And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-12)
Every church leader is called to shape other leaders at church. So imagine you make this calling a priority: You identify gifts to be “stirred up” (2 Tim. 1:6), deploy disciple-makers, and empower gospel-proclaimers. You pour into people through equipping classes, personal discipleship, and ministry opportunities. And people grow! Knowledge of the gospel increases, doctrine becomes more robust, devotional life deepens, ministry skills sharpen.
But is this enough?
An Essential Role
And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 2:2-4b)
Let me encourage you not to forget about the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christian leaders. The Holy Spirit plays an essential role in taking the raw materials of gospel potential and turning them into the sweet fruit of gospel impact. We see this throughout the Scriptures but perhaps nowhere more clearly than in the life of Peter, especially in Acts 2.
Remember the way Peter had been devastated by the events of Jesus’ death: his Master killed, his honor destroyed, his courage and spirit crushed. Even after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter needed Jesus’ special attention and encouragement to imagine leading Christ’s flock (John 21). How could this man and his group of ragged friends ever hope to pursue the global scope of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20)?
Yet by the end of Acts 2, they are well on their way! And the reason is clear: The Holy Spirit had landed. Let’s look at five effects the Holy Spirit had that day on those early Christian leaders, all five of which are still true today.
Five Effects of the Holy Spirit
1. The presence of the Holy Spirit leads to confidence and courage, even in the face of opposition.
After the Holy Spirit fell from heaven upon that early group of 120 disciples, they all began to speak in foreign languages. So striking and loud (apparently) was this event that thousands of gawkers came running. Like now, the church of God lives before the eyes of the world. And then, just as now, there were two reactions: (1) intrigue and interest (vv. 7-12) and (2) mockery and disgust (vv. 13).
Remember Peter and his gang had spent the last weeks huddled in upper rooms, doing anything to keep out of public view. Yet now, Peter veritably leaps up to rebuke the scoffers and explain the situation. More than that, he grabs the opportunity to proclaim a sermon of legendary boldness and clarity, calling his listeners to repent and believe.
The presence of the Holy Spirit will spur leaders to stand up to those who would disparage truth and righteousness and to stand up for the cause of Christ and the gospel.
2. The presence of the Holy Spirit leads to dependence on Scripture.
Did you notice how many Scriptures Peter references in his sermon? He quotes Joel 2:28-32, Psalm 16:8-11, and Psalm 110:1, all in an off-the-cuff sermon! Now, we shouldn’t think of Peter as someone who had never heard the Old Testament Scriptures – the Holy Spirit isn’t allowing him to quote passages he’d never heard. But we do see the Holy Spirit bringing the words of Holy Scripture to mind, as an obedient heart rushes to stand up for Christ.
The Spirit and Scripture always go together: the Spirit of truth breathes out the Word of truth. Want to prepare your potential leaders for ministry? Help them know the Scriptures. Then watch as the Holy Spirit leads them to use it as the centerpiece of their ministry to others.
3. The presence of the Holy Spirit leads to holy forgetfulness.
Let’s be as clear as possible: Peter had plenty of ministry failures in the Gospels. Just pages earlier in our Bibles, he had betrayed Jesus! Yet, Peter didn’t let his past failures control him or stop him from jumping to the front of the crowd to proclaim the gospel with history-changing results. Peter seemed to forget his past failures and looked at the right-now as a new opportunity to be Christ’s witness. That’s the effect of the Holy Spirit on a leader.
Some in our congregations have stepped back when they should have stepped forward, letting an opportunity slip by to suffer for Christ. Some have tried to lead or serve and have messed up royally. Yet the Holy Spirit helps us act in his power, not our own. Suddenly our failures don’t paralyze us, and our spotty track records don’t disqualify us.
As the Holy Spirit works, we’re ready to forget the failures of our past and claim the day for Christ.
4. The presence of the Holy Spirit leads to a focus on Christ and the gospel.
Do you notice how quickly Peter zips to Jesus? People ask him why all these Christians are talking in foreign languages, and within minutes Peter has turned the situation into a clear explanation of the gospel: Jesus is Lord; you have sinned and crucified him; you must cry to him for salvation and forgiveness; and you can do this by repenting and committing to identify yourself with him and with his people.
The skill of turning a conversation to Christ, of turning any interaction into an opportunity to explain the gospel – that’s an effect of the Holy Spirit.
5. The presence of the Holy Spirit leads to fruit in ministry.
It is possible to be skilled in ministry but bear little fruit. We can have knowledge and best practices and even sincere desire, but still act in our own strength. That solitary effort doesn’t lead to anything. Branches that are separate from the vine never produce grapes.
But that’s not what happened to Peter: he preached a sermon and “three thousand souls” turned to Christ in faith (Acts 2:41). That’s the Holy Spirit. As Christian leaders nurturing our devotional lives, deepening our doctrine, and sharpening our ministry skills, let’s look to and depend on the Holy Spirit to leverage all this – and let it bear fruit for Jesus.
Always Depend on the Spirit
Ultimately the effect of the Holy Spirit is to take all that God has given us – our gifts, experiences, passions, and knowledge – and set them to work, bringing glory to Christ in the church and in the world. Apart from him, our best yields but little; yet with him, our little yields so much. So train your people with every skill; equip them with the truth of the gospel; but help them always to depend on the Spirit.
The effect on Peter was pretty amazing. May that be our story as well.
Open the Bible offers practical training for ministry leaders. Open the Bible for Leaders is a free, unique, video-based training platform carefully designed to equip leaders of all sorts with a solid Biblical foundation & practical, actionable guidance for establishing fruitful gospel ministry for the long haul. Learn more or enroll for free. Watch the course trailer for Watch Your Life below.