Many of us have a weird uncle we invite to family gatherings because we’re supposed to. We may not know him very well but he’s family, so we don’t have much choice. In some ways this is how I’ve treated the Holy Spirit. I knew that I “got Him,” that He “came with the family” when Christ saved me, but I didn’t understand my relationship with him.
In case you’re beginning to wonder if I’m calling the Holy Spirit a weird uncle, I’m not. I realize He is who joins me to the family as He continually makes me into the image of Christ and pleads with intercession too deep for words. Yet, I had never really gotten to know Him very well—until I started ministering in Maine.
Since moving here, at least three major things have changed in my life. I now have two sets of tires (for snow), the pine-cone is my state flower (not a joke), and I have gotten to know the third person of the Trinity in a more tangible, intimate way.
Nothing in ministry has created sheer desperation for the power of God through the Holy Spirit as moving to Maine did seven years ago. Here are the three specific things that pushed me to understand the Holy Spirit.
Pew Research has named Maine one of the least religious states in the United States. About twenty-one percent of Mainers identify as Roman Catholic, twenty-one percent as Mainline Protestants, and fourteen percent are Evangelicals. But more than 31 percent claim no affiliation, roughly nine percentage points higher than the national average.
The Bible uses the imagery of light and darkness when referring to the world’s spiritual climate. It certainly describes my experience in Maine. Spiritual attack is at a level that I had not encountered before; it has been much harder to gain new ground as a church.
In the Bible Belt it was easy to forget my need for the power of the Spirit. But since moving to Maine, I’ve realized that either God is going to work and grow the ministry, or it’s not going to happen. Imagine if we had this kind of dependency in every context in which minister.
Lack of Resources
With fewer workers, less money and—as a whole—a lot less interest in the things of Christ, living in Maine leaves a large resource gap. This gap is exactly what every pastor should realize in their context. Even with endless leaders, millions of dollars, and an entire culture of basic Christian beliefs, you still need the power of God to take on enemy territory.
I think we’ve started to believe we can market and sell revival, but the Holy Spirit has the corner on that market. He is faithful to draw people to repentance in His time and in His strength. Our job is to get our agenda out of the way and to simply be obedient to how He wants to use us in exalting the love of the Father and the glory of the Son.
The Grace of God
The truth is God didn’t need to move me a thousand miles from my home to a place where I need two sets of tires so He could to teach me to be completely dependent on His power. Perhaps my story sounds similar to yours. It is a gift of grace and mercy that He’s led us to fail when we try to accomplish His mission apart from His power.
You don’t have to move to Maine to figure this out. I think maybe it sped up the process for me. I’m a bit stubborn, so the bitter winters shaved off a few decades perhaps. But no matter the context, the sooner you really realize that you can’t do it on your own and that you’re not good enough to change sinful hearts, the more joyful and fruitful your ministry will be.
The good news is the Holy Spirit cares more about our ministries than we do, and He is the only One who can make it happen. Daily dependence on His strength will show how God will exalt his name mightily through us.