God is present and involved everywhere and in everything. That’s what omnipresent means. As Eugene Peterson writes, “There are no zones from which he’s exempt”. He’s present and involved in every corner of heaven and earth; in the personal and public; in every area of life. (Psalm 139:7-12)
Despite what many believe, God’s activity isn’t limited to the Church. The Church isn’t the kingdom of God. It’s an instrument of the kingdom. God’s kingdom is bigger, more comprehensive than the Church. It’s a now and not yet, unfolding reality that one day will manifestly encompass the entire earth (Revelation 11:15). God’s rule will be established once and for all, recognized and acknowledged by every living creature. However presently the Spirit is at work mysteriously and for the most part out of plain sight. “You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next.” (John 3:8, MSG)
The Spirit unleashed
In the Scriptures the Holy Spirit is portrayed as the mysterious third person of the Godhead set loose in creation. The “strange ending” of the gospel of Mark leaves us holding our breath and scratching our heads wondering: “The risen Christ is out there somewhere! Power for life has been unleashed in the world and it can’t be contained. Where will he show up next?”
The Spirit’s been at work in the in the marketplace of the world since the beginning of time working mysteriously and deeply in the hearts and activities of people who have yet to step into a church; who have never heard the gospel. The Spirit breaks new ground for the kingdom; acting and preparing hearts for the gospel in anticipation of a praying church being called on the scene to “Go… make disciples… teaching them everything” needed for following Christ. The Spirit was obviously at work in Cornelius’ household before Peter showed up (Acts 10:33). And evidently before Paul ever arrived the Spirit was already at work in Corinth preparing the way for him (Acts 18:10).
Since God’s Spirit is on the loose continually at work in our world it opens the door to exciting possibilities for the person who is on the look out for him, attentive to signals and clues of his in-the-moment interventions in the lives of people around us. This is what I’m calling in-the-moment ministry of the Holy Spirit.
What is it?
We do not initiate in-the-moment ministry. We notice what he’s up to, catch up to him and join in. In-the-moment ministry is what happens when God shows up uninvited, unrehearsed, unexpectedly, at times in places and among people we’d least expect and surprises us with an inbreaking of his kingdom. All we do is cooperate and go with the flow.
It is an unprogramed, spur-of-the-moment partnering with the Spirit as he works outside the box of our organized church programs and meetings. It usually takes place in the middle of our daily routines and conversations, revealing God’s love and preparing hearts to receive Christ’s invitation to life.
When “in-the-moment” ministry is occurring there’s a sudden awareness of God’s presence that can make even the most resistant skeptic more receptive to the gospel (which is the basis of power evangelism).
This involves being empowered by Holy Spirit while paying attention to what’s going on around us. This calls for a sensitivity to the spontaneous inner promptings of the Spirit and being brave enough to obey.
Jesus modeled this attentiveness and action for his disciples. Most of the miraculous encounters recorded for us in the gospels fall into the category of in-the-moment ministry. Take for instance the episode of the friends who were determined to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus (Luke 5:17-18) and Jesus’ encounter with the lame man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9,17-19).
Enter the moment
In-the-moment ministry of the Holy Spirit is more “caught than taught”. It is a ministry is a set of skills growing out of being filled, familiar, modeled and coached. By “filled” I mean making more room in your life for the empowering of the Spirit. “Familiarity” means becoming intimate enough with God that you can easily pick out his often subtle voice from all the other noise in and around you. Add to that having a credible, helpful model you can relate to and a coach who can help train you.
In-the-moment ministry opens up all kinds of possibilities. It’s the Spirit turning our business-as-usual into a God-adventure! So pay attention…