Something I have come across a number of times recently is a desire in some churches (or by some people in churches) to have a “Spirit-led” pastor.
This is an interesting expression, and one that bears thinking about. It sounds like a really desirable description for a Christian (and especially a pastor) to be able to claim. After all, who would want a pastor who isn’t led by the Spirit of God?
And yet … surely all believers have received the Spirit of God, who God promises to pour out on all his people (see Peter’s speech in Jerusalem on Pentecost in Acts 2:16-21 where he quotes from Joel).
Which leads to the question – what does it mean to be led by the Spirit?
In John 14 Jesus explains who the Spirit is, and what the Spirit is being sent to do. I brief summary includes:
– the Spirit will be with us and live in us (v.17)
– the Spirit will teach believers all things and remind believers of everything Jesus said and taught (v.26)
– the Spirit will bring peace to the heart of believers (v.27)
The Spirit is described as being the author (or co-author, with the human authors that he inspires) of scripture (see 2 Timothy 3:15-16).
Beyond this, Galatians 5 describes the “fruit of” (what is produced by) the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
I suspect that when churches talk about looking for someone who is “Spirit-led”, often what they mean is someone who doesn’t actually submit themselves to what the Bible says, and what Jesus taught, but are willing to lead the church in non-Biblical directions claiming some sort of leading by the Spirit. Often in terms of women’s issues, same sex attraction issues, and the like.
The danger here is that Christians can be tempted by one Biblical sounding idea (led by the Spirit) while unknowingly rejecting actual Biblical ideas (the Spirit reminds us and points us to Jesus and provides us with the scriptures, which he helps us to understand). This is a danger where we follow whatever our culture says, but claim that it is what the Spirit says.
This is where it is important for us to know scripture. To know what the Bible says, and be familiar with it, even if we don’t understand all of it. When we are familiar with what the Bible says, the words that the Spirit has recorded for us, we are going to be aware of passages and teaching which might be relevant to whatever we are being told, and giving us a starting point to investigate it, to seek the truth of what God has revealed to all believers for all time.