I'm convinced many Christians have no understanding of the term “Spirit-filled.”
Stay with me. The topic of this article could easily trigger those who are easily offended at the suggestion that some churches are more Spirit-filled than others. I'd like to challenge you to remain engaged and to honestly consider what I'm about to communicate, even if you ultimately disagree.
Someone asked a question in a Facebook group I'm subscribed to about the types of churches in our area. They mentioned some particular churches, including Upperroom in Dallas, Texas, as the type of church they were looking for.
It seemed clear, at least to me, that they were looking for a church that many would label as Spirit-filled. This, however, was lost on most of the people who responded.
Some wonderful Christians started filling up the comments with suggestions. What struck me was that the majority of them were not Charismatic, Spirit-filled churches. Many of the people were emphasizing the upbeat, contemporary style of worship, the relevant teaching and the family atmosphere their suggested church offered. As I read through everybody's input, I couldn't help but to flashback several years ago to my first Sunday in town.
Our family visited a fairly large, well-established and vibrant church that was filled with friendly people. The worship was concert-style, professional and well polished. Several people were closing their eyes and lifting their hands as they sang along. The preacher was a young guy with the rough, raw yet skilled edge you'd imagine in an environment like this. He communicated well and the message was biblical.
I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
Again, stay with me. Please hear my heart. I'm convinced this place was filled with legitimate Christian brothers and sisters, people who were devoted to the Lord and who loved their church home. I applaud this. It wasn't for me, though. Why? I later discovered this was not a church that believed in the manifestations and gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that spiritual things must be discerned spiritually and, while what I discerned naturally was really appealing, spiritually I was discerning a lack of Holy Spirit activity.
This is the point of this article. Churches that do embrace Holy Spirit gifts and manifestations are radically different than those that do not, even if they may look similar to the human eye.
THERE IS A DIFFERENCE
Years ago when the worship movement really began to take off I often wondered how churches and movements that were “more Baptist” in theology and practice would respond. Would they move on from hymns or resist the new sound in the earth? To my surprise many of them adopted the songs, the vibrancy, some of the more mild expressions and the passion. What was missing in many of these scenarios however was the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The invisible move of the Spirit of God was absent.
Yesterday's Facebook conversation confirmed yet again the idea that many Christians simply don't understand the difference between “Spirit-filled” and not “Spirit-filled.” They are limited to human emotion and intellectual understanding. They are looking for songs that move them, sermons that inspire them, teachings that inform them and a Christian experience that saves them. Supernatural discernment and spiritual revelation are foreign concepts.
Again, please hear my heart. I despise mean-spirited finger pointers who look down on others who “don't line up” with their definition of appropriate. I cringe to think I'd be one of them. At the same time I believe it's important to discuss some potentially irritating topics so we can all go deeper in Jesus. This is one of those topics.
There certainly is a difference between Charismatic and non-Charismatic churches. The theologies of cessationism and continuationism are definitely not the same. Those who endorse and practice spiritual gifts and those who don't are in different places.
A SPIRITUALLY ELECTRIC ATMOSPHERE
It would only be fair to admit that even many of today's Spirit-filled churches have disengaged spiritually. They have stepped back from the movement of the Holy Spirit more and more in recent years. The glorious manifestations of an omnipotent, invisible God interacting with finite man are undeniably rare today.
My message is a call to all. Whether you affirm supernatural activity or not, I encourage you to dive deeper into the realm of the Spirit than you ever have in your life. It should be normal for everybody in today's church to have dreams and visions. Praying in tongues, prophecy and trembling in the fear of the Lord should be experienced by all. Supernatural boldness, signs, wonders and miracles and burning night and day with the fire of the Holy Spirit are our portion!
The church should be the place where Believers gather to collapse to the ground in groans of intercession. The place to boldly decree prophetic oracles, to prophesy and to get equipped in the Spirit.
Loud guitars, a perfectly orchestrated set, ripped jeans, fog, lights, friendly people, relevant talks about the Bible and programs for all is not what makes up a New Testament church. All of that can be there, but it's nothing more than paint on the walls. Decor. Instead of fog machines we need to contend for the mist of the Holy Spirit to descend into our churches. It should be difficult to stand at times as the cries of our heart explode out of us and as the weighty, tangible presence of God covers us.
Yes, a Spirit-filled church is something to behold. It's a place where God orchestrates everything and man gets out of the way. It's where God's presence is so thick that our human intellect cannot process what's happening. It's a revival atmosphere. It's a place of miracles. It's church.
The moment you experience it is the moment you understand that there's a stark difference between churches that promote Holy Spirit activity and those that don't. It's night and day, black and white. When you are swept over by the most powerful force in the world and filled with indescribable fire and love and freedom and joy, you'll never be able to go to a church that doesn't experience that.
I'm excited about the opportunity to introduce people who have never experienced this all-consuming fire, this invisible force, to something so wondrous that they are transformed for all eternity.
The hyper-spiritual too often wait for God to do what he’s not going to do.
At first glance, those who know me might raise an eyebrow at the title of this article. Many might consider me to be hyper-spiritual myself. Most wouldn’t use the term in a derogatory manner, but they would argue that my life has been marked by a clear supernatural focus. They would be right.
I’ve been awed throughout my life and ministry by the way God has performed stunning and miraculous works. I mean, I’m floored every time I think about any of the numerous times God moved outside of my natural grid.
Further, I’ve written on the prophetic, have led prayer movements that are fueled by tongues and fire and unapologetically call those who are naturally minded on the carpet. The call to live, move, walk, pray and function night and day in the Spirit is non-negotiable. Further, it’s there that the Christian life begins to make sense…and produce joy, freedom and a load of fun!
