Signs the Spirit Has Left the Building by Ty Grigg

imagesIt has been the goal of the RTM blog to add a second post to my own (Dave Fitch) every week. As always these will be short reflections from planting, leading, pastoring missional communities, as well as reflections on theological issuescentral to the future of church life in Mission. Most of the time this happens Wednesday Thursday. But not always (due to the fact that “stuff happens”). This week’s second post is from Ty Grigg, a co-pastor at Life on the Vine Christian Community. Read about him here. Interact with him. Challenge him, question or provoke. We love it all here at the RTM blog!


Jason worshiped with a church in the city that I had recommended to him.  He came back to me and said, “The church seemed dead.  We were left wondering – where’s the Holy Spirit?”  Ouch.  I wondered if he was right or if he simply wasn’t acclimated to the absence of emotionalism and hype.  I wondered if his assessment had more to do with the kinds of prayers that were being prayed and songs being sung, than spiritual deadness.

Another church is asking the same question of themselves.  A pastor said, “We need more Holy Spirit here – more signs and wonders and hearts that break for the lost.”

What makes me feel uncomfortable about these Holy Spirit conversations?  Defensiveness?  Perhaps.

But mostly it has to do with two assumptions we make:

  1. We know how to evaluate whether the Holy Spirit is present or not.
  2. We can control whether the Holy Spirit is present or not.


Signs the Holy Spirit has “Left the Building”

1.  The danger with the first assumption (that we can evaluate the Spirit’s presence) is that we make the things that we already value to be the markers of the Holy Spirit’s activity.  For example, the Corinthians valued eloquent speech – so those who could speak eloquently were then seen as more Spirit-filled.  The evaluation of where, through whom, and in what activities the Spirit was present in Corinth led to comparison and divisiveness.

If a community starts evaluating and comparing who is more spiritual or what activities are more spiritual than others, then the Spirit may have left the building.  (that should be read with a Jeff Foxworthy drawl)  We can still point to Holy Spirit activity but mostly in hindsight and even then only partially.  This kind of witness to the Holy Spirit in our lives is descriptive (unity, holiness, signs, peaceableness, order, love, repentance/sorrow, wisdom, Gal. 5:23 fruit), not prescriptive.  This is demonstrated by experience – often I do not recognize the Holy Spirit’s work or activity in my life in the moment.  Only looking back do I see his fingerprints – often where I least would have expected.

2.  The danger with the second assumption (that we can control or rouse the Holy Spirit) is that we will come to see the Holy Spirit as a tool rather than as a person of the Godhead who loves us.  This is the sin of Simon (the Sorcerer) in Acts 8:9ff.  We may know that we cannot buy the Holy Spirit’s power with money, but what about through discipleship, practices, biblical teaching, etc?

If leaders try to rouse the Holy Spirit among us through “discipleship” or some other form of flock-nudging, the Holy Spirit may have left the building.  The Holy Spirit will not come through coercion or shaming.  When we are worried that the Holy Spirit is not among us, we subtly make “getting” the Holy Spirit back a goal.  The Holy Spirit is not a goal to be obtained, but he is a gift that has already been given.  If we are a community that affirms that “Jesus is Lord,” the Spirit is here (1 Cor. 12:3).

What if we assumed the Holy Spirit was already present – in fact, the one who makes the existence of our community possible?

What if we spent more time describing how we see the Spirit already at work among us rather than fretting about whether the Spirit is really here among us?

What if our exhortations and convictions came in response to the Spirit’s presence and activity, rather than as a way to get the Spirit to come back?


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11 comments on “Signs the Spirit Has Left the Building by Ty Grigg
  1. Tim Hallman says:

    People are attracted to the “power” of the Holy Spirit – whether emotional or spiritual or whatever. But you make a good point about the fruit of the Spirit being a significant signpost that the Spirit has not left the building. Seeing or benefitting from that fruit has its own form of power, but one that requires participation not just passive experience.

  2. Carol Longenecker Hiestand says:

    “What if we spent more time describing how we see the Spirit already at work among us rather than fretting about whether the Spirit is really here among us?”

    this is what we do with the” Story of Wonde” on Sundays at LIfe-on-the-Vine.

  3. Karina says:

    Great points made in the article. I disagree however with the point about discipleship. Outlining a discipleship structure ia church does not necessarily have the motive to ‘shame’. This point moreover also makes the assumption that the Holy spirit does not work through structured processes. The Holy Spirit can give leadership guidance in a church that needs new ‘wineskins’ so that change is possible. The Holy Spirit can initiate actions such as these as well as working quietly in a context, both for transformation.

    • Ty Grigg says:

      Dear Karina,
      Great pushback – I affirm all of your points. Forgive me for my imprecise and slightly hyperbolic language. I agree – structure can be a work of the Spirit! But I am consistently challenged to put my hope first in the Spirit, not the structure or program. It’s easy for me to sidestep engaging the Lord of Disciple-making in order to plug in the structure of discipleship.

  4. Dan Jr says:

    This is good stuff. Our eyes and ears are accustomed to the obvious most blatant signs that “the Spirit is moving”. I’m convinced many have difficult time deciphering the whereabouts of the Holy Spirit in the seemingly mundane, relational, shared practice of learning to concede to the Lordship of Christ.

  5. Grant Olson says:

    The Holy Spirit is eternal always available, it is spiritual blindness that people don’t realize that it is always present.

  6. Eric Blauer says:

    “If your hearts be not set on the end of your labors, and you do not long to see the conversion and edification of your hearers, and do not study and preach in hope, you are not likely to see much fruit of it. It is an ill sign of a false, self-seeking heart, that can be content to be still doing, and see no fruit of their labor.”
    -Richard Baxter, 16th century Puritan pastor.

    I agree with the wisdom of your post but as a pastor I find that such provoking questions can draw different responses from me depending on where I’m at in my own soul.

    I’m wary of dividing fruit & power when the scripture doesn’t. Jesus proclaimed & performed. The Spirit’s presence is refelected within & without. Faith is expressed both in the heart & the hands.

    I hunger for the whole experience of the gospel…in the seen and unseen.

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3 Pings/Trackbacks for "Signs the Spirit Has Left the Building by Ty Grigg"
  1. [...] From Sermon Watch Source- [...]

  2. [...] by Ty Grigg over at Reclaiming the Mission, the blog of David Fitch.  The post is entitled “Signs the Spirit Has Left the Building“.  The big idea here is that evangelicals frequently talk about the work of the Holy Spirit [...]

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David Fitch
Betty R. Lindner Professor of Theology
Northern Seminary
DMin in Missional Leadership
Prodigal Christianity
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