“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
As I watched the Super Bowl on Sunday I noticed how hard it was for either team to sustain momentum. Each time one of the teams started moving the ball down the field there was a sack, a penalty, or a turnover that stifled their forward movement. Momentum was hard to find on the football field on Sunday.
Momentum can be hard to find in the church, too. How does a Christian community get and keep momentum? Is there a perfect program or event? Is there a special strategy we need to implement in order to reach more people with God’s love?
We can learn a lot from the book of Acts. In the verse above Jesus gave his followers a huge mission. He told them that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem (the city they were in), all Judea (the region they were in), Samaria (the place Jews didn’t like to go), and the ends of the earth (everywhere). With that kind of mission you would have expected Jesus to give his followers a highly detailed strategy. Instead, he said, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait” (Acts 1:4). What? Wouldn’t it have been more effective to send his disciples out immediately? If I had been there I might have said something like, “Peter, you and Andrew will witness in Jerusalem. James and John can go to the rest of Judea. Thomas, you go to Samaria (that’s what you get for doubting the resurrection…we’ll pray for you). Everyone else will set out in a different direction to reach the world. Ready! Break!”
Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to develop a strategy. Instead, he told them to wait. Why? Apparently the Holy Spirit is kind of a big deal. Jesus did not want his disciples to go out until they had the Holy Spirit living inside them. The Holy Spirit is the One who created the momentum and empowered a movement that would change the world.
The mission that Jesus gave his first disciples continues today. As followers of Christ, we are called to share the Good News with our city, our region, the places that religious people don’t like to go, and all the corners of the earth. How do we do that? We can have strategic plans, which are wise and important, but we must remember that our hope is not in our plans, and the effectiveness of our mission will not be determined by our strategies. Our success will be determined by the power of God’s Holy Spirit living in us.
As a new Christian community, may we learn to rely on the Spirit’s power. We can and should develop strategies, but we must hold our plans loosely, ready to follow God’s Spirit wherever the Spirit leads.