EMPOWERED: Empowered Heart – It’s About Relationship

January 13, 2022


Excerpt from
Empowered: Pastoral Perspectives on Life and Leadership in the Spirit, Chapter 1: Empowered Heart

by Todd Proctor and Josh Harrison with contributions from Harvey Carey, Kathleen Doyle, Darren Rouanzoin, Craig Springer, Chris Wienand and Jon Tyson.

A vibrant relationship always requires two willing parties.

The Bible reveals to us a God who chooses to walk with, talk with, identify Himself with, and work through people. In fact, from start to finish, the Bible is the story of this relational God. 

For the New Testament writers, Pentecost and everything that followed in the life of the early Church was the continuation of that story. It’s a story of Kingdom multiplication as Christ followers—each empowered by the Holy Spirit—were mobilized to live “sent.”


The Relationship Begins

The story starts with Yahweh walking and talking with Adam and Eve, as friends do. There is certainly a hierarchy in place: He is God, and they are not. At the same time, He treated them with respect, as friends. He honored their sovereignty. He gave them a choice.

One of the enduring questions of the creation story is, Why did God put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden at all? He put that particular tree in the Garden and pointed it out to them because He values relationship, and true relationship always requires an act of will from both parties. 

For love to exist, we must be able to choose. True love requires vulnerability on the part of the one extending it. It exposes us to the possibility that our love will be rejected. God so deeply valued the relationship with Adam and Eve (and all of us) that He allows us to choose even if (and when) we choose to walk away.


The Old Testament Covenantal Relationship

As the story continues, we see God choose a family as His own, appearing to them, speaking to them directly, blessing them, protecting them, and guiding them. In Genesis 16, one of the most startling moments in the Bible, Yahweh stops the whole arc of Scripture to rescue and bless a foreign slave girl named Hagar. He is a God of relationship, a God who cares about people.

In Exodus 3, when Moses, the chosen rescuer of God’s enslaved people, approaches the burning bush, God introduces Himself as, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:15). 

Before He ever provided His name, Yahweh, He provided relational context. He identified Himself by their names, and all within the first few pages of Scripture.

The New Testament Church Filled with the Spirit

Later we meet the New Testament writers, many of whom spent more than three years walking around with the person they came to understand was God Himself. They saw Him face to face, ate with Him, and talked with Him as a friend. They had experienced intimacy with God in ways the patriarchs never could have imagined. 

It was in this context—the context of a God of relationship who is intimately and powerfully involved in the lives of His people—that they used words like “filled with the Holy Spirit” and “baptized in the Holy Spirit.”

The earliest Christians saw themselves not as a new movement but as the expansion of this relationship to all people and all nations. It was always about relationship. They were being filled by a Person. They were being baptized—immersed in—and fundamentally changed by the love of a Person.


A Spirit-filled Relationship

Filled and baptized. These are powerful and important words. But they become problematic when we forget the backstory and begin to use them transactionally rather than relationally. When we do so, we depersonalize the Holy Spirit, thinking of Him as a force rather than a person. 

The result is all sorts of bizarre behavior, and even worse, division in the Church as we squabble over when, how, how often, and whether a person is “filled by the Holy Spirit.” 

How silly do these arguments sound when we realize we are talking about a relationship with a person? 

We would never talk this way about a friend. “I believe I received my friend fully when we first met.” What a sad friendship if that were true! 

Or, on the other hand, “I believe I need a second encounter with my friend to receive him completely.” Really? Just one more? 

I love the way Terry Virgo talks about this. When asked if he believes in the “second filling” of the Holy Spirit, he responds, “Oh, yes! It comes right after the first filling and right before the third.” This is how relationships work.


Our Lifelong Relationship Journey

Disciple making is a critical dimension of multiplication. Too often we see our disciple-making relationships as transactional. But meaningful relationships are not transactional; they are ongoing encounters with another person you will never reach the end of because that person is unique and complex and endlessly interesting. If this is true of our relationships with one another, how much more so when the other Person is God Himself!

Consider how your relationship with the Holy Spirit of God has operated to define and shape (limit or expand) your ministry so far in your life. 

We do not need one or even two encounters with Him. What we need—and what He offers—is a lifelong journey of knowing and growing with Him.


Let Empowered: Pastoral Perspectives on Life & Leadership in the Spirit lay the groundwork for you and your leadership team prior to Exponential 2022 in Orlando, Florida in March.

EMPOWERED Pastoral Perspectives on Life & Leadership in the Spirit is now available in ebook and print versions at Amazon

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.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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