Cross-posted on the Spectrum Blog/Spirituality section. Join the conversation there as well.
The Hollywood Adventist Church has had a slogan for the past 8 years which you can still see on our website. It reads, “Where God’s Spirit is given space to change lives.” This is the most significant piece of theology that I have ever encountered at a Seventh-day Adventist Church. This statement predates my ministry in Hollywood by 3 years and when I first read it I wondered, “Is this wishful thinking, or is this truly what this church believes and embodies?”
No church completely embodies its highest ideals for itself, but I have to say that this statement has profoundly shaped my congregation. It is the thing I love the most about Hollywood. However, structuring a congregation around this statement is no simple task. It is messy and unpredictable.
One of my favorite statements about the Spirit is in John 3:8 where Jesus says to Nicodemus,
The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
The movement of the Spirit is a mystery. It is not linear, and therefore not predicable. In fact, the Spirit’s movements sometimes appear random, confusing and contradictory.
But we have been raised in a modern world that prizes predictability, control, and measurable outcomes. Pastors today are caught in the liminal space between a modern industrial worldview and the spiritual realities of leadership in a postmodern culture. There are very real expectations placed upon pastors and church leaders – solid Biblical exposition, spiritual guidance, programs that meet their needs and the needs of their families. Conference administrators expect the church to grow in membership and attendance through new baptisms and accessions to the faith, as well as financial growth and stability. These expectations are reasonable in most cases.
Yet, in a rapidly changing, post-Christian world, these expectations create an almost unbearable pressure and anxiety for church leaders. I know. I’ve felt this pressure with such intensity that it has nearly crushed me a time or two or three. Congregations and Conference administrators expect pastors to know what to do. But here’s the dirty little secret: we don’t know what to do! And we’re scared to admit to you that we don’t know what to do.