The tingles hit and the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up. You give a little shiver. Does that mean the Holy Spirit is making a guest appearance? Do we turn our caps to the side and yell, “Yo, yo, yo … da Holy Spirit is in da house, y’all!”
And then, when the tingles don’t hit and we let out a yawn, do we announce that, like Elvis, the Holy Spirit has left the building?
Is the Holy Spirit fickle? Can we get Him to show up by singing better or dropping to the floor?
Some of us act like the Holy Spirit can be manipulated into performing for us. If that is truly the case then we move God. If we have the power to move God, it means we are in charge. Doesn’t it?
I’ve heard people leave a service where local believers gathered and sadly pronounce, “Man, that place is dead.” I’ve also heard people promote a local church saying, “Man, you can just feel God working there!”
My knowledge of both congregations is that the “dead” church has planted churches, supported missionaries, and given substantial resources to feed the hungry of its community while the church where my friends have felt God’s presence, though a wonderful caring body, has invested itself mostly in building beautiful facilities, providing great sound and lighting and paying a staff to run programs for the local body.
Both are bodies of believers where the Holy Spirit is active. One is very exciting and the other is more static. One body has an external focus and the other has an internal focus. One is mature Christians with many years under their belts and the other is made up of growing Christians who are being discipled. Both are communities that love and support their members.
When we come to a worship service seeking an experience, we come with selfish motives. When we go on a mission trip seeking an experience, we go with selfish motives. When the “experience” doesn’t meet our expectations, we leave disappointed.
Worship is not a pep rally. Worship is not a mundane ritual. Worship is obedience to Christ even when we get no tingles. Worship is a lifestyle where we lay every part of our lives, every activity, every aspect before God and say, “Make me like you.”
When we gather as a group, we bring all that we are and all that we have to offer to our God together. We lift Him up and we build others up. We come to give, not to get.
Who am I to pronounce a church “dead” simply because its members take comfort in calming music and ancient songs? Who am I to judge a church “alive” based on its cool drama team and pumping praise band? Scripture is pretty clear that the way I will know they are followers of Christ is by how they love God and love others. Sixty minutes on a Sunday morning are not going to give me the ability to see that.