When I stepped into my role as lead pastor in 2011, I told people, “I don’t understand or know how to do everything, but I want to experience it all.” We had cultivated a safe space for risk-taking, so the ground was prepared for us to leap and learn one Sunday.
I had been teaching a series on the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Through the weeks, people had confided feelings of condemnation because they had not received this baptism, or had not released a spiritual language. That was the last thing I wanted—this was about a gift, not guilt.
I know the power of a personal prayer language. Praying in tongues has been a key strategy of the Spirit for the overcoming of intense anxiety attacks in my life. I had learned to rebuke the anxiety and build myself up by praying in the Spirit. I wanted others to experience this great gift.
On this Sunday, after teaching on the purposes of speaking in tongues, I was suddenly aware that the Holy Spirit wanted us to sing in tongues. My regular prayer life left me confident that this was His voice, but still my mind raced with thoughts of fear and concern for those who could have one more chance to feel left out. Not only that, we had never done anything like this. What would the congregation think? How would they respond?
It was time to take a risk—better a faith-filled fail than fear-borne regret. I leaned over to Trevor, our worship leader, and told him, “We are supposed to sing in the Spirit.” His look was sufficient to tell me he had the same questions I had, but I watched as he took the leap with me and began singing in the Spirit. I joined him, and the band swiftly followed.
And then it happened. Sweet sounds of worship began bubbling up throughout the congregation. God’s people began singing by God’s Spirit, and Hope Chapel received the blessing of present obedience. The fruit was seen in the testimony of four people who released a spiritual language for the first time as we worshiped.
For some, the fear of “not doing it right” had prevented them for so long from speaking it out. Because that moment was so sweet and sincere, they felt safe to “step out of the boat,” as Peter did, experiencing the miraculous while keeping their eyes on Jesus. What looked to me like an opportunity to encounter lack was the perfect moment for the Holy Spirit to shine.
More of God’s people were equipped to pray and intercede with dynamic power. I’m convinced that, when we take the time to attune our hearts to the Lord in prayer, we will pick up on these strategic moments of empowerment and transformation that stretch us and release His grace to the people we shepherd.