Energy fascinates me. Convinced that energy is a key to vital living, I am constantly aware of my own energy level. Whether we are parenting children, preparing for a recital, participating in athletic events, completing a major project at work, or simply making it through church conference season, success usually demands the careful cultivation and dispersal of energy.
Energy can be variously defined as “the capacity of acting or being active,” “a usually positive spiritual force,” and “a vigorous exertion of power.” Do you sense it when others display an incredible amount of energy? It’s palpable and almost magical, isn’t it? Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had it. The University of Michigan and Michigan State football teams have it. ArtPrize in Grand Rapids has it. The violinist Joshua Bell has it. Michael Phelps and Tiger Woods have it. Michael Jackson had it. Martin Luther King Jr. had it.
If you were in West Michigan last week, you remember the tremendous display of wind energy accompanying a quick but violent storm. In addition to our earth’s natural forces of energy, we also have a human energy field. Color and light are part of the energy field that surrounds all human beings, although few people can actually see the colors. I am not able to “see” energy myself. However, I am amazed when others occasionally comment on the aura surrounding me when I preach.
When I visit churches on Sunday morning, I can certainly feel the energy level. Pastors as well as the congregations project energy. I recently asked one of our pastors why his church was growing, especially among empty nesters. It seemed counter-intuitive since the church has a cutting edge musical style, which older folks don’t always care for. He replied, “It’s because when people walk into our church, they feel a spiritual energy. They know that something is happening here, and they want to be a part of it.”
Unfortunately, many people underestimate the power of energy by understanding it only in a physical sense. Like most of our clergy in the West Michigan Conference, I have participated in our conference Wellness Program for the past 2 years. That involves answering a questionnaire regarding personal health habits, having vital signs taken (cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass), and analyzing the results over the phone with a consultant.
In each of the past 2 years, my health analysis has described me as having low energy. It’s peculiar because since I was a child, I have been blessed with a tremendous amount of energy. I can go and go from early in the morning until 10:00 p.m. or so, when I fall exhausted into bed and am asleep within minutes. Both years, when I questioned the wellness consultant, she replied, “You said on the survey that you are sometimes tired, so that means you have low energy.” Equating being tired when it’s time to go to bed with having low energy misunderstands the nature of energy.
I believe that energy has 4 dimensions, which, not coincidentally, are described in Mark chapter 12, when a scribe asks Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus responds, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
When you and I are fully energized, we engage in healthy practices in all 4 areas. On the other hand, when our energy is sapped in any of these 4 areas through misuse, disuse, or overuse, it affects our overall ability to function effectively.
- When our heart is healthy, we are emotionally mature, and our relationships are mutually life-giving.
- When our soul is healthy, we are spiritually formed and connected with God and others through Jesus Christ.
- When our mind is healthy, we thrive on dynamic and creative intellectual activity.
- When our strength is healthy, we take care of our bodies through exercise, sleep, and good eating habits.
How is this energy supplied to humans beings? Through the fuel of the Holy Spirit! In the church, energy and Holy Spirit go together. The Holy Spirit is the manifestation of God’s energy in our world: God in action. Although the Holy Spirit has been present from the beginning of creation (Genesis 1:2: “a wind from God swept over the face of the waters”), it was at Pentecost where God’s energy was fully unleashed on the disciples and our world. (Acts 1:8: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses.”) Throughout the New Testament we find numerous references to the Holy Spirit empowering us to love God and others with our heart, soul, mind and strength.
I recently discovered a web site called theenergyproject.com. The mission of The Energy Project is to help organizations function at their optimal level by equipping their employees to satisfy 4 core energetic needs: physical health, emotional well-being, mental clarity, and spiritual significance.
Sound familiar? Although The Energy Project claims to draw on the multidisciplinary science of high performance, their 4 principles are exactly the same as those Jesus espoused inMark 12, three of which were not original to Jesus but came from God’s charge to the Hebrews thousands of years ago (Deuteronomy 6:4).
The Energy Project encourages leaders to become Chief Energy Officers instead of Chief Executive Officers. These are leaders who are “focused on mobilizing, inspiring, and regularly refueling the energy of those they lead.” The Energy Project also advocates several helpful practices in order to maximize our personal energy:
- Take time to renew yourself intermittently during the day
- For introverts this may mean being alone, while for extroverts, it may mean being with friends
- It drains and diffuses energy
- It’s the best way to assimilate gains
- Could this explain the “summer slump” in many churches?
- Don’t multi-task
- After expending enormous amounts of intense energy, take deliberate time to rest, hold back, and recover (also known as Sabbath)
If you want to learn more, you may want to read an article by Tony Schwartz, CEO and President of The Energy Project, The Productivity Paradox: How Sony Pictures Gets More Out of People by Demanding Less. (June 2010 Harvard Business Review)
In his sermon, The New Birth, John Wesley says that when we are born of God, we begin to feel the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in our heart through “spiritual respiration.” Just as we have to breathe in air to live physically, so we must breathe in God to be alive spiritually. When God fills our lives through the Spirit the way air fills our lungs, we are alert, focused, and energized for living and serving.
Wesley writes, “God is continually breathing, as it were, upon the soul; and his soul is breathing unto God. Grace is descending into his heart; and prayer and praise ascending to heaven: and by this intercourse between God and man, this fellowship with the Father and the Son, as by a kind of spiritual respiration, the life of God in the soul is sustained; and the child of God grows up, till he comes to the ‘full measure of the stature of Christ.’” (¶ Section II.4)
I wonder what might happen in our churches if we were intentional about tapping into Holy Spirit energy.
- What if our pastors and lay leaders became Chief Energy Officers who are on fire with the Holy Spirit?
- What if we made it a priority in both our programming and outreach to minister to the 4 core needs of humans: heart, soul, mind, and strength?
- How might our churches look different if every member and friend were inspired to discover the untapped energy of his/her spiritual gifts and use them to inspire the energy of others?
- What power to love might be unleashed if we could access hidden sources of collective energy in our churches and communities?
Don’t miss out on the energy of Worldwide Communion Sunday this weekend! The Holy Spirit will be moving over the face of our entire world as we break bread together.
Blessings and energy,