The Spirit-Empowered Culture
By Dave Ferguson, President, Exponential 2022
Culture is a leader’s single greatest asset. Why? Because culture works 24/7. Culture never rests. A church’s culture continually reinforces its values.
What is your church’s culture?
Here is a glimpse at the culture of the first-century Church.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.”
The culture of the first century church was one of community and being led by the Spirit. It was an empowered culture.
In Empowered: Pastoral Perspectives on Life & Leadership in the Spirit, author Josh Harrison talks about the believers’ commitment to the empowered life and empowered community with one another.
The verb Luke uses in Acts 2 to describe the action of the early Church is an important one.
He says, “They devoted themselves.” This is not a casual word used to describe loose affiliation or spontaneous acquaintance. These first Spirit-filled Jesus followers were radically committed to this empowered life and community even to the exclusion of other priorities. It was a value of their culture.
The same must be true of us. Just as the Holy Spirit will not force us to have or grow in relationship with Him, He also will not force us into relationship with one another. If we want to experience the fullness of His presence and the empowered life He has come to give us, we must devote ourselves to His Church. We must persistently choose one another, even when faced with inconvenience or difficulty.
Empowered community is about much more than showing up once a week (or every other week) to a worship service where we sing songs about the Holy Spirit; where we pray, “Come, Holy Spirit”; where we pray for one another; and even where we exercise the gifts of the Spirit. It’s about a lot more than a day. It is about lifelong devotion to this family into which He has adopted us.
This devotion in the early Church is all the more significant when we consider the makeup of their community. This was an ethnically/culturally diverse group, with new members coming from ‘every nation under heaven’ (Acts 2:5). We see that this Church was economically diverse, with rich and poor mingling together in community, even sharing meals. This socioeconomic diversity in ancient Roman culture would have been one of the most radical and compelling—or off-putting, depending on your perspective—features of the early Church.
Jesus chooses and the Holy Spirit empowers people not for their similarities but in their differences—so that their sacrificial, inconvenient love for each other, empowered by the Spirit of love living within and among them, will be a powerful testimony of His love for the world.
If we want to see the Holy Spirit move in powerful ways in and through our community, we must be serious about pursuing communities that are radically diverse and devoting ourselves to a church based not on its compatibility with our already-held preferences and opinions but on its potential for transformation—ours and the world around us.
The Bible calls this diverse community the body of Christ. “Just as a body, though one, has many parts . . . so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12).
The Circle of Community
One of the things we love about the Exponential Global Conference in Orlando is how this empowered culture is lived out. For four days, we experience the community of the Spirit together and the empowered culture we share.
I remember exactly where I was standing during a recent conversation about this very thing. We were gathered on the grassy lawn at First Baptist Church in Orlando where we host the conference. I was talking to Ric Thorpe, the bishop of Islington, the position responsible for church-planting for the Church of England.
He explained that he’s been to a lot of conferences, but that Exponential was different. Other conferences were like a triangle–the speakers are all at the pinnacle of the triangle with everyone else below. The speakers would come out on stage, speak, and then retreat to the green room, never to be seen again. But he saw the diagram at Exponential as a circle rather than a triangle.
Rick started looking around the lawn. There were groups of people gathering and talking. He named people who were main stage speakers that were just hanging out as a part of the conference, enjoying conversations just like everyone else. He was observing the culture of the Exponential Global Conference: one where the body of Christ gathers, one where there is a community of believers empowered by the Spirit.
As church leaders in reproducing churches, we need to create this very culture in our congregations—an empowered culture where the Spirit moves among the body of believers. One where we hear from the Spirit and move together to accomplish God’s will for our cities.
Let’s build a culture that will permeate our churches. A culture that leads us to wait for the Spirit—and then move.
Empowered: Moving with the Spirit is Exponential’s theme throughout 2022. You’re invited to join the journey as we seek his presence together.
Exponential kicks off Empowered in Orlando March 7-10, 2022 with 150+ speakers, 200 workshops, 15+ pre-conference intensives, and 75+ networks and denominations in sunny Florida. For more information and to register for Exponential 2022, go to exponential.org/2022.