The Spirit Of The Lord Is Upon Me: Gods Validation For Ministry
Two powerful young women of God grew up in poverty and were among the first converts at First Assembly of God. Both were filled with the Holy Spirit and were called to ministry. One went to Central Bible College; the other stayed in her home city to help her pastor. Two years later, they are working together as a church-planting team in their home district. Each conducts a daily home group meeting, pastors a congregation, teaches 5 days a week at the Bible Training Center, prays for the sick, and casts out demons.1
These two young women represent the lowest socioeconomic categories in Indian societylow caste, poor, and female. Yet God has chosen them, anointed them, and is using them to build His church in India. The Spirit of the Lord is upon them.
Like their historical spiritual predecessors who were called and empowered in a phenomenal outpouring of the Spirit in North India a century ago,2 these recent recruits to Gods work on the Indian subcontinent are overcoming spiritual, cultural, social, and economic challenges to obey the voice of God. Their story illustrates an implicit but foundational premise of Pentecostal ministry: The anointing of the Holy Spirit is the ultimate and essential credential for ministry.
But why is the anointing of the Holy Spirit so critical in the 21st century? In what way is His empowering particularly meaningful for women in ministry?
THE ANOINTING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
IDENTIFIES THOSE WHOM GOD
HAS SET APART FOR MINISTRY
From the time Moses anointed Aaron and his sons with oil as a symbolic act of consecration (Exodus 30:30; Leviticus 8:12) to the visitation of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove at Jesus baptism (Matthew 3:16), the symbol and reality of the Holy Spirit have been associated with an individual being set apart by God for ministry. The anointing of the Holy Spirit on a minister today has the same significance in communicating that he or she has been chosen by a sovereign God to partner with Him in His mission to reconcile the world to himself.
At the beginning of the 21st century, qualifications for those who can be officially recognized as ministers of the gospel vary from country to country and from denomination to denomination. In the Assemblies of God in America, women can be ordained into ministry. In many Assemblies of God national churches around the world, this is not available. Sincere differences of opinion within the body of Christ and differing biblical interpretations regarding credentialing underscore the need to reaffirm the anointing of the Holy Spirit as the divine and ultimate expression of Pentecostal ministerial authentication. The anointing of the Holy Spirit on a persons life and ministry is a supernatural indicator of a God-ordained call. Human credentialing, while important, is secondary to the awareness and evidence that, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me."
The anointing of the Holy Spirit on a womans ministry by God is a sacred and blessed gift, a source of reassurance of His setting her apart for His work. This sense of personal call and empowerment is documented by Janet Evert Powers3 as specifically characteristic of Pentecostal women ministers. She states that successful Pentecostal women preachers have been traditionally "far more concerned with continuing to receive direct experiences of the Spirit than with gaining cultural power, because without the Spirits anointing they would have no empowering for ministry."4 According to research reviewed by Powers, women engaged in ministry tend to be aware of their dependence on the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
CONTEMPORARY WOMEN IN MINISTRY IN INDIA CROSSING BARRIERS THROUGH THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT!
Leelamma* was a student at Southern Asia Bible College in Bangalore, India, when she felt God stirring her heart to do the work of an evangelist in her home state. Because of her status as a single young woman, however, she faced extreme opposition from her family and from within the church. Undaunted, Leelamma felt led by God to a major city in India where, with the blessing of a local pastor who believed in her call, she began weekly Bible studies in the womens dorms on several major university campuses. As students began to come to Christ, this young woman evangelist personally discipled them, leading them to become active members of the local body of Christ.
Susanna* was also a student at Southern Asia Bible College. God has laid His hand on her in a unique way. An avid student, she completed graduate studies and was invited to join the faculty of another Assemblies of God Bible college. She teaches theology while she and her husband also pastor a local congregation. In the last 2 years, God has led Susanna to begin weekly Sunday schools for prostitutes and their children in the very large red-light district of her city. The Sunday schools are growing as women and childrens lives are touched through the love of Christ and His Word shared through a contemporary woman of God.
*Names have been changed due to political sensitivity.
Beth Grant, Springfield, Missouri.
Gods call on my life for ministry is an obedience issue, not a gender issue. It is the humbling, awesome, and sobering recognition of the hand of the sovereign Lord on my life. He is the One to whom I am committed to obey. To make His call a gender issue is to desecrate something that is sacred and precious.
