At times, I get asked what role the Holy Spirit plays when using a “system” like the tactical game plan. It’s all so mechanistic and man-centered, some seem to think. Too much dependence on human effort for them. Where’s room for the Spirit?
It’s a fair question, but I think it’s based on a misunderstanding. The fact is, I don’t have to worry about “leaving room for the Spirit” when engaging others for Christ. Let me tell you why.
First, the misunderstanding. Some have a sense there’s a felt leading, or a guiding, or a prompting by the Spirit that directs the Christian along a certain course when he’s involved in spiritual service. The Spirit “speaks,” and they follow.
On this view, we intuit where we think the Spirit is telling us to go, and then we move in that direction, giving Him the credit for the results produced as we follow. “All of God and none of me,” the slogan goes.
Scripture does not teach this, though, and it does not seem to be the way the early Christians operated, either. As I read through Acts, for example, I get no sense the disciples are tilting their ears towards Heaven, listening for whispers while emptying themselves of every bit of self effort, “getting out of the way” so the Spirit can work.
Once in a rare while in Scripture a supernatural intervention provides new direction, but not usually. The disciples knew their job—broadly, the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19–20)—and they did their job using the unique gifts the Spirit had given them.
That’s why Peter admonishes, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God…so that in all things God may be glorified…” (1 Pet. 4:10–11). Simply put, God gives gifts, then He expects us to employ them responsibly.
Please don’t misunderstand. It’s always right to give God the glory for every good thing that happens in our lives—in ministry or otherwise—since “every good thing given and every perfect gift” is from Him (Jas. 1:17). “Apart from Him we can do nothing” of spiritual substance (Jn. 15:5).
That’s not the issue. The question, rather, is about the active role of the Spirit working vs. our active role in being used. Does God do everything and we contribute nothing? If so, any human machination—including the tactical approach—would be fleshly and all “techniques” called into doubt.
That was not the biblical way for Jesus’ disciples, though. Neither is it the way for us. Quite the contrary. Yes, God is going to work, but He expects us to work, too—and work hard.
Paul talks of anticipating “fruitful labor” when released from prison (Phil. 1:22). He says we all “labor and strive” for godliness, having fixed our hope on the living God (1 Tim. 4:8–10). “For this purpose also I labor,” he says regarding proclaiming Christ, “striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Col. 1:29). Jesus talks about disciples “laboring” in different ways in John 4:38.
Simply put, we work and God acts. Not too complicated. Hardly an “all of God and none of me” proposition. In a certain sense, of course, we are empty apart from Him. But in Him we are full of all sorts of capabilities because of our gifting in the Spirit.
Let me put it the most practical way I know. When it comes to the role of the Holy Spirit vs. our role in kingdom work, the formula is 100% God and 100% man. God is 100% responsible for His side of the equation—and I guarantee He will fulfill it—and we are 100% responsible for ours.
For me as Christ’s ambassador, for example, my job is to communicate the truth as clearly, as faithfully, as graciously, and as persuasively as possible. I am 100% responsible for that. God does everything else since only He alone can cause the increase.
When I sit down to write, I pray for God’s help, then I go to work. When I stand up before an audience, I trust God for the gifts He’s given me, then I go to work. My attitude is one of dependence, and my posture is one of abiding, but my focus is on the task at hand, not on the Spirit.
When I do that, sometimes things flow effortlessly. Other times, though, I labor hard at my task. In all cases, God is at work within me “both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phi. 2:13).
I’m convinced, by the way, that the tactical game plan itself is a work of the Holy Spirit—not dictated or “inspired” in a biblical sense, of course, but rather a result of the Holy Spirit working through the gifts He has entrusted to me.
So, no, I do not worry about the Spirit’s role. He’s good for it. I trust Him, then I focus on laboring at my own unique task—the one He’s given me and gifted me for.
When it comes to evangelism, the tactical game plan is a terrific means God uses to help. And it will help you, too, as you trust Him for the results.