borzywoj / Canva

To say that the day of Pentecost was a surprise is an understatement. The disciples heard the roaring sound of rushing wind. They saw what looked like tongues of fire resting on one another. Then they all began to speak in other languages — without the benefit of Rosetta Stone! Jesus had told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the gift he promised, but no one expected a gift like the Holy Spirit.

Although we celebrated Pentecost a couple weeks ago, for Christian leaders, the surprising nature of Pentecost is worth noticing. Christian leadership learns to thrive in the tension between the certainty of our strategic plans and the undomesticated power of the Spirit. According to Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2, when the Spirit of God is at work, we will dream dreams and see visions. What are you and your congregation dreaming about? Do you sense that a compelling vision is guiding the church’s ministry? When the Spirit is working, people from all walks of life will experience the presence of God.

Human effort alone cannot carry out the work of ministry and the mission to embody the reign of God. Through the Holy Spirit, God works in us and through us to “accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). Spiritually discerning leaders make room for the Spirit beyond the prayers and petitions we offer in worship. Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in meetings through silence and Scripture. Talk about the significance of the Spirit and the work of the Spirit beyond the Pentecost Sunday sermon. Share with others the ways in which God surprises you personally, and be prepared to name the moments God might be trying to surprise the church collectively. All these are glimpses of how you make room for the Spirit.


The Holy Spirit can inspire us to understand one another’s humanity

The Holy Spirit is key for Christians looking to communicate across divisions, says the dean of Duke University Chapel.

Q&A with Luke A. Powery

Rely on the Holy Spirit in the struggle for justice

With the help of the Holy Spirit, churches can build community, welcome the stranger, love our neighbors, and break down walls of oppression and injustice, writes a theologian and professor.

By Grace Ji-Sun Kim

Pentecost beyond church walls

Pentecost is God using God’s people to be a catalyst for transformation and to reach those who have been overlooked or considered beyond the bounds of ministry, writes an AME minister.

By Natasha Jamison Gadson

Pentecost as traditioned innovation

The coming of the Holy Spirit is both a fulfillment of that which is old and a radical new beginning, writes a New Testament scholar.

By C. Kavin Rowe

Before you go…

Often, I’ll say to the congregation on Pentecost that it is impossible to be a Christian without the Holy Spirit. I typically see a few wide eyes staring back at me. The sudden realization that the Holy Spirit is not just an “option” for disciples is arresting to those who have become accustomed to a perfectly predictable and culturally domesticated God. During this season the church calls “ordinary time,” we should challenge ourselves to listen more deeply and more intentionally to the sound of the “rushing wind.” May the Holy Spirit guide all of us into a season of transformation and possibility.

I hope you had a restful holiday weekend and a wonderful Pentecost Sunday. You can email me and the Alban Weekly team at Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

Explore congregational resources from Rowman & Littlefield

The recently released Congregational Resources catalog from Rowman & Littlefield includes a variety of titles from the Alban Books imprint, as well as a discount code for U.S. orders.

Learn more >>

More on this topic

Leadership and improvisation

Congregational leadership...

Don’t let the vision perish

Are you thinking about your...

Budgets matter

The process of deciding a budget sets p...