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From his column Pressing On

pressing-on-09-14-1The news footage took my breath away. The video showed a large inflatable bounce house tumbling across a lawn. People scrambled and children screamed as the buoyant structure flipped over again and again. Since then, more cases have emerged. Some spun across lawns; others pitched into the air. In one occurrence, the wind tossed and tangled the inflatable around a telephone pole.

You’ve seen how they work. Inflatables are made of thick patches of colorful nylon stitched together. When unfolded and attached to blowers, they come to life. The airflow raises and animates them. Ropes and spikes tether them to the ground. Inflatables are designed to stay put—their environment secure and controlled. The best conditions for inflatables are when the air remains within the pliable limbs of the structure, not when powerful, external winds blow.

In the Bible, the words for “wind,” “breath,” and “spirit” are interchangeable. God’s Spirit is often described in terms of blowing breath and rushing winds. It’s no surprise that the first sign of the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 was the blowing of a wind. Indoors, long before air conditioning, the air moved. It tousled their hair and rippled their clothing. Luke describes the whooshing sound that must have drowned out the noise of rattling furniture and sobbing children. In that moment, the church was born. It was blown into existence.

After the events of Acts 2, the first followers of Christ were untethered. The Spirit of God swept them up and out of that home. He tossed them and tangled them up with people “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) in order to declare the good news of Jesus.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between an inflatable and a local church. When churches are tethered to the location of their mailing address, immobile and secure, the resemblance is remarkable. In such instances, they exist with the illusion that the Spirit of God is contained and controlled within their own body. They “enjoy” the movement of the Spirit from within. They may proudly express themselves as “having” the Spirit. For these local churches, the air is blowing only on the inside. They are safe—predictable, comfortable.

While one of the names for the Holy Spirit is Comforter, He may discomfort as well. The Holy Spirit is wild and unpredictable; unwilling to be contained or controlled. Jesus said, “The Spirit gives birth to spirit… the wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going” (John 3:6-8). The Holy Spirit is the Discomforter in the sense that He moves upon us and sweeps us away from our attempts at security and control for the sake of God’s work in the world.

The Church of Jesus Christ is most faithful to the heart of God when we resemble an untethered inflatable. When we relinquish our desire to stay put and allow the Spirit of God to take and toss us into the world, we become the church of Pentecost. When we stop attempting to “have” the Spirit and allow the Spirit to “have us,” we become the church of Pentecost. When we relinquish the illusion of control and allow ourselves to be swept away and tangled up with broken people in a broken world, we become the church of Pentecost. When we are whisked away into our Jerusalems, Judeas, Samarias, and to the ends of God’s earth, we become the church of Pentecost.

As a parent of young children who are animated at the sight of inflatables, I want those structures controlled and secure. At the same time, as a parent of children who are being raised and discipled in the church, “controlled” and “secure” are not my highest priorities. I want the church turning and tumbling within a world that desperately needs to be tangled up with the good news of Jesus.

Move upon us, Spirit of God. Take us. Toss us. Tangle us with this world for your glory.

Daron Brown lives and pastors in Waverly, Tennessee.

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