And yet the call of God to ministry is undeniably lived and worked out in the context of gender distinctives within human culture. The roles of men in ministry are frequently defined in terms of ministry positions and giftings. They tend to span life stages, geographical locations, regional denominational perspectives, and even cultural boundaries with a considerable degree of consistency. On the other hand, for many women called of God, ministry roles are more fluid and changing. They are of necessity dynamic, adapted, and redefined repeatedly in the course of a lifetime on the basis of marital status, personal life stages, ages of children, regional denominational perspectives, and social variables associated with the culture in which they are serving. As a woman attempts to integrate these external factors with the call of a sovereign God on her life, the awesome, humbling, and ongoing sense that the Spirit of the Lord is on her provides a priceless gifta quiet but powerfully reassuring reminder of His divine, eternal perspective in an ever-changing world of human perspectives on ministry and roles. He has set her apart.
THE ANOINTING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
HUMAN CATEGORIES AND BOUNDARIES
The anointing of the Holy Spirit on ones life and ministry crosses traditional cultural barriers and opens seemingly closed doors for ministry. It is not unusual for the power of the Holy Spirit to cross deeply entrenched ethnic, social, and gender categories through an obedient and anointed servant of God to reveal the love and power of Jesus Christ.
Pastor D. Mohan, founder of New Life Assembly of God in Madras, India, has challenged the heart and mind of men and women from the lowest to the highest castes in the city with powerfully anointed preaching accompanied by signs and wonders. While the highly educated upper castes in India have been historically resistant to the gospel, affluent high-caste professionals come to hear this Pentecostal Tamil preacher who thunders the Word of the Lord with fiery passion and power. They are drawn by more than his words; they are drawn by the anointing of the Holy Spirit that empowers and emblazons the Word of the Lord on their souls.
Mohans wife, Goetzie, a leader in intercession among women since the churchs founding, serves as a divisional pastor of cell-group leaders of the fastest-growing division in this church of 15,000 members. As a member of a denomination that does not ordain women, she is a humble and courageous example of an obedient woman of God whose ministry is validated by an unmistakable anointing of the Holy Spirit. Like the prophetess Deborah, who led the army of Israel into battle at the command of the Lord (Judges 4), Goetzie daily leads Indian believers into spiritual battle through fervent, courageous prayer. Like Deborah, Goetzie is sensitive to the fact her leadership role is unusual for a woman in her culture. Yet, like her Old Testament counterpart, this Indian mother of three has heard the voice of her Lord who continues to call women into the battle. The Spirit of the Lord is upon her.
Goetzies obedience is not without risk for her and her husband. Culturally, socially, and denominationally, the risk of being misunderstood has been great. She has been torn between maintaining her traditional culturally appropriate position in ministry and thereby not appearing to dishonor her husband, and moving out in faith in the areas of ministry in which the Holy Spirit has gifted her. Prayerfully and deliberately, Pastor Mohan and Goetzie have agreed that she should continue to grow and exercise God-ordained ministry in spite of the risks. As a result, the work of the Kingdom has been multiplied in the city of Madras.
This does not mean that cultural, social, or religious categories will necessarily change because a man or woman is recognized to be anointed of God. However, the powerful presence of God on a ministers life, whether male or female, motivates people to find creative ways of incorporating their ministry. In a national church culture that does not recognize women as preachers, a woman who is considered to have God-ordained ministry may be invited to testify in a service and encouraged privately to take all the time she wants. From Pentecostal churches in Italy to India, it is not unusual for godly women to minister powerfully and eloquently through testimonies or prophecies in the power of the Holy Spirit.5
Creative cultural maneuvering of categories to accommodate nontraditional ministry can take humorous turns. Years ago in South India, the issue of credentialing women was being hotly debated. During the discussion, two veteran American missionary women who had ministered as preachers and teachers in the district for many years were seated on the platform. When the initiative to credential women was soundly defeated by the council, one of the missionaries was perplexed because she, her coworker, and many other American women missionaries had been accepted in the pulpit of the Indian church for many years. She asked the national leader why she and her colleague had been graciously welcomed to minister, while her Indian female colleagues were not. The leader answered quickly and logically, "But youre not women; youre missionaries." It is amazing how God opens doors into exciting and sometimes unexpected areas of ministry when we are not concerned about how our ministry is packaged. Is it possible that, as Pentecostals, we are missing Gods missionary point of the anointing of the Holy Spirit on those He calls?
THE ANOINTING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
IS ESSENTIAL FOR LIFE-CHANGING MINISTRY
IN THE 21ST CENTURY
Jesus himself proclaimed that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him, anointing Him to preach the good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lords favor (Luke 4:18,19). The Son of Gods association of the anointing of the Spirit with these kinds of ministries is a significant reminder of where our reliance must be if we are to similarly impact our world with the transforming love and power of Jesus Christ. The empowering of the Holy Spirit is not optional; it is a practical and critical component for essential ministry.
