The Case of the Displaced Person

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

THE CASE OF THE DISPLACED PERSON

Eighty percent of all mission work today is being done without the Holy Spirit. This shocking charge could be more comfortably dismissed were it not an echo of the growing concern expressed by perceptive Christian leaders everywhere. Dr. Harold Lindsell says, “The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is the lost dynamic of the church, without which no missionary work can endure.” Decision Magazine carried an article entitled “Strange Omission,” which declared that Christians have all but abandoned the third article of the Nicene creed: “I believe in the Holy Spirit.”

What do we think of the Holy Spirit today? To some He is an impersonal “it” or at best a vague “influence.” Others carefully avoid the doctrine for fear of being branded as radicals or “holy rollers.” Still others frankly confess that for them the matter is irrelevant. They have casually discarded the Holy Spirit along with other so-called outmoded teachings such as the virgin birth and inspiration of the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit’s place in the church has been usurped by a panel of executives; His ministry taken over by a computer.

To our Lord, however, the presence of the Holy Spirit was the one essential element in the success of His work and the fulfillment of His commission.[1] Without Him the disciples could only remain a timorous, divided band destined for obscurity. With Him possessing them, they became an invincible Church.[2]

By today’s standards that small apostolic mission was underfinanced, pitifully equipped, and greatly disorganized. Yet within 30 years they had carried the Gospel to the then-known world. How did they do it? Samuel Chadwick tells us. “Pentecost turned anemic believers into exuberant saints. People said they were drunk, and so they were, but not with wine. They were vivacious and abounding with vitality. Pentecost wakes people up. It vitalizes latent talent and makes the utmost of every faculty and gift.”

It we ever needed the Holy Spirit we need Him today. Personally we need Him. Ministry organizations desperately need Him. Insidious forces of evil assault an apathetic Church. God’s people bow resignedly to the onslaught. Missions, for all its impressive program, must stand embarrassed and impotent against the offenses of raw paganism and sophisticated secularism. We have failed to acknowledge that without the Holy Spirit our most zealous crusade is doomed. “The Holy Spirit is the great missioner,” John R. Mott reminds us, “Only as He dominates can we hope for success in the undertaking to carry Christ to the nations.”

We are dominated, it seems, by almost everything but the Holy Spirit. Missions is encumbered with numberless committees and conferences. Our program is replete with leadership training seminars, recruitment campaigns, studies in church growth and lectures on how to live in tropical climates.

Our candidates are screened and groomed, educated and analyzed. They are sent to orientation schools and given special courses in linguistics and cultural anthropology. Yet we fail. Why? W. Graham Scroggie put his finger on the trouble. “We have banked more on prestige than prayer,” he said. “We have organized more than we have agonized; we have allowed ritual to obscure reality; we have thought more of conferences than of consecration. In short, we have displaced the Holy Spirit and it is high time that we recognized the cause of our spiritual stringency.”

There are those today who speak of missions in terms of big business. Clever executives, impatient with talk of spiritual qualifications, are elevated to roles of leadership. Frenzied activity and a proliferation of programs and institutions are offered as evidence of achievement. We need to remind ourselves that a vast operation is no proof that the work of God is being done. Moreover, physical growth may be only a facade masking tragic spiritual decline.

Is there a way we can determine whether we are trusting the Holy Spirit, or depending on the arm of flesh? I believe there is. The place we accord the ministry of prayer is a sure index to our spiritual values. People who genuinely rely upon God’s Spirit and consistently look to Him for leadership are found often on their knees. It was so with the first missionaries. The same principle applies today.

We have grieved the Holy Spirit and it is high time we acknowledge our sin. Without Him our most earnest endeavor is playacting. Human wisdom and even the most prudent administrative procedures will ultimately fail. In a spiritual warfare, the only truly effective weapons are spiritual ones–weapons fashioned by the Holy Spirit and wielded by Spirit-filled men and women.

—Eugene A. Erny

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[1] Luke 4:18-21; John 3:34

[2] Luke 24:49; John 14:16-18 Notice the 41 references to the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts.(Editing footnotes by JBW. Acts 1:8 quote – NKJV)

Courtesy of The Missionary Standard of The Oriental Missionary Society (now OMS International). www.OMSinternational.org

Available in tract form by Osterhus Pub. House, 4500 W. Broadway, Minneapolis, MN 55422 www.Osterhuspub.com 1-877-643-4229

A supplemental study on this topic is the Grace Note “Getting Out of the Doldrums.”

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