In 2015, a UPS driver walked into our church’s office to deliver a package. The driver spotted me from the entrance and shouted, “Darren! I’ve been looking for you! I’m healed! Your prayer healed me! I went back to church. I’m reading my Bible. I can’t even believe it!”
I grew up in a church that didn’t practice the “things of the Spirit.” It was a traditional evangelical church that unintentionally taught me to worship the Father, the Son, and… the Holy Bible. After being hired at a megachurch, I went on a mission trip. En route to India, I was shocked to find a church in the heart of central London that was reaching its city in the power of the Holy Spirit.
As a 22-year-old rookie pastor, I sat raptly listening to the stories of this church. These weren’t stories from decades past. They were new, fresh, last-week and yesterday stories. It was the stuff of the Bible and it was happening every day in this church. To my American ears, this was amazing, rare, exceptional! But to those telling the stories, it was normal.
That day changed me. I knew God’s Spirit was real and alive, and the Holy Spirit was operating within and through the Church just like we read in the Scriptures. From then on, I knew I wanted to pursue the presence of God.
Shortly after my experience in London with the Holy Spirit, I heard the Lord speak to me as clear as day: “Plant a church in Long Beach.” One year later, my wife Alex and I started a church in downtown Long Beach, California. For the past eleven years, we’ve had the privilege of helping build a ministry dependent on the Holy Spirit and thriving as an empowered culture.
Here are practical steps we’ve learned about building and contending for empowered church culture.
Pursue the Holy Spirit
When we started pursuing the Holy Spirit, we began with our leaders. We began teaching through the book of Acts and creating space for the Holy Spirit in our staff and elder meetings. It meant worshiping, laying hands, prophesying, practicing words of knowledge with each other, and anticipating God to heal and do all the beautiful things that accompany the ministry of the Spirit.
At first, it felt unnatural and uncomfortable. But building culture requires repetition and practice. We kept meeting, praying, seeking, and waiting for God, and He showed up in our midst and ministered to us.
By the time the ministry of the Holy Spirit showed up in our weekend gatherings, it was already taking place everywhere else.
This intentionality moved into every area of ministry. By the time the ministry of the Holy Spirit showed up in our weekend gatherings, it was already taking place everywhere else.
Tell the Stories
Over the years, I’ve learned that nothing builds culture faster than the stories we celebrate. We started celebrating stories of the Spirit moving in our church in every staff and leadership meeting. We asked every staff member or leader to bring firsthand, personally experienced stories that were fresh (within the past week) and celebrated the hope we had for the church to encounter God.
These were stories of generosity, risk, successes, and failures. They were small and big examples of the kind of church we were working to become. We celebrated obedience, not just outcomes.
We celebrated the hope we had for the church to encounter God. We celebrated obedience, not just outcomes.
Pray, Pray, Pray
The number one way to create an empowered culture is to pray for it. Prayer is the language of the Holy Spirit and we must learn to speak his language. Prayer is the central role we must play as the shepherds of our flocks. Prayer must become an everyday, long-game strategy of building culture.
By the time the UPS driver I mentioned earlier came into my life, I had shared with my teams and congregation dozens and dozens of stories of my attempts—risks—to invite God’s healing power on behalf of someone who needed it. So far, I didn’t know whether any of my prayers had been answered with healing. But I wanted to see God move and I continued to believe he would.
When the UPS driver first knocked on my door, he had braces around both knees and long black wraps around both elbows. I asked him what happened and if he was in pain. He said, “Yes, it’s bad, and I’m about to go on disability because I can’t do this job anymore.”
I asked him, “Can I pray for you?” and he said, “Sure.”
So, with very little faith, because I had prayed this same prayer dozens of times before with seemingly no response, I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Lord Jesus, heal my brother. Amen!”
A month later, he walked into my office and filled the crowded space with the news of what God had done. It was undeniable.
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I long for churches to operate more and more out of the power of the Holy Spirit. True to the usual Kingdom logic, this power ignites and grows when we humble ourselves and becoming utterly dependent on him, through asking him to work, celebrating that work, and persevering in prayer.
Together, do just that—inviting the Spirit to use us to accomplish God’s will in every place!
Darren Rouanzoin and his wife planted a beautiful church called Garden Church in Long Beach, California. Darren is committed to his church family there and much of what he writes and blogs about comes from the meaningful relationships that continue to inspire him and motivate him to pursue Jesus and his way. He wants everyone to know and experience the extravagant generosity of God and the abundant life Jesus brings.