Sometimes I feel weary. I feel weary when I hear about the “nones”—those who claim no religious belief. I feel weary hearing about millennials leaving the church and thinking about all the energy exerted to keep them coming. This week I read about the “dones”—those who used to be involved in the church but simply are done with the whole organizational mess.
Don’t get me wrong, we ought to be worried about the “nones” and the “dones” and the millennials and our neighbors, regardless of age or stage, who simply don’t have room for Jesus. But sometimes in our focus on problem-solving we lose sight of the Holy Spirit. When that happens, we are not able to join in the work the Spirit is doing. And working it is.
It was refreshing to hear about the good things the Spirit is doing in the church when we put this issue together. In the article “Two Events That Make All the Difference” (p. 10) we get a window into six very different worshiping communities and the significance of the Ascension and Pentecost to them. We are also reminded of the reasons we have to celebrate Ascension Day in John Witvliet’s Q&A column (p. 44). We see the Spirit at work in very creative ways at Village Chapel Presbyterian Church in Charleston, West Virginia (p. 19), Light of Hope Presbyterian Church in Marietta, Georgia, (p. 16), and in the children’s message designed by Patricia Elford (p. 20). We also see the gift of creativity expressed through the musical ideas presented in Martin Tel’s Noteworthy column (p. 22) and through the words of gifted hymn writers like John Thornburg (p. 30).
The Holy Spirit is also at work calling us to be the church, the gathered body of Christ meant to be a testimony to the world. One way we give expression to who we are in Christ is by following God’s command to care for the world. Verlan VanEe helps us understand what that means in our context in this issue’s worship series “G.R.O.W. G.R.E.E.N for the Glory of God” (p. 3). Another way to grow as a church is by examining the specific words of Christ as recorded in the gospels (“The Gospel According to Jesus,” p. 33). We are also reminded that the church of Christ does not know borders and that the Spirit is doing mighty things in places like Pakistan despite the persecution that Christians are suffering (“Punjabi Psalms, Part 2,” p. 46).
And while we often think about the Holy Spirit being most evident in the growth of the church, we are reminded by George Den Oudsten and Judy Heethuis that sometimes the Holy Spirit leads us on very difficult journeys, such as the closing of a church. It is often through death that new life springs forth.
The Holy Spirit is at work. There is much that the church can and should celebrate. When we realize that our task is to join what the Holy Spirit is already doing rather than engineering a revival, our weariness lifts and we are truly able to say or sing:
Pray we then, O Lord the Spirit
on our lives descend in might;
let your flame break out within us,
fire our hearts and clear our sight
till, white-hot in your possession,
we, too, set the world alight.
—“Praise the Spirit in Creation”
Words: Michael Hewlett (1916-2000) © Michael Hewlett/Oxford University Press from English Praise 1975, reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. Reprints permitted with CCLI, OneLicense.net or LicenSing license.