Freedom in the Spirit

Freedom in the Spirit

Ministry is an extroverted business. It requires prolonged periods of energy exertion. Whether you are the leader or the participant, the church is a community that thrives off of social interactions and connections. So if you’re an introverted person, church involvement can drain you, and quick. At such times, activities that are meant to be life giving and geared towards encouragement can become suffocating and cause social anxiety.

Introversion doesn’t mean shy or unfriendly or a person that doesn’t like people. In fact, many introverts are very social and can appear on the outside to be extroverts, because they enjoy people a lot. Introverts are people that draw energy from their inner lives, and so even though they have a good time socializing, they also need to withdraw and be alone for large spaces of time to refill the well. Such retreating from the world isn’t often understood or appreciated by church communities that like to sign on their members to every activity.

Being a pastor’s wife and having been a church planter’s wife, I understand deeply the concern for both numbers and wishing that church members would commit more time and energy to help grow and cultivate the church. My job description was to welcome strangers and make conversation. As much as I often ended up enjoying those conversations fter getting over a deep struggle with many levels of anxiety, I would return home and plop down on the couch exhausted. I felt like a wet towel that had been squeezed out and left to dry.

Because my efforts never seemed good enough, and I never felt smart enough or accomplished enough to play my role, I decided to meditate on and memorize 2 Corinthians 3. It was a great comfort to me that Christ is my confidence and that my competence comes from being a minister of “a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit.” Being an introvert in an extroverted sphere often felt like losing my “self,” but it was a great encouragement to know that it was the Spirit creating and recreating and building and accomplishing the goal of the church and its community. "ruly, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Not by my righteousness or righteous acts or trying to be the “right” person for the job, but through Christ’s righteousnes, I could rest in my identity in Him. What freedom and comfort there is when “we, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, and are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

A Principle of Pentecost

In Acts 1 Jesus instructed His disciples to wait for the gift that the Father had promised, the gift of being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5, NIV). The experience would give the disciples power to be witnesses, so that they might make the name of Jesus known “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV). This “world mission” aligns with Jesus’ instructions to His followers to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19, NIV).

The disciples of Jesus obeyed His word and waited in Jerusalem for the empowering of the Spirit. Acts 1:14 tells us who was part of this group. As we look through the list we find that women are specifically mentioned, and they were not disappointed! Acts 2:4 says that all of those who had gathered in prayer were “filled with the Holy Spirit” (NIV). The women who were present received the same gift as the men, including the apostles who were present. God made no distinction between the women and the men.  Is it not reasonable to assume that both men and women received the Spirit for the same purpose? After all, the stated purpose for the coming of the Spirit (Acts 1:8) is a general statement; it has no restrictions or qualifying statements attached to it.

 These texts are a great starting point for discussing the place of women in the ministry of the church. God gave women the same gift that He gave to men, equally empowering both genders. All are equipped to make Jesus known to the world. This is done not only by living a holy life, but also by preaching and teaching. Those who lived closer to the time of Jesus understood the intent of His teaching and acted accordingly. As we celebrate Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit may we be encouraged both to declare and demonstrate that the mission, the might, and the ministry of God are open to all believers. God has poured out His Spirit on his sons and daughters (Acts 2:17)! This is the message of Pentecost.

John P Lathrop is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He is also the author of four books including  Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity .    

John P Lathrop is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He is also the author of four books including Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity.


Mary Magdalene: Authorized Witness to the Resurrection

God chose Mary Magdalene to be the first witness and the first proclaimer of the most important statement in all of eternity: the Resurrection of Jesus. According to Merriam-Webster, a proclamation is an official statement or announcement made by a person in power or by a government; in other words, the proclaimer of an official statement comes with power or is vested with recognizable authority by one in power. God is making a statement not only in and through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus; God is also making a statement in the way he chose to proclaim the Resurrection. The very fact that the great unfolding of God’s new and redeemed creation was first witnessed and proclaimed by Mary Magdalene in and of itself is meant to be our first glimpse of God’s redemption of every aspect of creation we have corrupted. The idea that Mary—a woman, one perceived to be inferior to man and legally a non admissible witness in a human court at that time is the one authorized by the risen Jesus to be first to proclaim his resurrection truly disrupts the prevailing norms of power. Resurrection is, thus, the ultimate disruption of all norms shaped by human power and privilege; it is the living testimony of deliverance and justice hoped for by all who are pushed into the pit of darkness and oppression, starting with the restored dignity of God’s image in the woman.