We are into the 3rd of our series on 5 ‘C’s of Christian leadership. We have seen previously that Jesus-shaped leadership requires a divine Calling and the test of proven Character. Today, we will speak of ‘Charism’ – the gifting and anointing of the Holy Spirit.
The role of the Holy Spirit in the raising, empowering and sustaining of leaders for God’s work and purpose cannot be overplayed.
When I was made a presbyter in the Anglican Church, as is traditional in the ordination service, an ancient hymn was sung called ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’ (or ‘Come Creator Spirit’). It was an invocation to the Holy Spirit of God to fill the ones being so-called and set apart:
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
and lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.
It was a very sacred moment for me, as I knelt before the bishop.
In fact, ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ is one of the most ancient, pithy prayers of the church. It still needs to be prayed today.
From earliest days of the church, all who were set apart to leadership in the church had hands laid on them or were prayed for to be anointed of God’s Spirit (see for example Acts 6:76; 13:3; 14:23; 1 Timothy 1:6).
Divine charism and human character-transformation are intricately and inseparably related. Without the Holy Spirit, we are shapeless and flat, like balloons devoid of air. The real presence of God in us is what ultimately sets us apart, gives us freedom, life and brings a thousand other blessings. Without Him, we flatter to deceive.
When I was a teenager going to junior-college in Singapore (our equivalent of high-school or sixth-form college), I was the leader of a Christian fellowship of students that met for worship, prayer and bible study and sought to be evangelize in our school. I recall one evening when the leaders had gathered for prayer after a busy season of Christian activity.
In that time of prayer as we sought the Lord, one of our number had a vision. He described a box covered by jewels and precious stones. A hand then opened the box, which was filled to the brim with sand. After the vision was described, someone else shared an interpretation. He said, ‘Our works and lives to God looked like that. We were so busy with activities for God that we had neglected to tend our inner life and walk with him. Our works looked good, but they were in reality to him like a box of sand.’ The Spirit convicted us and led us to a time of repentance.
The lesson from that night of prayer is one I often need reminding of. How frequently I’ve striven and sought to lead and work by my own strength and wisdom, instead of seeking the unction of God’s Spirit to line up with his will, accomplish his work and display his glory.
It is noteworthy, then in Acts 6, when the Apostles decided a broadening of leadership was necessary so that they could focused on preaching and prayer (conjoined twins in any apostolic work), they called the church to find men who were ‘of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.’ (Acts 6:3).
Character (‘of good repute’) and charism (‘full of the Holy Spirit’) go together and aided by wisdom, enabled them to be called to this specific hands-on ministry.
The presence and fullness of the Holy Spirit in us will tell. The Epistles constantly exhorts that we be filled by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18 – Greek present imperative, i.e. ‘go on being filled’) and keep in step with Him (Galatians 5:16). By that same Spirit, we are empowered for life (Ephesians 3:16), adopted as his own (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6) and can preach the Gospel in word and deed (Romans 15:18-19).
Leadership without charism then is simply man-made ability. But empowered by Him, we are death-defiant. ‘If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies.’ (Romans 8:11.)
So may it be with you and me today. Come, Holy Spirit.