What role does the Holy Spirit and His guidance play in the dreams we have for our ministries? Certainly the Word of God should guide how we do ministry and make our plans. However, considering the fact that we have an incredible ability to find Scriptures which justify just about anything and everything we do, we must ask ourselves the question, "What of the leading of the Holy Spirit?" What if we exegete the text properly, but we apply the text out of a sinful motivation which originates in our hearts?
I am throwing this out there for discussion and the consideration of readers of this blog: it's possible and in some cases, likely, that what we claim we are doing for the Lord we are really only doing for ourselves. Motive is a slippery thing to nail down. I am beginning to believe that motive ought to be the first thing we self examine whenever we embark on new ministry. It is also something we ought to examine throughout the entire course of our ministries. It's possible to start well, but finish poorly.
All of this comes to mind as I am studying the nature of what the Bible calls the "heart." The heart, Biblically speaking, is the center of our intellect, emotions and will. The Bible doesn't have much good to say about the heart, in spite of every Disney movie you have ever seen with the inevitable ballad about the human spirit and its invincibility and the endless encouragements to just "follow your heart", "be true to your heart", etc., etc., ad nauseum. Follow that advice and you will end up in the psych ward.
Ecclesiastes 9:3 says that the hearts of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts while they live. God wiped out the entire planet (minus one family) because, "every imagination of the thoughts of his [mankind's] heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5). After the flood, God declared of man that, "...the imagination of his heart is only evil from his youth" (Genesis 8:21). Of the few things it is said that God hates, one of them is "...a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations" (Proverbs 6:18). It's all summed up with Jeremiah 17:9 which says, "...the heart is deceitful above all things; who can know it?". A rhetorical question with an obvious answer: NO ONE. So you still want to "follow your heart"?
Because of all of this unreliability and unpredictability of the human heart, the Scriptures warn, "...keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23).
With all of this in mind, consider this quote on human nature and ministry from T. Austin Sparks.
"A forceful, dominating, assertive soul, not under the government of the Holy Spirit, is a terrible menace to the interests of God. Decisions will be made, courses adopted, objectives secured, positions occupied, in the name of devotion to God.which will be Towers of Babel, Pyramids of Egypt, Ishmaels of Abram (not Abraham). There will be a good deal of remorse bound up with these achievements eventually, and a wish that they had never been. The result will be something false, and many may be involved in the tragedy." (What is Man? 89)
Sparks' words here are loaded, especially if you have ever been guilty of creating one of these Towers of Babel in the guise of ministry. The truth of what he's saying is undeniable if you've ever witnessed one of these tragedies. The ultimate safeguard is the filling of the Holy Spirit. When we are led by Him and not our ambitions, we are safe. When we use spiritual things to accomplish our fleshly ends, we are in grave danger. And, as Sparks says, "many may be involved in the tragedy." People will be hurt.
There is not a ministry style invented which is not susceptible. Whether you are talking about the local church or a parachurch ministry, leaders who are not under the leadership of the Spirit of God are a "menace to the interests of God." Why? If you are not being led by the Spirit, you are being led by your heart and that never turns out for the glory of God or the good of His people.
This is why we must not become overly enamored with our own "good ideas." The conference circuit is full of men who have come up with good ideas with thin proof-texts that have "worked." Christians line up to buy their books and DVD's. Many aspire to come up with some profitable good idea so that others will buy their product. American Christianity and marketing are virtually synonymous right now. It is as if the Spirit of God cannot lead the average American pastor through the Word of God unless we have some evangelical pope or Magisterium to tell us what we really ought to be doing. Our God given resources are not enough. It's easier to buy someones program than it is to get leading from the Holy Spirit.
The early church in Acts waited for the Spirit of God to move before they moved. We move and hope the Spirit of God will catch up to us and bless our plans, as if He owes us something. We do need to keep our hearts will all diligence and part of that keeping is yielding to the Spirit of God.