Last week, I wrote about how the phrase “I am Second” speaks to those entering the ministry—and actually, to all of us who follow Christ—about submitting to Jesus, serving Jesus and being strong in Jesus. The strength, as I wrote, comes from the secret place of time spent in the presence of the Lord.
And out of that strength, God begins to move in a way that takes a congregation, not just through business as usual, but into breakthroughs. These are things only the Holy Spirit can create, whether in an individual who’s been a Christian for ages or in an entire congregation. When the Holy Spirit comes and brings a breakthrough, an individual or a congregation goes spiritually from one place to a far different place in a way only the Holy Spirit can engineer. Change happens inside that can only be the fruit of his work. Let’s look at three steps that take place in true spiritual breakthrough.
Dethrone Our Desires
When breakthrough begins to happen, it’s the fruit of a level of humility and openness in the congregation, led by their rector. It happens in such a way that people are willing to admit: We don’t get it right, and more often than not, our desire to look like a “smooth operator” actually gets in the way of our willingness to bend the knee before Jesus.
Because we’re all so captivated by the smooth operator idol, we need God to come in and literally dethrone our desires, dethrone that person we so badly want to be. You see, we all have a huge longing to be liked and needed that almost never goes away. We need to dethrone that desire and ask instead that Jesus come in and work what he wants to do through us.
Believe in God-Given Dreams
That’s the fruit of leadership and ministry with a congregation that often doesn’t even know breakthrough is possible. Most people are willing to just get along and do the best they can with what they have. They’re good citizens; they do their best to care for their families and to be responsible in their community and their job. They don’t have too bad a track record. But still, they know in the deepest part of who they are that they’re just scratching the surface of what it means to be and to live like Jesus. They sure don’t know how to get there.
And as they look around at their peers, they’re not sure they see many other people living like that either—so maybe the dream God placed within them is just an aspiration that has no value until we get to heaven.
But in the midst of that kind of longing, the Holy Spirit says, “No, it’s no pipe dream. I put that inside you for a purpose.” And the church begins to come alive in entirely wonderful and new ways, in a way that causes the community to take notice. The people who have been here for a long time, who have been praying for these breakthroughs, begin to rejoice, and God moves and acts. That is the fruit of prayer and of leadership that is willing to live out the “I Am Second” understanding.
Love One Another
The fruit of those breakthroughs is that people love each other in whole new ways. A level of sacrificial care flows through the life of the body. A level of prayer begins to happen that results in miracles. It is an extraordinary level of vitality and life, and over all of it is an extraordinary, breathtaking level of joy. People are just glad to be there and excited about what God is doing. And it’s so clear, because no one could engineer this, that God is on the move, and he’s doing something new.
What do I hope and pray for every church, every person entering the ministry? Breakthrough. Breakthrough that is in fact the fruit of a group of leaders, not just the rector, but vestry, clergy and other key people in the parish who are willing to say, “Who am I? I am not in charge. I’ve got a lot of responsibilities, and I will live up to them to the best of my ability. But the real story is: I am second.”
And Jesus himself is the real Shepherd of this church, and we want him to take the lead, so that the character and the life of this congregation in this city, this county and this community would more and more reflect the life-passion, love and vitality we see in the Son of God. And as people come to visit and partake, they will say, “God is in this place, and I am so glad.”
Have you experienced spiritual breakthrough? Has your church? Share this blog and your response on Twitter. Please include my username, @revgregbrewer.
(This post is an adaption of Bishop Brewer’s sermon on February 26, 2017, at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Lakeland, Florida.)
Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.