The title may be wrong. It may be too much for me to say “churches in America experience too little of God.” Yet here my point and let me know what you think.
The greatest need of the people of God is for them to meet God. How does that happen? Simple. In the New Testament Jesus made a promise. He told His disciples He was leaving and the Holy Spirit was coming (John 14:18-21; 25-26; Acts 2:1-11). A person is indwelled and sealed with the Spirit at the time of conversion (Eph 1:13). Baptism of the Spirit can happen at the moment of salvation or after (Acts 19:1-7). And of course without getting bogged down in terminology, there are many subsequent fillings that should be our continual pursuit (Eph 5:18).
Christians, Christ followers, disciples born again by the Spirit, have Him living in them. We have God in us. We have Him individually and corporately. So, question: why is it that most churches in America experience so little of God?
I’d like to offer these reasons as remedies for the church to know more and more the fulness of God in the Holy Spirit.
The church does not pray enough to know the difference between the power of God and the abilities of man. Prayer is a popular topic. If I went to the streets and asked people who are not saved or a part of a local church,”do you believe in prayer?” they would say yes. Most do. And of course I’m not saying the church is prayer-less. But it might as well be. A survey of church calendars will read that as true. As a pastor, I have been guilty of doing everything but praying. That is why I prefer a midweek prayer meeting that is praying, not giving prayer requests. Real prayer. An outpouring of the soul before God opening the way for the Spirit to fill us. I’ve learned the value also in not “how much” I pray but “when” I pray. In a very guilt free way, pray!
When we pray enough we will experience the power of God. In our worship. In our teaching and preaching. In our ministries. We will see the difference. I wasted too many years with status quo prayer efforts. How do we see the difference? We will do Acts type of ministry and get Acts type of results. I’m not saying it’s exact. God is not in a box. Yet I believe we will experience the fulness of the Spirit when we pray together. We will experience salvations, baptisms, healings, ministry, missions expansion, Bible hunger, desire for community, purpose centered in the cross and a desire for prayer when we pray what I call “beyond normal.”
Prayer is making a comeback. I’ve seen much more emphasis on it as of late. The Church in Austin for example. They are ramping up the praying.
When we pray, He will change our desires. We will be moved to have faith and courage. We will desire what He wants instead of what we want. The Spirit keeps me confessing and repenting. Twice last week I had to repent, confess and fix it. Over and over again. He allows courage (think faith) to arise and I’m able to believe His will. Align with Him.
Churches need to mobilize disciples for pray enough that they experience the difference. Any type of prayer mobilization beyond normal will do this.
The church forgets that worship is meant to be a way of life resulting in it being a byproduct.
Let me explain this principle. It’s found in Acts 2:42-47.
What happens when the word is taught and gospel proclaimed to the not yet there people group?
37 When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!” 41 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them.What happens after people cross the line of faith?
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
A simple point in scripture. Praise in the body came as a result or byproduct of New Testament Christianity.
I’m not saying worship is not something where we are renewed weekly in the Lord. Of course that happens when the people gather (Eph 5:18-21; Psalm 22:3). There is a point here the Church would be wise to consider. Most churches pattern their church vision on the Great Commission and Acts 2. Notice the elements of our disciples making. In v. 42 we have the word, fellowship, the cross and prayer. In v. 45 we have serving. In v. 46 we have community.
Yet notice v. 47 “… praising God.”
I’m just making a simple observation from scripture. I don’t want to over play it. Yet it’s there. Praise is a byproduct of the ministry and mission of Acts 2:37-47. After the Bible Study. Fellowship. Finding purpose. Prayer. Serving. Community, we find praise.
Do you (do I?) have a walk with God that produces praise as a byproduct?
The point in v. 47 seems to be an attitude not a worship service. Could it have been one? Yes, but I would say it’s more. Praise is an attitude of worship in all things the produces praise as a joyous result.
We should worship God in all our pursuits and spiritual disciplines through the week so that we come to worship on the first day of the week with a desire to praise Him for what He has done.
Notice this kind of thing resulted in open doors to culture around them and converts from the culture (see v. 47b).
This is like the saying, “when you come to church, come already worshiping God because of what He has done during the week.”
The Church fails to experience the fulness of new life that brings great faith and courage to carry out the mission of Jesus.
When I say “fullness of new life” I’m talking about all the good things of the Christian life. It’s called the “abundant life” (John 10:10). It’s the new life in this life that Jesus wants His followers to live and enjoy. When filled with the Spirit, we will live by the Spirit. We will experience the fruit (Gal 5:22-23), the gifts (1 Cor 12 and 14) and the witness (Acts 1:8) of the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit will produce freedom from the life of guilt based Christianity and will set us free by faith (Gal 2:20) to carry the gospel daily to our communities and world.
The new life in Christ is an experience of change in this life now that brings internal joy and faith producing a desire to engage in God’s mission to the word.