Christiana Rice’s fourth leadership “posture” for midwifing the church today, lies at the heart of any truly Christian ministry.

4.Trust that the Holy Spirit is gestating

As a midwife lives with abounding wonder at the process of new life, so we also live with wonder…

It is difficult to overstate how important this principle is in the conduct of any ministry. Too many church leaders have become  bitter, tired, resentful, and angry because they have forgotten, or even at times intentionally neglected, the essential dynamic of God’s Spirit at work in all of life.

I am not the minister. I am not the church planter. When a midwife takes on more responsibility for the birthing process than is appropriate, the process of bringing a baby safely into the world will always be hampered.

The Holy Spirit is the active agent in all truly Christian ministry. I do not create new life. As Rice says, “the Holy Spirit is generating.”

In John’s Gospel Jesus is reported to have said,

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

This is not mere polemic. It is a statement of simple fact. Disconnected from love, I achieve nothing. And, any activity, program, achievement, or vision I do manage to generate apart from the moving of God’s Spirit is all “nothing.”

Producing “nothing” is enormously hard work. It is draining and diminishing. When I expend my energy producing “nothing,” I inevitably end up bitter and resentful. The “nothing” I produce in my own power and ability is never as impressive, effective or glamorous as I had hoped it might be. The “nothing” I am able to produce with sheer grit and determination never lasts.

When my ministry does not emerge from the stirring of God’s Spirit I always end up feeling empty and depleted. I begin to experience life as scarce. There never seems to be enough time, energy, or resources to keep the machinery of ministry running efficiently and smoothly. Failure seems to loom around every bend in the twisted road of my determined efforts. I become anxious that my deep insufficiency will soon be revealed for all to see.

The temptation to produce results that are tangible, measurable, and observable that drives so much ministry has its origins in a failure of identity.

When I forget that there resides within me something vastly more, vastly greater, richer, deeper, stronger, and more beautiful than anything I might ever produce, I tend to seek my identity in my accomplishments. When I conduct my ministry in a futile attempt to shore up my own fragile sense of myself, the outcome will always be pinched and impoverished.

Ministry that flows from an awareness of deep connection to the well-spring of life that is God’s Spirit, has the capacity to be endlessly renewed. It has the flexibility Jesus demonstrated to step aside from the needs and demands of ministry in order to find personal refreshment and renewal. When I am guided by my connection with the truth of God’s Spirit, I know what are the right actions and those actions flow from a stream that never runs dry.

In John 4:14 Jesus is said to have promised,

those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.

The stream of accomplishment, achievement, “success,” and productivity always runs dry. There are not enough glittering successes in the world to shore up my faltering sense of identity.

There is a “process of new life.” I need to trust this process, surrendering myself to the wind of God’s Spirit and opening deeply to the prompting of that Spirit in every moment and every situation in which I am called to live faithfully and truly in Christ.