PT5: Why Doesn't Stuff Happen?
Updated: Jan 1
As I get older I see stuff that's missing that we don't have the option of forgetting.
That may have been a bit behind why God told Moses to teach the younger fellas about the miracles that the older fellas experienced. It's so we don't forget how marvelous God is, nor his passion to shepherd his flock.
God has a vested interested in his flock. He undertook a huge investment in order to make him his flock through the death of his prized Son, Jesus Christ. He's not going to let us go. He continues to shepherd us. He wants the most from his investment.
Many times our shepherding Shepherd shepherds us when we're clustered together in our pens. Through the vehicle of congregational worship we both adore and are adored, we both reveal our hearts and are granted a glimpse of his heart. Worship on Sunday mornings is very much a two way street.
My fear is that we are raising up pastors and priest who are uncomfortable in managing spiritual gifts on Sunday mornings. And if we loose that, we loose everything. Paul shared emphatically about the mystical life of the Body of Christ - that whenever we gather we become a temple wherein he is worshiped and the saints are equipped - all through the on-time streaming activity of the Holy Spirit.
Yet, in spite of that, many of us remain apprehensive when it comes to lifting the lid off the service and placing it into the hands of God. Why is that?
Here are some reasons:
We Don't Want to Offend Anybody. Any good leader will naturally run against the grain of his or her people. It's what we do. Not intentionally, of course, but leading people into the the Cross isn't easy, no matter how well we sugar-coat it. The problem is that any good leader will also have a heart for the people he or she is leading. She knows their likes and dislikes, their personalities and temperament. And they certainly know what will fly on a Sunday morning and what wont. It is only when the leader's relationship with God and his certainty of call in the life of the leader is stronger than the pastoral pull from the congregation that a timid leader will step out, knowing the probable reactions of his or her people, and really lead, being set free from what some still call, the fear of man.
Don't Know What to Do if it Things Go Nutzoid. Most seminaries do not teach this stuff. When was the last time you had a course, or even a workshop at a clergy conference, on how to identify, teach, nourish, manage, and build up the Body through the use of spiritual gifts? The lack of that education gives room to all manner of fantasy and fear - to the point that it's best not to even go there.
Three things to calm our nerves (especially for control freaks):
This is God's ministry, not ours, and we will never be able to control it anymore than we can control the weather. At best we'll have a 10 second lead on our people. It's the ultimate faith adventure. We have the power to bind or loose, to allow God's presence into our church in this way or not. That, in itself, is an awe filled responsibility.
God will manifest in your place regardless of of your sin - as long as you are humble about it and in intentional rebellion. In other words, it doesn't depend on your righteousness. If something happens, something happens. If nothing happens, nothing happens. You don't get the right to claim responsibility or remorse either way.
People will get offended. Some may even leave. Expect that to happen. I once heard someone say, "God offends the mind to get to the heart." While it's admittedly not how he always does it, people need to intellectually wrestle with what they're seeing. I've seen accounts where the most offended people swing around to be one of the biggest propionates of the thing. Through it all remember: You are not causing the irk; God is. Don't take it personally.
We Are Not A Charismatic Church. The word "charismatic" itself has its root in the word "grace." Truth is we ARE a charismatic church. We are saved by the very thing some of us fight to defend ourselves against. Jesus fully participated in aligning the Kingdom of God with what he saw around him and used ever method available to sync to two worlds. "On earth as it is in heaven," as he taught us to pray. We, being Christians, or little christ's, made in his image, fruit of his ministry, and commissioned to continue his ministry until he returns, do best when operating within the same trajectory has our leader. That would be charismatic.
We Have Theological Reservations. Valid. Yet many of the people Jesus taught had serious theological reservations as well. At it's best, theology opens doors to Kingdom Activity. It assists relationship, empowers thinking, and develops a worldview which welcomes the interaction of God in Spirit and in Truth. If theology stand in the way, or even seeks to judge the legitimate activities of God, it is to be tossed out or reconfigured.
We Have Never Experienced It in Ourselves. How are we to lead others? True. I mentioned in an earlier post that it's difficult to lead sheep into fields where you have not yet trodden. This stuff is better caught than taught. I suggest you look around to the people God has surrounded you with - colleagues, friends, even people in your church - and find someone who is experienced more than you. Talk to them, explore their experience, fast and pray for the same. Have them pray for you. Tell the Lord you want to lead your people but you have yet to walk the terrain. Walk the terrain. Know its pitfalls. Then go back and lead your people out of the abundance of your own heart. He is there waiting to fill you. (Romans 5:5)
As we near the end of this series I'd like to leave you the reminder that we are Kingdom Expanders. We were saved so that others may be brought in as well. While the benefits of Gr. zozo are numerous (blessings, grace, direction, healing, et. al.), I maintain that the BIG purpose for the Holy Spirit to be given is for one thing: Missions - the evangelization of the world.
Being parochial is good. Gotta have that. The church is an embassy, the place where heaven meets earth, even if for only a couple of hours on a Sunday morning, and we need to be reminded and nurtured into who we are in Christ. But there's a whole other world out there, to reach outwards into the culture of the yet-to-be-churched. Mission is the extension of the parochial. It is that ever expanding line where the church meets the world. What would happen in the hearts of our visitors when they see and experience the power of God pouring out on them in great and marvelous ways? The church would grow. Plain and simple.
So again we're back to balance. Both are essential, one without the other grows an anemic, stunted body.
I'll close with a story from the late great John WImber, who shortly after his salvation walked into a church in Southern California, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, with his bible tucked securely under his arm. He took a seat in the pew and waited expectancy for the service to begin.
There was a hymn, a choir, a message, an offertory, come closing prayers and a dismissal.
An usher approached John at the end of the service with a mildly enthusiastic smile. "How did you like the service?"
"It was nice," he replied. "But when do we get to do the stuff?"
The usher was confused. "The stuff?"
"Yeah, you know." John tapped his Bible with excitement. "The stuff. Healing the sick, praying for others, raising the dead. You know - the stuff? It's what I signed up for."
The usher fumbled over his words. "Oh, we don't do the stuff any more."
I pray that story remains in my heart the rest of my life. Truth is there are people out there looking for the stuff. People are made to so the stuff. That's why there is such a rise of experiential pursuits among non-believers. People, being made after the likeness of God, have "stuff potential" all over them. That's why when they get into a church that is doing stuff - real Spirit stuff - they are at home. It connects. I've heard of people in traditional churches who do "stuff" but its outside the walls of the church, absent from any conviction of power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it's exploration in New Age stuff. Occult stuff, or other stuff geared to fill that stuff-shaped voice in their hearts that - which if it was happening in the church - they'd have no need to fulfill.
Oh may we meet God's people with God's Spirit. May we invite them to participate in the fun of the Kingdom, and be magnets for the Kingdom of God. Help us to get out of ourselves. May our devotion to you, Lord, far out shadow any fear or apprehension as we lead your people, feed your people, and prepare your people to enter fully into the promised land. Amen.