One of the key things I remember Jim Singleton saying at the first Fellowship gathering in Minneapolis was that Fellowship and ECO would be a collection of people who are like-minded but not same-minded. I think that distinction is the very component for what ECO strives to be. Rather than ruling from the boundaries and dictating non-essentials, ECO desires to hold at the center: a core theology that gives clarity to the movement.
For example, we have sought to gather together and learn from people like Alan Hirsch, who shares expertise on APEST typology for ministry from Ephesians 4:11-12. This concept pushes against some of our traditional reformed thinking. Yet at the same time, if we are going to be always reforming according to the word of God and the call of the Spirit, we ought to be challenged in our thinking.
One way we want to shape and sharpen some of our thinking is to do a series of blog posts that will help us learn from one another about various topics that might cause us some good generative thinking. Many blog posts in the past are ones that everyone can read and agree with and “like” on Facebook and be done. What I hope will happen from some of these blogs is that we will think further about how and if they might influence our ministry.
For the next several Mondays, we will start with a series on churches that seek to create environments where the Spirit of God might move in different and even miraculous ways. You may read some of these and say, “There is no way we could do something like that in our church!” Others might spur ideas, discussions or possibilities for your particular ministry context. We have all seen the ways that the movement of the Holy Spirit gets abused or manipulated in some circles and we certainly want to avoid that outcome. However, on the flip side, we might be open to the Spirit in new and exciting ways!
When I was five years old, my father was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor on his spine. The doctors told him that the tumor may likely take away his ability to walk. The doctor said that the best hope of the treatment that they were doing would be to stop the growth of the tumor. However, even if they did stop the growth of the tumor, it would still be present on his spine and weaken it. Goleta Presbyterian Church (where I grew up) was not a particularly a Spirit-driven church at the time. However, the elders gathered in the pastor’s office after church one Sunday to lay hands on and pray for my dad. My father felt incredible warmth over his body. He interpreted that to mean that God was present with him regardless of the progression of the tumor. When my father had CAT scan to see how the tumor had progressed, the doctor told my father that the tumor was gone.
When my father tells this story, he will indicate that two miracles happened in the midst of the event. The first, and less important, was the healing of his back. My father of course is extremely grateful to God for moving in this way and being of restored health. However, he also recognizes that eventually all physical healing is temporary. The real, and best, result of the event is that it opened up my dad in a much deeper way to the love of God. Before this time of healing, his faith had been more cerebral, fairly nominal, and cultural. After the event, my dad “returned to his first love” and his spiritual growth from that point forward has been remarkable.
I have certainly seen those two types of results in my own ministry. I have known people who have had some sort of healing or powerful work of God in their lives, and the best result of that event isn’t even the earthly work, but deeper connection and love that occur with God the Father. I think it is clear from scripture that when God does a powerful work it is in order to draw people to the face of God rather than the hand of God.
I look forward to how the Lord works in the midst of our upcoming blog series. Again, I want to reiterate that ECO as a denomination is not advocating for a particular view or way of doing things when it comes to engaging the Spirit. Our goal is simply to use these blogs to spark conversations in your own life or perhaps in your church leadership. We look forward to hearing stories of God at work among us!