Ad Clerum on Being Filled With The Spirit

Letter to the Clergy from Bishop Minns

“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”(Luke 24:49)

I was privileged to grow up in a small community Baptist church where I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior at a very early age and where I developed love and respect for the Bible as the Word of God. I enjoyed Bible memory games, since they not only gave content for my faith but also provided an outlet for my (somewhat) competitive nature! The Bible was central to our life, but rarely was there a mention of that rather mysterious third person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit. We did conclude our formal prayers in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but none of us particularly liked ghosts – holy or otherwise – so that was that. Our operational theology was, “Love Jesus and try harder!” So we never considered the idea that there might be “power from on high” available to us.

In 1967 we moved to the US so that I could continue my career in Operations Research at Mobil Oil’s headquarters in New York City. Angela and I rented a small house in the commuter town of Darien, Connecticut, and then looked for a church home. We found it at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church,a loving community that quickly embraced us. However, it was not long before I heard rumblings about the Charismatic Renewal and the associated phenomena, and, frankly, I was dismayed. However, my views began to change when a visiting speaker, the Reverend Everett “Terry” Fullam from Barrington College, Rhode Island, came for a mid-week teaching series. First, he did not look very charismatic –he was quite formal in manner and wore a black suit and clericals. Second, he did not sound strange–he was an erudite Bible teacher who knew his Bible well. Third, more important, what he had to say made sense. His thesis was quite simply that if we want to live a dynamic Christian life, as we see described in the New Testament, we can do so only if we are filled with the Holy Spirit. One of his many memorable lines was, “Most of us have been living sub normally for so long that if we ever lived normally, it would seem abnormal.”

I was profoundly challenged by his teaching and as a result re-examined the Scriptures. I could see that my own experience fell far short of what was described as normal Christian living in the New Testament era. This started me on a journey of spiritual exploration, helped a great deal by Father Fullam becoming the Rector of St. Paul’s in 1972.

His assertion that we all need our own personal Pentecost unsettled me – so much so that on Christmas Eve, 1972, I knelt alone at the altar rail between services and prayed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And then I waited...half hoping for a mighty rushing wind or tongues of fire. But there were no apparent outward that time. We continued to be active participants in the church while it underwent dramatic changes as Father Fullam’s ministry grew. His careful Biblical exposition and focus on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit led to profound changes in the lives of many parishioners, and the congregation quickly outgrew its facilities. Father Fullam also received many invitations to conduct teaching missions throughout the country. I accompanied him on one such mission to Grace Church in Old Saybrook, Connecticut – two hours further east on the commuter train.

When I arrived at the church after a full day at the office and a long train ride, the teaching mission was already well underway. I went into the empty sanctuary to pray and gather my thoughts. I confessed to the Lord that I was exhausted and wondered why on earth I had agreed to this, but as I prayed, I realized that I was no longer praying in English but in a language that I had never seemed to fit what the apostle Paul describes as sighs too deep for words (Romans 8:26). I continued to pray in this way and, after a while, felt thoroughly refreshed and able to join the mission. Since that time, I have become much more aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life and ministry, and I have continued to pray in the Spirit. I have witnessed many miracles of healing–physical, emotional, and relational – and I have seen lives restored and situations miraculously transformed. I have seen churches grow dramatically in the midst of hardship. I have had a glimpse of what it is like to be clothed with power from on high.

But I am very much aware that there has been and continues to be a great deal of false teaching – and false claims – about the work of the Holy Spirit. People and churches are hurt by this and we must be prayerful and careful, but the solution cannot be to declare that the age of the Holy Spirit is over...we dare not.

Instead,I suggest that were read the Book of Acts and the Pauline Epistles and pray for a renewal of our own personal Pentecost! I also commend the work of that remarkable Pastor and Author, A.W. Tozer. In his short pamphlet “How to Be Filled with The Holy Spirit” (which I heartily recommend) he suggests a few basic steps to cultivate what he calls the Spirit’s companionship:

  1. Acknowledge the Holy Spirit is a living person
  2. Be engrossed with Jesus Christ
  3. Walk in Righteousness
  4. Make your Thoughts a Clean Sanctuary
  5. Seek to Know Him in the Word
  6. Cultivate the Art of Recognizing the Presence of the Spirit

I close this letter with a promise that I know to be true...

Jesus stood up and cried out,“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive...(John 7:37,38)

Come, Holy Spirit!

Your brother in Christ,