Wait and Then Move
By Dave Ferguson, CEO & President, Exponential
Being empowered by the Spirit can be very confusing!
As a leader, I tend to think in terms of goal and accomplishment. I want to be productive, and I want those around me to produce too. I was even taught it was good to have a bias for action.
Then I read Jesus’ single command to his followers before igniting his movement: “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait . . .” (Acts 1:4).
“Wait”?!? How am I supposed to get things done? Doesn’t sound like a productive strategy for movement-making. Waiting sounds like the opposite of a bias for action.
But Jesus knew the momentum needed for this movement must not be man-made. It had to be Spirit-generated. The mission of God must be moved by the Spirit of God. Jesus was telling his apostles to wait and then to move with the Spirit.
I believe Jesus’ challenge to every Christian leader, like myself, who wants to see a movement is this: “Wait and then move!”
Perhaps, now you are confused. Are you wondering how all this stopping and starting is going to lead to a movement? Wondering what happened to the “Go” instructions Jesus gave?
The “Wait and then move” instructions of Jesus are how we are to go forward in this movement and can be understood in these four words:
- Empowered Heart
- Empowered Life
- Empowered Culture
- Empowered Movement
Our participation in this movement launched in Acts 1 starts when we discover what it takes to have an empowered heart. As leaders we have a heart that is emptied of striving, control and living life under our own power. As leaders we must decide we will not “Go” until the Spirit tells us to “Go.” Unless we do that Jesus says we will accomplish absolutely nothing.
Read again Jesus’ instructions to his disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Bottomline: if we are to see a movement, as leaders, we must wait and then move.
I needed to send a text to another leader that I knew would contain some challenging and tough to read words. I typed it into the text; but something inside told me to “wait.” I knew the text needed to be sent that day. All of my leadership instincts kicked in, “get it done”, “don’t put it off” and “bias for action.” But I waited. Within 5 minutes this leader, who had not texted me in days, sent me a text. What this person said created a beautiful opening for me to send my text. The leader got the message and responded in a way I did not anticipate.
I was able to move the mission forward in ways that I would have never imagined by waiting on the Spirit. That is the difference of having an empowered heart.
The empowered heart is not designed to be a one-time experience. It is mission critical that it is continuous and results in an empowered life.
My friend has the best trained dog I have ever seen. This dog really is incredible. (Yes, I’m about to compare leaders to a dog, but stick with me.) The dog has been taught to obey my friend’s every command.
When my friend says to his dog, “Come,” the dog comes to him. When my friend says, “Fetch,” the dog goes and fetches. When my friend says, “Sit,” the dog sits right next to him and will not move until given the next command.
This is what it looks like to live an empowered life.
When God says to you, “Move,” you move.
When God says to you, “Obey,” you obey.
When God says to you, “Wait, because I know the exact right time for you to send that text,” you wait to send the text.
When our hearts are continuously empowered by the Spirit, we will live an empowered life.
“The Holy Spirit did not come simply to empower a bunch of individuals into personal relationship with Him, but also into relationship with one another,” Josh Harrison states in Empowered: Pastoral Perspectives on Life & Leadership in the Spirit. “He came to empower us into community in and through which He intends to demonstrate His love and power to the whole world.”
The early church modeled this beautifully. In Acts 2, immediately after the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost, the church grew explosively overnight. Harrison writes, “Empowered people come together to form an empowered community that embodies an empowered culture to one another and the world.”
The way to create an Acts 2 community is through an empowered culture. As leaders our primary role is culture creation. Let me explain what that can look like.
While our mission at Community Christian Church, the church I pastor, always stays the same, we have a new vision for every 1 to 3 years. One year, our vision statement was simple, “Pray First.” I already confessed earlier to having a bias for action and a passion for productivity. So, to cultivate an empowered culture, we felt it was necessary to make a commitment to “Pray First.”
How would we start our day? “Pray First.”
How would we begin each meeting? “Pray First.”
How would we approach each decision? “Pray First.”
How would we resolve conflict? “Pray First.”
How would we decide about our next church plant? “Pray First.”
I think you get the idea.
When waiting on the Spirit before moving becomes the value, narrative, and behavior of a group of people—you get an empowered culture.
When our churches join forces to ask God for awakening and revival in our communities, cities, nation, and world, it is then that we will see a move of the Spirit like we read about in Acts. As our churches become more dependent on the Holy Spirit, God will bring us together to create an empowered movement.
“In this time when the world has never seemed more broken, one unexpected gift has been watching pastors and churches draw together in shared dependence in ways I have never experienced,” explains Todd Proctor, co-author of Empowered: Pastoral Perspectives on Life & Leadership in the Spirit. “Unity (dependence on each other) and prayer (dependence on God) have become hallmarks of this challenging season in beautifully redemptive ways.”
Last November, I gathered with other church planters in my network and other networks for the first time in-person in 20 months at our Chicago NewThing Gathering. Friend and missiologist Ed Stetzer spoke, and he reminded us that while the last couple years have been hard, they are not “unprecedented.” According to his research these culture convulsions happen about every 60 years with the last one happening here in the US in the mid to late 60s.
Go back and review the history of 1965-1969, it was a confusing time. But in the middle of that confusion and craziness the Spirit was at work giving birth to an empowered movement. It was in the 60s when John Wimber became a Christian. He later led the Vineyard movement and insisted that we “do the stuff” when referring to Spirit-empowered signs and wonders. It was the 60s that gave birth to the Jesus People and empowered movement church plants called Calvary Chapels. The last empowered church planting movement that America experienced was in the 1960s—a time with much in common with today.
Just like in Acts 1 and 2, God’s Spirit is at work in 2021 and 2022. The Spirit’s desire is to empower a movement.
When we gather this fall for five Exponential Regional conferences, we will unpack what it means to lead in a time when moving with the Spirit is more critical than ever. Our speakers will inspire us to have Empowered Hearts and Lives as we create Empowered Cultures in our churches and communities while asking God for Empowered Movement.
My prayer is that Exponential 2022 will be an empowered moment. And in that moment our response will be the same as the apostles in Acts 1. That we will wait on the Spirit—and then move with the Spirit.
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 continues the multiplication conversation this fall at five powerful Regional conferences in Washington DC, Bay Area CA, Southern CA, Chicago, and Houston. Exponential Regionals include the inspiration of the Exponential Global Orlando gathering with free Equipping Labs, a condensed schedule and affordable rates. Now you can bring your entire team and have a ready made staff retreat and equipping experience. For more information and to register for Exponential Regionals, go to exponential.org/events.