What is more important for a pastor, leadership team, or congregation than being led by the Holy Spirit? Sure, other values may be just as important – such as being led by the Scriptures – but what trumps being led by the Spirit?
As Christians we have decided to follow Jesus Christ and as congregations we recognize Jesus Christ as Head of His Church. On both counts, then, we benefit from the presence of Christ for as long as Christ is present we may follow him.
But here’s the problem: Jesus Christ, who has promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:17-20), has ascended to the right hand of the Father where he serves as our Great High Priest. Asa a result, he is not around for us to follow. How can we follow him who ascended?
The apostle Paul provides a simple and sure answer for us. According to Paul, Jesus Christ is with us through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-10). This teaching raises all kinds of questions about the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and about the nature of Jesus Christ who is both fully human and fully divine.
When we focus on that which is clear in Paul’s teaching, we see that Christ has promised to be with us through the Holy Spirit. This means – and what is to come may sound heretical – that when we walk through the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses, it is not Christ who walks with us and talks with us; it is the Holy Spirit. Lest that sound off the mark, let us remember that Jesus himself taught us that the Holy Spirit will be with us, teach us, guide us, and bear witness to Christ (John 14 & 16).
So back to my original question. What is more important than being led by the Spirit? Nothing is for we can’t follow Christ without it. This explains the apostle Paul’s recurring reminders to Christians, both individually and corporately, to keep in step with the Spirit, be filled with the Spirit, and live by the Spirit. If we hope to follow our ascended Christ, we must be led by the Holy Spirit. If we as a church hope to submit to Christ the Head of the Church, we must be led by the Holy Spirit.
We will be tempted to be led by other forces, such as tradition, our past failures and successes, the failures and successes of others, our preferences, the path of least resistance, the loudest bark in the room, and more. But in order to follow Christ as both disciples and congregations we must seek at all times to be led by the Holy Spirit. So let us “trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding; in all our ways let us submit to him, and he will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).