“What do you think Nate?” I asked as we sat and watched pyrotechnics go off in a church sanctuary we were visiting while on vacation. “It’s a bit much dad,” he replied. Yeah, maybe. But sure was entertaining to watch. I kinda wanted to see the worship leader catch on fire, but pretty sure that wasn’t the point of the effects. Maybe next time…
In the previous two articles we discovered we have forfeited God’s big dream by separating ourselves from the culture Jesus asked us to engage and by replacing our primary calling with our secondary calling. Thankfully, there are simple solutions for this; loving those around us by being kind, such as simply saying hello: being present, by staying engaged with them; and being brave, willing to pray and share Good News, as opportunity provides.
But it turns out we have also forfeited God’s big dream by exchanging the power and authority of Jesus with church growth strategies. This is the last of the “forfeits” we will discuss.
On large scale, we have made the church an enterprise of events and programs instead of a community of disciple makers.
Many church leaders have made church growth their target and in doing so, they’ve increased their effectiveness at breaking growth barriers and have added to their numbers, but the unfortunate consequence is that they may simply be building bigger and bigger holding tanks for unengaged Christians.
If you want to start a church, if you want to grow a church, you can read hundreds of books on the topic, implement them and find some success. But it does come at a cost. The results from that kind of church growth are surface level relationships with no real life transformation occurring in the lives of those attending church.
How have we exchanged the power and authority of Jesus with church growth strategies? One of the ways is that we have forgotten about the Holy Spirit. In many churches, the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit) is tragically neglected, and in some cases, forgotten.
The benchmark of success in church has become more about attendance than the movement of the Holy Spirit.
An “entertainment” model of church largely adopted in the 1980’s and 90’s, may have alleviated some of our boredom for a couple of hours a week, but it filled our churches with self-focused consumers rather than self-sacrificing servants attuned to the Holy Spirit.
When I read through Acts, what I find in this amazing New Testament book is a big gap between what we read in Scripture and how churches operate today. If I were Satan, (and I’m not :-)) and my ultimate goal was to thwart God’s Kingdom and purposes, one of my main strategies would be to get churchgoers to ignore the Holy Spirit.
Far too many people have forgotten the Holy Spirit and for those churches that have dismissed Him altogether, most can tell there’s just something missing. That something missing is actually a someone-namely, the Holy Spirit. Without Him, people operate in their own strength and only accomplish human-sized results.
But there’s another way that some churches have neglected to operate in the power and authority of Jesus. Among churches who have not forgotten about the Holy Spirit, some act as though the purpose of the Holy Spirit is simply to have supernatural manifestations during a Sunday morning gathering. People then miss the Spirit’s desired supernatural activity through their lives throughout the rest of the week. In so doing, people act like the Spirit’s activity is limited to a certain time and space within a building. They seek manifestations as a goal instead of recognizing that they are merely the byproducts of experiencing the presence of Jesus. When believers come together for a corporate gathering, the goal is to experience the presence of Jesus, how He sees fit. Why? Because His presence changes everything!
The supernatural activity of God is meant to be lived in and through our lives on a daily basis, providing us with the power (Acts 1:8) and authority (Matthew 28:18-19) we need to live out our primary callings in our secondary settings, fulfilling God’s big dream.
It is important to seek Holy Spirit empowerment so that we don’t forfeit God’s big dream. Holy Spirit empowerment comes through Holy Spirit baptism. Where do we see this in scripture?
- Acts 2:1-4 – Disciples and believers receive the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 8:12-25 – Believers in Samaria receive the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 10:44-48 – Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 19:1-7 – Believers at Ephesus receive the Holy Spirit.
We find that Holy Spirit baptism is distinct from and follows salvation.
- John 20:19-22 – Believers receive the indwelling Spirit after Jesus’ resurrection. This was the sign of their salvation, but He promises more to come.
- Acts 1:4-5 – Jesus tells His disciples, presumably after He’s breathed on them, to receive the Spirit (i.e. salvation), to stay in Jerusalem, and to wait for the gift the Father promised. In one statement, Jesus delineates that there was more to receive after He was taken up into heaven.
- Acts 2:1-4 – All those in the upper room were believers. They were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit in a separate experience from salvation.
- Acts 8:14-17 – The church in Samaria had received salvation (v.14) and when Peter came and prayed for them, they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit (v.17). It was a separate experience for believers.
While we believe that baptism in the Spirit is distinct from salvation, it doesn’t end there. We believe that Paul commands us to be continually filled with the Spirit. We must continually ask for Spirit-empowered boldness to be that which God has called us to be—witnesses to the nations.¹
This baptism of the Spirit is not a one-time event. It’s a lifestyle of reliance on the Holy Spirit that empowers us to participate in His rescue mission on earth.
- Ephesians 5:18 – Paul’s encouragement not to get drunk on wine but to be [continually] filled with the Spirit.
We have had several great speakers visit with Connection Point to talk about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I would encourage you to watch those messages here to learn more about the opportunity we have to live an empowered life as a follower of Jesus. Then, ask Jesus to fill you with His Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:8) so that you can be part of fulfilling God’s big dream.
But what happens if we don’t? What happens if we go on forfeiting God’s big dream by separating ourselves from culture, by replacing our primary calling with our secondary passions, and by exchanging the power and authority of Jesus with church growth strategies? We’ll cover the cost of forfeit next week.
We’d Love to hear from you!
How has the Holy Spirit enabled you to live a naturally supernatural life? Share your comments below.
1 Brogden, Dick. Live|Dead Trip Guide. pg. 35