We have been historically blessed as Pentecostals to be exposed to the work and Person of the Holy Spirit both in doctrine and experience. However, as Spirit-filled ministers facing a world increasingly devastated by AIDS, broken families, sexual abuse, pornography, and ethnic hatred, it is critical that we revisit Pentecost and the timeless question that is uniquely ours as Pentecostals: "What meaneth this?" (Acts 2:12). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit as it relates to daily ministry is life-changing and transforming as Jesus intended (John 14:12). The question surely has implications beyond the initial evidence of speaking in tongues at the initial infilling of the Holy Spirit.
How does the spiritual dynamic of our Pentecostal experience impact our moment-to-moment ministry to men, women, and children living with the stark realities of the 21st centuryin the face of the starving in Ethiopia, the homosexual dying of AIDS in North America, the spiritually blind intellectual of Western Europe, and the scarred victim of child prostitution in Southern Asia?
Complex and exciting technological tools are available today to those who do the work of the ministry. However, it is critical that we reaffirm the relevancy and priority of Spirit-empowerment, spiritual authority, and our dependence on His means rather than our own. Cultural and corporate models of leadership can provide excellent insights and resources when used in conjunction with the spiritual gifts God has given the Church. But human tools cannot replace the dynamic delivering power of the Holy Spirit operating through the life of a committed man or woman of God.
Powerlessness and discomfort in the face of spiritual bondage are sadly common in the Western church today. They are just as tragic and discouraging now as they were when Jesus disciples ineffectively challenged the evil one in a demoniac in the first century (Matthew 17:1421). But Luke records that Jesus gave His disciples power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases (Luke 9:1). Are we ministering in and appropriating the supernatural empowerment that our Lord promised?
The two young Indian women of God described in the introduction are doing just that. They have little or no culturally derived power and authority, and they understand their social and economic powerlessness all too well. But in coming into the family of God and into the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, they have discovered and embraced the power of Pentecost and are confidently challenging the darkness around them. Along with many other 21st-century men and women of God, they have become bearers of authentic spiritual authority based on their active identification with the spiritual authority of their Master (Matthew 28:1820). Their anointed service attests to His power, is building His church, and is bringing a visible witness of His glory into their needy nation.
Over the millennia and into the 21st century, men and women representing the nations of the world, the rich and poor, the educated and the unlearned, have known in the depths of their heart that like Jesus, the Spirit of the Lord was upon them. In societys eyes, they have frequently been people who were easy to overlookunassuming, common, and of humble meansuntil they began to speak, pray, sing, write, and teach. Whether in the church, marketplace, concert hall, or classroom, the anointing of the Holy Spirit begs a response and sets men and women of God apart.
May God grant us, His servants, a fresh and powerful anointing of His Spirit.
QUESTIONS FOR A WOMAN OF INFLUENCE
The question of a womans role in leadership will probably never be settled to everyones satisfaction. Gretchen Gaebelein Hull, in Equal to Serve, raises many thought-provoking questions that a woman of influence should seek to answer from the Bible so she can be true to God and herself:
What advice does the Bible have for us on our quest for approval?
Is our tradition scriptural?
Will you give up your rights to yourself and any entitlement to a certain position and obey His call?
Will you accept Gods authority?
In the end, whose approval really matters most to you?
Gods approval matters. Thats why the woman of influence will not circumvent the Bible in order to lead. She will embrace Gods Word to find her unique place of leadership.
QUESTIONS THAT HAVE HELPED ME FIND MY UNIQUE PLACE OF LEADERSHIP HAVE INCLUDED:
What is the context of this question or this passage of Scripture? What was the culture then? and is this a specific command for a specific day and time? or is this a command that crosses cultures and time periods?
What is the whole counsel of God on this issue? The Bible is the best commentary on the Bible. I want to know from cover to cover what the Bible says rather than looking for one verse just to prove my point.
Can I gain more insight from a study of this issue by commentators and Bible scholars? historians? the original language?
From A Woman of Influence by Pam Farrel
1. Taken from a missionary newsletter from North India (March 2000). Names are withheld due to sensitivity.
2. Gary B. McGee, "Baptism of the Holy Ghost & Fire!: The Revival Legacy of Minnie F. Abrams of India," in Enrichment (Summer 1998): 8087.
3. Janet Evert Powers, "Your Daughters Shall Prophesy: Pentecostal Hermeneutics and the Empowerment of Women" in The Globalization of Pentecostalism: A Religion Made To Travel, ed. Murray W. Dempster, Byron D. Klaus, Douglas Petersen (Oxford, UK: Regnum Books International, 1999), 319, 320.
4. Ibid., 331.
5. Harvey Cox, Fire From Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-first Century. (Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1995), 198, 199.