If we were to name some pastors in America who lead the way when it comes to encouraging Christians to seek the fullness of the Holy Spirit, the first person I think of is Jim Cymbala at The Brooklyn Tabernacle. His latest book, "Spirit Rising," is another home run where he lays out the path to greater effectiveness for Christ. I had the pleasure recently to sit down with Pastor Cymbala in his office and discuss the work of the Holy Spirit in the church today.
It was a joy to visit with this man that God has used to strengthen thousands for Christ not only in Brooklyn, but around the nation and around the world. Why is God using this former college basketball player in such amazing ways? What is Jim's secret, and is it something that God wants to teach all of us who know Christ and serve the Savior?
I found the man to be a humble servant of our Lord, and one who graciously seeks to influence others for Christ to the glory of God. Pastor Cymbala spoke softly, but made it crystal clear that "Christianity is hopeless without the Holy Spirit."
He said, "Maybe God put Carol (his wife) and I in an unlikely position....untrained, untutored, unlettered, in the sense of ministerial training....and tried to bring us and break us down to a place where we would get desperate for God."
This desperation for God is seen in their weekly Tuesday night prayer meeting, which typically has around 3000 people in attendance. This calling upon the Lord is evident at both the prayer meeting, as well as on Sunday when 10,000 people gather during three worship services that last two hours each.
Pastor Cymbala stated, "The Christian church was born in a prayer meeting. The priority of prayer is important because it opens us up to God. He is able then to get rid of junk in our life. You get new 'inflowings' of the Holy Spirit." He also brought out this fact: "To see the Holy Spirit move more in our lives costs us something."
It reminded me of D.L. Moody's statement that we must be emptied before we can be filled. Pastor Cymbala operates with the same mindset. He said, "To see the Holy Spirit come and do His work is going to take a humbling of ourselves....more time with God alone....more time in His Word....more time in communion with God. It's going to mean we decrease so Jesus can increase."
Pastor Cymbala is a careful student of the Scriptures, and he also has a strong grasp on church history. He said, "The Great Awakening and a lot of other great revivals were always born out of people calling on God and saying, 'God forgive us of our sins. Come and help us.' The absence of that in America today is very disturbing."
Can any of us honestly disagree with his statement? How strongly are believers in America today crying out to God for revival? Clearly, this is the need of the hour....just as it has been since the Day of Pentecost. Pastor Cymbala speaks not with a tone of judgement against other Christians, but with compassion and the conviction that man's methods are a sorry replacement for God's method of bringing about revival. He longs to see Christians and churches calling upon the only One who can work this miracle in our midst.
He said, "When people are being converted, and there are life-changing testimonies because of the Gospel and the grace of Christ....where there is love for all people of all races and of all ages....where there is prayer and love for God's Word....where there is a desire to be more like Jesus....where that is happening, I want to go and rejoice and learn."
It is obvious that Jim Cymbala's hunger to learn more....and experience more....is a constant reality in his life. The presence and power of the Holy Spirit are filling this man, as well as his wife in her anointed leadership of The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. It is truly a powerful combination, and one that God is using in awesome ways to win people to Christ and then lead them in Spirit-filled praise to God and service to others.
With all of this talk about the Holy Spirit, don't think for a second that their ministry encourages emotionalism rather than a consistent teaching of the Word of God. Pastor Cymbala told me, "Anyone can stir the emotions." His approach is to aim for the soul. In "Spirit Rising," he wrote, "I know that it's possible today to gather large numbers of people together on a Sunday without a strong emphasis on the Word. In fact, many of the people sitting in the pew might be totally content without hearing careful Bible preaching and exposition." (p. 57)
If you are looking to hear the Word delivered in truth and in the power of the Spirit, I highly recommend Pastor Cymbala's messages in person or on their church website. (www.brooklyntabernacle.org) Your heart, mind, and soul will be filled and challenged with truth, power, and grace.
The Holy Spirit has been rising upon Jim & Carol Cymbala since the time they began at The Brooklyn Tabernacle in the 1970's with less that 30 people. The Spirit continues to rise upon them, especially on Tuesday nights and all day Sunday. If you are ever in the area, be sure to pay them a visit. They will welcome you with open arms.
One final thought on the ministry of this man. He is persistent....he pursues God's will with a passion....and he seeks the fullness of the Holy Spirit everyday. So what is his secret, not only for New York City....but for Christians everywhere?
Pastor Cymbala summed up his approach to ministry this way: "Even when the Spirit is poured out, we want more. Otherwise you get content." Now that sounds to me like a recipe for revival!