belong to him” (Romans 8:5-9 NRSV). Many churches and their leaders are leading by the flesh and are unaware of it. For effective ministry, submission to God is the key, and many churches never find life-changing ministry because they refuse to submit.
The difference between flesh-controlled and Spirit-led ministry is as dramatic as the distinction between rowing and sailing. A rower gets to a destination by personal strain, struggle, and effort. A sailor arrives under the wind’s power. Rowing is a good way to keep in shape but a lousy way to travel. Sailing taps the power of the wind and allows us to go much farther, much faster, with far less human effort than rowing. Another way to distinguish between flesh-controlled and Spirit-led ministry is to identify the activities the church are doing “for God” versus those things “from God.” Good questions to ask are: How much of what I am doing is “for God” and how much is “from God”? How much of what the church is doing is “for God” and how much is “from God”?