So, no, I am absolutely not calling anybody to pull back from living in that spiritual realm. What I am doing, however, is highlighting an error that causes many people to be spiritually minded to the exclusion of understanding God-given abilities and opportunities that exist in the natural realm. They are hyper-spiritual instead of appropriately spiritual. They are hesitant instead of proactive. They spiritualize their timidity.
NATURAL MAN POSSESSES AMAZING ABILITIES
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Genesis 11:4-6 (ESV)
God gifted every human, Christian or not, with abilities that are profound. Of course, everybody’s gifts, talents and abilities are different, but the truth remains, even outside of a life devoted to Jesus, mankind can do remarkable things.
Consider man’s ability to build the Great Pyramid of Giza. Even today’s most brilliant minds are astonished by that ancient architectural accomplishment. Think about the Hoover Dam, the Great Wall of China, the Superdome in New Orleans, the world’s tallest buildings and other marvels. The engineering required to build such impressive structures is mind blowing.
Think about life-changing inventions, medical advances, air and space travel and even military weaponry. Not only did all of these come about outside of a hyper-spiritual life, most of them were accomplished by unbelievers who had no spiritual focus whatsoever. Mere humans produced wonders.
Man was building the Tower of Babel and God knew they had the ability to do so, which is why he stepped in and stopped their progress. If unbelievers and even evil people can accomplish so much, why do so many Christians over-spiritualize decisions they make and presume that floating on some supernatural cloud will result in progress? It sounds so spiritual to say, “I’m waiting for God to open a door,” or “God hasn’t spoken to me about that yet.”
I’ve met innumerable people who fit this description. They love to soak in God’s presence (as we all should!)…but without any forward, natural momentum as a result. The extent of their forward movement is a stream of semi-prophetic words they share in church, on Facebook or to anybody who will listen. They love to talk about their supernatural revelations (or imaginations), but, when it comes to actually doing something, they retreat back into their mystical, nebulous existence. They prefer to adopt the appearance of the monk on the mountain instead of the person with the shovel in their hands. They think they present themselves as spiritually wise and mature, but in reality they are spiritually stunted accomplishing little in the spirit or in the natural.
We should certainly develop a life of intimacy with Jesus. We should have a prayer closet where we encounter God in supernatural ways. We should be prophetic and on fire for Jesus. We should also move out and produce!
YOU HAVE TO GET OUT AND MOVE!
The Bible tells us that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord. We can have great confidence that God will be with us when we advance!
Too often we are gazing into the clouds waiting for signs that we are to make a decision or to move out. Stop gazing and move! Stop waiting for God to do something. He’s already enabled you to do so much!
Write your book—THIS year! Start a business! Tell people about Jesus! Start a ministry! Go to a school! Learn a trade! Get another job! Do what is burning in your heart to do! Is there a place for seeking out wise counsel before making big decisions? Yes, there is. But, be sure the counsel is wise and not coming from someone as overly cautious as you’ve been!
My wife and I have enjoyed a remarkable life of advance, often because we just jumped out of the boat and went for it.
Understand, I’m not talking about moving carnally. I’m not talking about ignoring God’s leading. I’m not talking about living outside of God’s grace. I’m talking about acknowledging that God has very powerfully affirmed and enabled us and we have many permissions, resources and abilities to do things that don’t require the planets to align or a visiting prophetic minister to read our mail.
I’ve met so many aspiring authors who tell me they have a book in them, and have been waiting years and decades for the right time to write it. What? This is nonsense! Write the book in the next three months and move on to the next project! Is there a time to wait? Of course, but today’s hyper-spiritual Christian presumes a tentative life is a spiritual life. They stop until God says go instead of going until God says stop!
After years of full time ministry as church planters and pastors, my wife and I moved to Branson, Missouri. While I’d continue writing and traveling to speak at churches and conferences, we knew we’d need to develop additional sources of income. Additionally, we were excited about the opportunity to start something new. We knew God would be with us as we stepped out. He’d order our steps.
On a trip to Tulsa to visit Oral Roberts University with my son Skylar who was considering where to attend college (he ultimately decided on Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee) we had some down time. We jumped online looking for things to do and noticed something called an escape room. I had heard of them, but wasn’t exactly sure that they were. We decided to go. We played two games and were hooked. In the car afterward my wife said, “We can do this.” She was right.
Since we had developed a life of living, praying and moving in the Spirit, we knew God would redirect us if this wasn’t his will. We’d go unless God said stop. The other option would be to wait until God confirms it is his will. I’ll tell you, that is usually not the right decision. Be so intimately connected to Jesus in his supernatural realm that you can continually advance without delay, knowing that he will redirect you as necessary in the natural realm.
We returned to Branson and rented a storefront, dealt with the city code requirements, built out two different escape experiences, developed our branding, installed signage, advertised and opened for business.
The entire process, from the day we played our games in Tulsa to the day we opened and watched other people play our escape games in Branson was less than eight weeks! God’s grace was with us!
Two years later, as we continued to develop our business, we were awarded as the fifth best escape attraction in the entire nation by USA Today! We were humbled and excited that out of thousands of escape rooms in America, we are in the top 10! It’s not the Great Wall of China, but it’s at least a lot of fun for our family to develop and enjoy our little business!
We were the first escape room business in Branson, and now there are at least five others. The competition is fierce, and the limited tourist season here presents challenges for a business like ours, but God’s grace has empowered us.
We moved, God graced and now, instead of waiting for open doors and signs in the sky a few years later, our business is established and we are on to other ventures, assignments and opportunities.
Going until God says stop will save you years of delay!
YOU CAN DO IT!
God loves you and is on your side!
Live in the Spirit. Pray in the Spirit. Advance in the Spirit. Be spiritual. Don’t be hyper-spiritual. It will hold you back and stunt your growth.
God has plans for you and he’s ready to direct your steps if you just go!