With over 230 million people who do not know Jesus Christ, the U.S.A. is the world’s third largest mission field. Only China and India have more persons who are not yet followers of Jesus. The enormity of the unfinished task before us threatens to overwhelm. How can we possibly reach that many people?
The purpose of this post is not to identify a particular missiological concept, or even to suggest strategies and tactics. Beyond those necessary discussions is a deeper need. To use an analogy from sports, it is one thing for a head football coach to devise a philosophy and strategy for winning, then to chart specific plays designed to successfully implement that strategy. But it is another thing altogether to have the players that are talented, dedicated, and bright enough to apply it all on the field.
So, for this discussion, let’s assume we have a winning strategy. Christian leader, has our discipleship produced Christians that are capable of reaching this nation for the Lord? We can answer that question with a resounding “yes!”—if we have relied upon the Spirit and taught others to do the same. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can and we will build a strong church in the U.S.A. In short, the Spirit produces three qualities that equip us for effective witness.
The word integrity is related to the term integer, which is a whole number. A person with integrity reflects wholeness. There is a purity to a person with integrity; he or she maintains a character that is untainted by a tainted world.
“John answered them all, saying, ‘I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’" (Luke 3:16-17 ESV)
Only the kernel of grain is suitable to eat. So, when grain is harvested, it is necessary to separate the kernel from the rest of the plant (“chaff”). Once it is removed the chaff is destroyed. “Chaff” represents the lack of refinement or contamination in our lives that undermines our wholeness. Chaff builds obstacles in our right standing with God and hinders the close relationship we need and that God desires.
Lack of integrity hinders the outreach efforts of the church. When seekers respond to the “taste and see” invitation of the gospel, chaff in the church causes goodness to turn to gravel in their mouths. To be effective followers of Jesus, disciples must act like Jesus—that is filled with integrity.
The Holy Spirit removes the extraneous and the harmful from our lives through “fire.” It is sometimes a painful, and always an intentional process. Chaff will not blow away on its own.
Here is the really good news. The Holy Spirit doesn’t just remove chaff; He replaces it with the character of Jesus (Gal. 5:22-23). No longer under sin’s dominance, as God’s people we are free to walk in the wholeness of a transformed life.
Remember, that it is not about perfection, but it is about integrity. Integrity is not an unobtainable goal; it is God’s expectation of a prevailing church.
So the Spirit produces integrity, but the Spirit also provides…
To do God’s work, we need God’s power. People bound by sin need a greater power to rescue them—the power of the Spirit.
“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49 ESV)
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8 ESV)
In a recent tweet, Tim Keller said, “No one has ever learned that he or she is a sinner by being told.” It takes an intervention of the Holy Spirit to convince a person that he or she needs to be saved. And then it takes being “born of the Spirit” to come into the family of God.
The power of the kingdom of God manifests itself incarnationally, clothed in the humanity that makes up the church. Through signs and wonders and the spiritual gifts, the power of the Spirit testifies to the greatness and glory of God.
Growing up in the upper Midwest, I became a loyal fan of the Green Bay Packers. My idol was their quarterback Bart Starr (woops, I just dated myself). Several years ago, we visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One exhibit displayed the jerseys of players named Most Valuable Player in the Super Bowl. There was Bart Starr’s jersey. I couldn’t resist reaching out to touch it. It felt like—a piece of fabric. That jersey did not throw a pass, score a touchdown, or call a winning play. It was along for the ride on the back of a great player. When it comes to ministry, I am just the jersey. It is the Holy Spirit that does the work.
So, the Spirit equips us with power, integrity, and…
There is a big difference between knowing what you ought to do--obligation, and being compelled to do it--passion.
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV)
I know I ought to mow the lawn—that is obligation to keep the grass presentable. I rarely—no, never—get up at the crack of dawn to mow the lawn. However, will awake in the darkness to play a round of golf. That is passion to play a game on grass.
Love is the engine of authentic and effective witness. Certainly, it is passion for God and for people that will move us to ministry, not guilt. But how do we get that kind of love? It is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:5 ESV)
What if I could speak all languages of humans and of angels? If I did not love others, I would be nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. What if I could prophesy and understand all secrets and all knowledge? And what if I had faith that moved mountains? I would be nothing, unless I loved others. What if I gave away all that I owned and let myself be burned alive? I would gain nothing, unless I loved others. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 CEV)
Just as God’s power is manifested incarnationally, so God’s love is revealed incarnationally—in human contact. In my connection with God—through Scripture, prayer, worship, and obedience—the Holy Spirit builds a heart of love. There is one thing that the human heart cannot resist—authentic love. Service rooted in genuine Spirit-produced love provides an effective invitation to the lost.
May the Spirit gives us the methods and the plans. But more than that, may the Spirit make us—with integrity, power, and love—to be the kind of people that God can use to reach this nation for Christ.
David L. DeGarmo (D. Min.) serves Global University as Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Theology. Along with his wife Ruth, he is also a U.S. Missionary. He has extensive experience as an educator, missionary, and pastor.
David writes an additional blog on a variety of topics. Check it out...