Following the Spirit: Disciple-making, Church-planting and Movement-building Today
Acts is undoubtedly the Bible’s most exciting book, as we watch the Holy Spirit transform the wavering and disappointed disciples into a fast-growing movement that continues with you and me today. Exploring this history, Following the Spirit traces the power of the Holy Spirit and dependence on prayer, beginning with the 120 disciples waiting for the promise after Jesus’ ascension.
The Holy Spirit begins a deliberate and dramatic reversal of the curse of Babel, breaking down language barriers at Pentecost in Acts 2 and, throughout the progression of the early church, breaking down many other cultural and ethnic barriers. With a bias for those at the bottom of the Jerusalem class system, the disciples built the gospel movement through the lower city of old Jerusalem. Jesus suffered to save suffering people, so the church ministered to suffering people.
As such, the gospel embraces cultural diversity. The first church plant in Acts is in Antioch, a multicultural church in which many were refugees. It’s usually the disinherited and those on the margins who create gospel movements. We also see that the Holy Spirit included gender diversity in the call to spread the gospel. Consider the ministries of Dorcas, Lydia and Priscilla, or the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, whom the Spirit pursued through Phillip and became the church’s first foreign missionary.
Following the Spirit is essential reading, showing the simplicity of sharing Jesus with non-believers and how the Holy Spirit does the heavy lifting on our behalf. Throughout Acts, we see the leaders and believers take the gospel to where the people lived. The identity of churches is not in their size but whether or not they are multiplying hubs of new groups of believers.
While Following the Spirit stands alone as a study of the church in Acts, as a sequel to Following Jesus, it demonstrates how the disciple-making method of Jesus played out in the life and mission of those first disciples. While Following the Spirit has more explication of the text than did Following Jesus, Dr Roennfeldt’s new book is another prompt to deep study and discussion, ideally suited for use by church leadership teams or small groups, as well as for individual or family study.
Following the Spirit is available from Adventist bookstores in Australia and New Zealand.
Dr Leigh Rice is leader of the South Pacific Division’s Discipleship Ministries team.