While in church services lately, I sometimes become aware of a difference from, say, thirty or forty years ago. But what is this difference?
Church services today, and the professional efforts of church work, are, of course, better in many ways than the ones I remember from years ago – especially if one frames the measurements by the higher levels of musical signification, oratory, management, staff and congregational training, better organized outreach, marketing, technology and an overall better-educated and qualified ministry. And, not to be overlooked, professional performance and presentation skills.
Quite often, what one may experience in some cases, in some meetings (not all, of course) is, in fact, the talent, ability, training and performance skills that attempt to recreate or mimic the memories and perceptions of a true Holy Spirit-anointed service. This is in contrast to a gathering of believers in which the Holy Spirit truly and actually becomes involved in the worship and the preaching and the praying and the giving and the emotion… interacting with and empowering the church. These two scenarios can get seriously mixed up in peoples’ minds.
Allow me, dear reader, to ask respectfully: Who has not seen examples of “sincere souls” trying hard to create a church service that is anointed, moving, uplifting and that generates emotional response and dynamic worship – but who utterly fail to guide the worshippers beyond their own shallow human effort? And even worse is the leader who relentlessly, with grueling unending beat or worship commands, finally wears down body and soul until all meaning is lost in the mindless compliance to dictates.
There is a vital and desperate need (and, I believe, a fresh hunger) for the Holy Spirit to fall upon us. Human methods and techniques fall short, no matter how skillfully conceived and executed, no matter how sincere, and despite any mesmerizing influence they may have upon one’s appreciation for human talent. They ultimately come to naught. Leaning on our own understanding is a failure (Proverbs 3:5).
Not seeking God’s presence and direction is an utter failure. First of all, there is no substitution for the true power of the Holy Ghost. None. Any contrivance apart from the anointing, in preaching or in worship, is a failure. Human talent and education will never be enough to cause hearts to take up the cross and follow Jesus.
Playing church merely creates bad actors. Unless the real anointing of the Holy Spirit provides it, the good and eternal power of God will not take root in the hearts of the next generation. If we are depending on the flesh, we will lose. No one is talented enough to convert the world without the Spirit undergirding and directing his or her efforts.
We live in a complex and increasingly secular world. Without the empowerment of the Holy Ghost, we will be defeated. Not only will we lose the youth, but the older ones among us will lose the stamina and the heart to continue the fight against worldliness. This is, in fact, already happening.
Waiting on God, seeking His presence in prayer and even moaning in the Spirit was common among Pentecostals a few decades ago. This is what I sense is being lost in our services; this is the difference, I believe, in what I am feeling. The searching after God, the waiting on Him – the “feeling after Him” as Paul instructed the Athenians. The seeking after God is an essential need.
I recall many church services that started over the roar of the prayer room. Many voices continued in prayer as others began to sing. It felt real. It WAS real. It moved souls. Sinners paid attention. It empowered the preaching. The dependency on talent was limited.
We’ve lost that, to some degree. I am among those who are to blame. But I know enough to know that what was significant about it all was that there was a hunger for that which could provide a transcendancy against the world, against the darkness, fear, and the evil of hell… and that’s the point. We need that transcendancy. It pulled us up. It led to holiness. It provided the power to go into all the world. It verified that there is a higher power.
You and I cannot undo the world’s secular agenda; but we can overcome it.