A Fresh Wind Of The Holy Spirit
Jeff Heidkamp, co-pastor of Mercy Vineyard in Minneapolis, explores three ways for leaders to care for their souls.
Co-Pastor, Mercy Vineyard, MN
I have noticed a fresh wind of the Spirit in Vineyard churches. And it’s different than the kind of fresh wind we often think about. There has been a notable uptick in miracles and expectancy for the Holy Spirit in meetings, which is wonderful. But that’s not the fresh wind of the Spirit I’m talking about.
What I have noticed is a fresh wind of pastors taking better care of their own souls. This has been necessary in the Vineyard, for some very practical and historical reasons. I’ll offer my theory about why there had been some level of absence of pastors taking care of their souls, and why I think there is a fresh wind of this happening. I might also throw in a thought or two about how pastors who have not yet felt this wind might find it in their sails.
So why would Vineyard pastors, of all people, neglect their souls? I believe it was because of a misapplication of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. One very important element of Vineyard history is the empowering of laypeople for all kinds of ministry, symbolized by the oft-repeated maxim, “Everyone gets to play.” The role of clergy has typically been downplayed, a direct result of John Wimber’s “I’m just a fat guy trying to get to heaven” persona.
Clearly there is a healthy side to this. It’s what many of us love about the Vineyard. But it can have one long-term downside. Pastors who think of themselves as simply just another layperson (who happens to get a salary) will consequently downplay the unique spiritual challenges of being in full-time ministry.Pastors are not better than everyone else, but their spiritual life should be different from everyone else’s. Click To Tweet
Almost everyone who goes into full-time ministry starts out with an identity crisis. Suddenly, the environment that was the place of spiritual nurture becomes the workplace. People often put unrealistic expectations on pastors. And young pastors can panic whenever they experience doubt or frustration with the Lord, wondering how to justify their paycheck when they’re not even sure about their own hearts.
The complexity of full-time ministry often cannot be dealt with using only the spiritual tools we offer ordinary laypeople. In some ways, people in full-time ministry need to pay more attention to the state of their souls than laypeople. This is not because their souls are more important, but because their souls are more threatened. I have seen very few people walk through their first year of paid ministry without some kind of spiritual crisis along the way.
Soul Care Resources
But the fresh wind of the Spirit in Vineyard churches has come as pastors themselves have begun to find additional resources to care for their own souls. I’ve noticed at least three spiritual resources that have been powerful. These are certainly in no way limited to resources for pastors, but they have seemed to be especially helpful for full-time ministry workers.
1. Receiving spiritual insight from other traditions.
The Vineyard is a young movement. From the point of view of church history, we’re essentially infantile. Even if we place the Vineyard within the larger Pentecostal or charismatic streams, it barely cracks the 5th percentile of the overall age of the global church of Jesus! And fortunately, we are not the first generation of leaders to deal with these questions.
Some have found help in the Roman Catholic tradition, exploring Jesuit or Benedictine spirituality. Pastors have met with spiritual directors and submitted themselves to Ignatian contemplative exercises. Others have read deeply into the Reformed tradition or found spiritual refreshment from the wider Pentecostal community, both in the U.S. and abroad.
This in no way diminishes the power and importance of Vineyard distinctives, but instead demonstrates wisdom and security in believing that we can and ought to drink from different streams.
2. Experiencing God in everyday life.
Preaching, worship music, personal devotions, and small groups are the lifeblood of evangelical spirituality. And they are likewise the lifeblood of the Vineyard. They are what we do in our congregations and at our conferences. These practices center us, focus us, and empower us.
But they aren’t the only way to experience God. And sometimes, if we’re honest, as pastors we can begin to feel like we need something else. We find ourselves facilitating preaching, worship, and groups so often that over-familiarity sets in.
This is where writers like Brother Lawrence and Gary Thomas (of Sacred Pathways) can help us so much. I can find God in a rock song, in a workout, in a shared meal, or in a car repair. And, rather than draw me away from the more conventional practices, this experience actually draws me further into them.
3. Taking intentional breaks or spiritual retreats.
Pastors have found the value of stepping away, whether for a few days, weeks, or months, to rest and recharge. They have found that apophatic spirituality is a necessary balance for cataphatic spirituality … in other words, sometimes we learn from doing, and sometimes we learn from not doing.
For driven, pragmatic American evangelicals, this can seem incredibly uncomfortable. We are used to driving forward, to overcoming — not to backing off and letting go. But if we take our cues from the ministry of Jesus, sometimes retreating to the wilderness to pray is exactly what our Father would have us do.Sometimes it takes new exploration to revisit old treasures. - Jeff Heidkamp Click To Tweet
There is a fresh wind of the Spirit! And I believe it can lead to a fuller experience of all the kingdom realities we have prized for decades. But sometimes it takes new exploration to revisit old treasures.