Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Holy Spirit in Mission by Gary Tyra

In this book, Gary Tyra, a veteran missionary, presents a scholarly work about the relationship between the Holy Spirit and missional faithfulness in the Body of Christ.  He relates Biblical examples, and then describes the characteristics of those who relate with the Holy Spirit in ways that prompt them to speak and act in a missional way. 

This book challenged my theological boxes in a good way.  In the past 6 years on the mission field I have found that God does not operate inside of my theological position. 

Tyra believes that the Holy Spirit "can and must be related to in an interpersonal manner."  He calls all believers, especially "rank and file" Christians to engage in the exciting adventure of asking for prophetic direction in their daily life.  In many places in the world where the church has spread rapidly and exponentially, especially in the Global South, one of the paramount beliefs among the people is that God is living and active in their daily lives.  They have a personal sense of call and responsibility to engage in sharing Christ with their friends, families, and neighbors - and they directly engage the Holy Spirit - asking for words of direction, prayer or service.  Tyra asks - why can't this growth happen in the 'West'?  What paradigm shift is necessary for us to change our relationship with the Holy Spirit and our mission?

Tyra observes that we live in an age of religious relativism.  In direct contrast, prophetic messages demonstrate the power and uniqueness of the God we serve, and result in conversion.  Tyra believes that the essence of the Holy Spirit is truly "missional" - in opposition to those that emphasize only a personal "experience" or blessing.  This encounter with the Holy Spirit, he says, must produce outward-focused action, not only individual experience or blessing.

Tyra believes that Luke's portrayal of the Holy Spirit is primarily missional - based on the books of Luke and Acts - referencing Joel 2:28-29, that believers will all prophesy someday.  He sees Paul's portrayal of the Spirit as primarily soteriological (focused on salvation), but says that the two views are of course compatible.  To quote the book, " must be aknowledged that Luke's message overall seems to be that all Spirit-filled believers possess the capacity, like Ananias, to hear God's voice, receive ministry assignments, speak and act on Christ's behalf, make new disciples, and build up the church, offering a powerful refutation of religious relativism in the process!"

Tyra calls all evangelical believers to allow the Spirit to move them to action or speech that will impact those around us.  He says, "Speaking to myself as well as anyone else: what would happen if more evangelical church members became open to the idea that on any given day the Spirit of God might send them, like Philip, on a special ministry assignment?  How hard is it to say to someone, when appropriate, 'Hey, I could be wrong, but I just have this strong feeling that God wants me to tell you a story?' We might be surprised at how many hearts the Holy Spirit has already prepared for such an encounter."

Tyra recognizes that some believers self-identify as pentecostal-charismatic, and some do not.  Some do not believe that the Holy Spirit 'speaks' today.  He challenges this assumption with examples of prompting and guidance that even the most conservative among us would acknowledge were of the Lord.  He states, "What if the kind of prophetic activity I am describing here - obeying a significantly strong impression to humbly, gently speak and act in the name of the risen Christ really is, at least some of the time the work of  the Holy Spirit?  What kind of missional faithfulness would such a large-scale paradigm shift among evangelicals unleash in the Western world?"

Many of us have judged the idea of prophetic speech and action based on poor examples and abuse of this kind of speech.  We have read stories and heard dogmatic teachers tell us of the evils of this approach.  Tyra calls everyone to examine what Scripture says and to judge appropriately. 

Tyra reminds us that expectency tends to preceed experience.  I also concur that God seems to wait for us to have strong desire for His presence or direction before He gives it.  The stronger our desire, the greater He rewards that desire with specific guidance.  Might our assumption that the Spirit does not act and speak to us personally today hinder us from recognizing His voice?

Tyra challenges us to embrace this paradigm-shift, to embrace a "different way of being a Christian."  He asks us, "What if more evangelical church members were in the habit of taking seriously the promptings produced by the Spirit to speak and act toward those inside and outside the family of believers in loving, equipping ways (see Gal 6:10)?  How many more missionally effective acts of servant-like compassion might be generated?" 

To conclude - it is my personal experience on the mission field that my own talent and speech and efforts produce little without time on my knees.  It is also my experience that when I have felt a prompting to act or speak to someone that I think is of the Lord - it has resulted in fruit, and when I have ignored this prompting - it has been to the detriment of the Gospel. 

It is not the purpose of this blog to lay out my exact theological position, but I will say that this book has challenged me to ask God very directly for more of the Spirit's guidance and direction in my life - and ESPECIALLY in my missional lifestyle.  Perhaps the biggest question for me is not IF He will guide me, but WHEN He does give direction - will I obey?

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