BY KERRY, A PIONEERS UK FIELD WORKER
Thoughts on Spirit Walk, by Steve Smith (2018, 2014 Ventures)
Oh no, not another book about the Holy Spirit! This was my initial thought when I saw Spirit Walk, but having become somewhat students of Steve Smith, my team decided to read what turned out to be his final book. Steve died of cancer, aged 57, and went to be with Jesus in 2019; I can only imagine the huge homecoming celebration there was for this humble man of God, a faithful, fruitful servant of the gospel and his Lord. Our team first became aware of Steve’s experience as a teacher of Disciple Making Movements (DMM) and Church planting around 12 years ago when we read his book, co-written with a colleague from Asia, ‘T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution’. This book, along with other teachings from DMM circles, was used by God to radically change the course of our team’s strategy in reaching Muslims with the gospel in Central Africa and encouraging them to be disciple-makers themselves.
It’s only in the last couple of years that we have begun to glimpse some fruit from these changes but we are excited to see what we pray and hope are the beginnings of a greater turning to Christ among the people group we are working with. It has been a steep learning curve and a rather exhausting process as we tried out different approaches in ‘getting to the gospel’ in our conversations and sowing the seed widely, using discovery Bible studies as our friends engaged with Scripture, and training any and all who would listen to Jesus’ call to go and take the gospel to those who have not yet heard. Steve’s writings have helped us enormously. So when he published Spirt Walk we just had to read it to hear what he had to say.
One of the hardest things I have discovered in discipling new believers in Jesus from a Muslim background is how to teach them to develop an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus and awareness of the Holy Spirit. It’s difficult to teach others to love Jesus deeply as it is something that grows within us as we learn more about him. Essentially, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to teach us, lead us and draw us to fall more and more in love with Jesus, which then enables us to live a life of submission to the Spirit and be controlled by him. Spirit Walk shines a beautiful light on this process and was a refreshing reminder for me that we all need more of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives — daily.
When the river of living water that is meant to flow out of our born-again hearts has run dry, then it will inevitably have a life-sapping impact on our ministry. After our church planting methods have become obstructed with all kinds of obstacles and our discipleship processes have broken down, it does not necessarily mean it’s time to go home and say ‘It was too hard, but I did my best’. I confess, this thought has often plagued me. When another new sister in Christ tells me that it is impossible for her to tell her family about Jesus because she is too afraid of the consequences; or a brother in Christ is facing persecution to the extent that one of his children has been killed because he follows Jesus; when a new contact ceases to come to read the Bible, or a pastor criticises us for not bringing the new Muslim background believer to the church service then the thought of packing it all in and going home feels quite appealing at times.
But then I hear the voice of Jesus reminding me again that ‘It’s not about you, Kerry; it’s all about me’. Gently, again, as I choose to spend more time with Jesus, the wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit calms my thoughts, helps me to remember that he is with me always in order to give me the mind and heart of Jesus, kindly leading me to repentance, opening my eyes to the ripe harvest fields and giving me renewed strength and purpose to press on. I acknowledge that this has to be a daily occurrence as I can so quickly revert to my own agenda and strength. Walking with the Spirit is not a natural reflex for me but when I do it I recognise that I would rather be there than anywhere else at that moment. Steve encourages us, ‘Only the Spirit can move you through the standstills in life and ministry. He is the Spirit of breakthrough.’
For all others who are prone to wander away from the presence of Jesus and do things in their own strength and for their own purposes, like me, then I propose another delve into the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Steve Smith helps us to do this with Spirit Walk. As we drink deeply from this well, then we can offer a drink to those we are discipling. He encourages us to ask ourselves again, ‘Do I clearly understand what the Bible teaches about how to be filled with the Spirit repeatedly, and am I walking it out daily? If there is any lack of clarity or resolve, this book is for you.’
Having grown up in what Christians commonly call ‘charismatic circles’, I have enjoyed and expected the gifts and power of the Spirit as commonplace in my Christian walk. I can pinpoint several key times when I have particularly experienced a deeper work of the Spirit in my life, all of which have played a significant part in my journey with Jesus and getting me to Central Africa as a disciple maker. Equally though, I can testify to very arid times in my Christian life, when the presence of Jesus seems to have left me and I have become parched, longing for a deep drink of the Spirit again. When I find my way back to Jesus’ arms I tell myself that I won’t let my wanderings happen again, but, yes you guessed it; it does happen again! Spirit Walk, though, is not a book for ‘charismatics’, as the author emphasises his own background from the Southern Baptist branch of the US church. It is, rather, for all who want to abide in Christ, all who long for the word of Christ to dwell in their hearts, and all who thirst for the ongoing filling of the Spirit.
This book provides some very practical pointers to encourage a daily walk with the Spirit; it is also translatable and usable so we can pass on what we have learned to those we are discipling, whatever culture they are from. I want to leave the precious people I have been able to introduce to Jesus with a map for their spiritual daily walk, so they can live in the Spirit and under his control. I want to equip them to be disciple makers, which requires intensive mentoring and training. Alongside this though, there must be the infilling and empowering that can only come from walking with the Holy Spirit. If they only learn strategy and methods from me then they will be like the pre-Pentecost disciples. It was as they learned to live in the Spirit that the strategies and methods they had learned from Jesus became fruitful. As I point people to Jesus then I must also model and encourage a daily welcoming of the Spirit-directed life.
This book certainly provides more than a nudge in the right direction and I pray that you will find it a great encouragement too, wherever you serve and whatever your role is. Where would we be without the Holy Spirit breathing upon us and powering us forwards? I know I would have come home to the UK a long time ago, discouraged and dissatisfied. But… thanks be to God who never gives up on us and gives us the Spirit of Jesus to fulfill his purposes on this earth.