PT1: When God Comes to Church
Updated: Jan 1
In a day and age where we say we ask the power of the Holy Spirit to be made known in our services, it astounds me how little time we give to mentoring others in the business of what to expect, how he works, how to spot him on the people, or what he does or doesn't do. When was the last time any of us as priests got a briefing on singing in the Spirit, the lifting of hands, discerning prophecy, or how to correct others when their "gifts" lie outside the parameter of who we are and what we do?
This stuff concerns me. I want to see the fulness of the Spirit in our churches and I want to feel comfortable under the leadership of the church during times of his visit.
Some of us are old. We've seen the Spirit do amazing things. Not unlike the generations who have gone before, we've seen the miracles - the crossing of the sea, the pillar of fire, the mana and water from rocks. Others have only heard of these things. And with us dying out, who will pass the torch? How do we stir up the gifts in one another to those who have never seen those gifts operating in the first place?
Many young priests are either theologically constrained or practically unskilled with regard to the invitation of God into a Sunday service. When they hear a praise chorus, see a hand fling into the sky, or hear an ecstatic utterance from the person in the pews out there a cold chill rises up their back and they tolerate it gracefully. They see the whole Holy Spirit thing as a messy intrusion onto an otherwise tightly crafted, perfected liturgy.
And they would be right. The Holy Spirit is messy. He messes with our stuff. He rearranges hearts, repositions paradigms of belief, and reveals a God who is wholly other. And that can be discomforting.
I'm reminded of Nikki Gumbel's story in ALPHA about the person who was so excited one day in church that she spontaneously blurted out, "Hallelujah!"
An usher immediately arrived on scene. "Ma'm what are you saying?"
"I'm just so happy," she replied. "I got religion!"
"Well," the usher instructed, "You certainly didn't get it here!"
We have been defined by Jesus as people of truth and spirit. Balanced, in order. Yet we are often people of imbalance and radical swaying this way and that. Some err on the "spirit" side of the stick. We love getting caught up in the rapture of the Holy Spirit. We get off on the physical rush. In leu of spiritual goosebumps on any given Sunday, they would be tempted to wonder if God showed up at all. I've heard these people may be so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.
The other extreme is equally as deadly. It's all about the Word. Word, word, word. Doctrine, liturgy and belief. They appear to be so tightly wound up in preserving the Truth down to the letter of the Law that they have created watertight condemns around their hearts so that absolutely no life can get in there whatsoever.
Both extremes are too far out there for me. My personal opinion runs something along the lines as this:
Too much Word you dry up.
Too much Holy Spirit you blow up.
An equal amount of Word and Holy Spirit you grow up.
So in this BLOG series I hope to share short teaching moments around the activity of the Holy Spirit. We'll look at various expressions of the Holy Spirit - expressions that are dated back to Jesus himself - as well as what to do in the presence of someone operating his or her gift in the Spirit.
At the end of the day I hope to have stirred up the gifts of the Spirit deposited in you. I have a huge heart for the living and active Body of Christ, rubbing off on one another for the equipping of the saints each time we are gathered. We are a body, Paul writes - each with his or her own special contribution to the whole.
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
1 Corinthians 14:26
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:7
My desire in this short mini-BLOG is to get us stirred (and shaken), challenged and excited, about the activity of the Holy Spirit in your church. Ready for the adventure?
Holy Father, you are the Lord of all creation and have called us to lead your people wisely and with compassion. We ask you to lead us in ways of truth, fully alive in the that same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear what you are doing in our churches today. In Christ's Name. Amen.