March 6, 2018 — by Lisa Johnson


Four Words That Changed My Life and Could Change Our Denomination

I was 26 years old, had just graduated from seminary, newly ordained, and in my first call as a pastor. The night before I was to preach my first sermon, I walked across the hall in our apartment building to borrow an egg from our neighbors, who were members of the church where I was serving. Dick answered the door, and as his wife went to get me an egg, he asked me how I was feeling about preaching the next day. I told him that I was a bit nervous, as the new, young pastor. Then he told me “Whenever I am overwhelmed by the size of the task in front of me, I pray four simple words: ‘Holy Spirit, take over.’ Try it tomorrow before you step into the pulpit. I think you will be amazed at what He can do.”

The next morning I prayed “Holy Spirit, take over.” Many mornings and in many circumstances over the last 18 years I have prayed those four words and I have been amazed at how tapping into the right Power Source has made all the difference. Eighteen years later, Kyle Strobel reminded me at the National Gathering where my power needs to come from. Kyle told us that effective Christian leaders need to be wise, powerful, and led by faith. It was one of the best talks I have ever heard on Leadership Development from a theological and a practical perspective, and I highly recommend that you watch it again (if you were there) and for the first time (if you were not).

Kyle asked us all to consider where our power comes from. Admittedly, my gut response is, power comes from my God-given gifts, my training, and my pursuit of excellence for the sake of the Kingdom. Embarrassingly, that is not the right answer. The Lord tells Paul, how it really works “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 2:9). So... power does not come from MY gifts, MY training or MY pursuit, but it comes from God and is found in weakness?! On a theological level, I have to admit that I know this is the answer, but my gut response reveals how much I live in the flesh and minister in the flesh. Weakness is uncomfortable and messy and not admired by most people. But Kyle reminded us that Jesus took his disciples on a journey of weakness so that they could deeply know the power of Christ.

In ECO we seek to develop leaders whose primary job is to abide in the Lord’s presence and welcome other people there. As we seek the Lord’s presence and linger there we realize, as Strobel said, “We have no power to grow ourselves, so we must give ourselves to God in order that He can heal us and grow us. A leader knows who they are in the presence of God- a weak sinner- and lets God be their power.”

This past year, we developed three new resources to help us to flourish as disciples, leaders and churches.  And while, we believe that leadership skills can be learned, the premise of all three Flourishing resources is essentially “Holy Spirit, take over.” In each resource, we have designed the structure, the rhythm, the homework and the group work to reflect the fact that the best leaders are formed by God’s presence and in God’s presence. If we want to change the way we are the church for the world, then we need to change how we lead and whose power we lead out of.  

Our fervent prayer is that each and every covenant partner would learn to embrace the personal access they have to the presence and power of God. If we could make that shift, I believe ECO could become a powerful movement of hope and healing for the sake of the gospel in every nook and cranny of our communities.

As God forms ECO into a denomination who cares for a dying world, it easy to get overwhelmed by the size of the task in front of us. I want to encourage us to take the posture of Paul by saying together “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” And possibly had Paul known my neighbor, Dick Ray, he might have more succinctly prayed, “Holy Spirit, take over.”

- Lisa Johnson, Director of Lay Leadership Development


Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson grew up in Orange County, California and received her BA in Communication Studies at Westmont College. She received her Masters of Divinity at Princeton Seminary and was ordained in the PC(USA) in 1999. She has ministered at five different Presbyterian churches in New Jersey, Santa Barbara, Orange County and San Diego as an Associate Pastor. She has a passion for teaching spiritual formation and discipleship and feels that ELI is a great fit for her. Lisa currently lives in Coronado, California with her husband and two children (ages 9 and 11).

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