A core value of Calvary Chapel pastors is our dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit. We can teach the Bible verse by verse, be accurate in our doctrine, snuff out heresies, cultivate a missions ministry, create a slick presentation on Sundays, have a children’s ministry that rivals Disneyland, hire U2 as our worship team, and even get Bill Gates to tithe! We can follow a manual, work a plan, and build a precision machine, and in the end it will all prove to be “wood, hay, and stubble” – chaff, not spiritual fruit! The Christian Church was never meant to be a highly-efficient organization, but a living, breathing organism. We are lungs for the breath of Jesus. We are hands for the heart of Jesus. We are a body for the mind of Jesus. The Lord is active today, through His Church, but His presence and power are conveyed by His Holy Spirit.
Never forget, Christianity is experiential. To know God and His fullness is the Christian’s birthright. This is the privilege of God’s grace! It is the joy of our soul. Psalm 34:8 baits us, even dares us, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” We can savor the Savior!
Christianity is rational, but it is also relational.
It is Scriptural, but it is also spiritual.
It is historical, but it is also mystical.
It is meaningful, but it is also miraculous.
For twenty years the great British preacher, Martin Lloyd-Jones, excelled at expositional Bible teaching. Many of us still read and enjoy his commentaries. Lloyd-Jones labored to instill right doctrine in the church, but toward the end of his ministry he realized that his teaching had only produced a dead orthodoxy. The preacher began to emphasize experiential faith. He talked about revival and the baptism of the Spirit. Like Martin Lloyd-Jones, Calvary Chapel pastors usually excel at Bible teaching, but we need to be reminded that the Trinity is not God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Bible. We need God’s Holy Spirit to empower us in all we do.
The Calvary Chapel Movement
Don’t ignore a fundamental fact about the Calvary Chapel Movement: Calvary is a mountain, the mountain on which Jesus died. A chapel is a little church. And what happened on that mountain moved in our little church in powerful ways, but it was God’s Spirit that did the moving! And it’s the Holy Spirit that we need today! Whether our movement settles and fossilizes, or whether it keeps moving forward, hinges on our reliance on God’s Holy Spirit. If we get too sophisticated to risk a little weirdness happening in our midst, or too comfortable to disturb our religious routine, or too proud to relinquish some control over the church that is supposed to be God’s in the first place, then we will quench the moving of the Holy Spirit.
I am sure you have heard the familiar refrain, “A church that has the Word without the Spirit will dry up. A church that has the Spirit without the Word will blow up. But a church that has the Spirit working through the Word will grow up.” Let me add one more line, “And the church that is proud it has the Word, and pretends to have the Spirit, causes God to throw up.” The Lord promises to spew the lukewarm Christian (and Church) out of His mouth!
As Calvary Chapels, we certainly need to be Bible-driven, but a group that prides itself on its faithfulness to Scripture has to be careful our Bible Studies don’t crowd out the movement of the Holy Spirit. If we really want God’s Spirit to work among us we need to give Him time and room. God’s Word is like a fireplace. It is the frame and grate that keeps the fire from burning down the house. But a fireplace by itself is cold, hard, and worthless without a fire. All Calvary Chapels should pray for the fresh fire of the Holy Spirit!
2 Samuel 5 provides us a wonderful analogy: when the Philistine army heard David had replaced Saul as king of Israel, they tried to take advantage of the transition. Perhaps they could catch Israel with their guard down, and utilize the element of surprise. They deployed their troops to the Valley of Rephaim. When David heard about this, he prayed and inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?” God said, “Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into Your hand.” And true to God’s word, David routed the Philistines.
But the Philistines were slow learners. Again, they deployed their troops in the Valley of Rephaim. Their motto was, “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.” This was the same enemy, same theater of conflict, same strategy, same circumstances, same time frame. You would think King David’s strategy would be the same as before. But again he inquired of the Lord, and God answered him in verse 23, “You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees (or the wind shaking the treetops), then you shall advance quickly. For then the LORD will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.” Again, King David obeyed, but this time he followed a set of different orders. He circled behind the enemy and waited for the wind to rustle the trees, and again the Lord gave him victory. Throughout the Bible the wind is an idiom of the Holy Spirit. Like the wind, the Spirit moves as He pleases. Thus, the moral of this story is clear. If you want to win spiritual victories, build a strong church, and see God glorified, you’ll wait for the wind of the Holy Spirit.
The Secret Formula
We, as pastors, tend to look for a template to model, or a manual to follow. We even travel to conferences to discover the “secret formula.” There is only one problem: there is no secret formula! God refuses to be reduced to a formula, and He certainly doesn’t fit into a box! If you’re looking for a template or formula, instead of leaning on the Holy Spirit you’re trusting in man-made solutions. Remember the story of David, “the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind!” We should be depending on the voice and power of the Holy Spirit.
When Zerubbabel went to build the Temple in Jerusalem he was a lot like most Calvary Chapel pastors. He had little experience. He had a skeleton crew. He was starting with rubble. Yet God told him how he would get the job done, “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD.” A beautiful Temple was not the result of human muscle, or man’s genius. It wasn’t a matter of Zerubbabel working harder, or smarter. The key to his Temple building was the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, and the same is true of all God-glorifying church leadership.
I hope none of us are fooled. It is possible to be a Calvary Chapel pastor, and not be filled with the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the baptism of the Spirit is a truth to which you’ve only paid lip service. Maybe your experience with the Holy Spirit has lapsed. We all need to make room and take time for the Holy Spirit to work in us and among us. Even if you have been filled with the Holy Spirit in the past, why not seek Him for a fresh filling today? In Luke 11:13 our Lord invited us, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” The good news is, receiving is as simple as asking.