Have you ever had an experience that left you feeling weird? Have you ever visited a place and thought, “I am never going back there again”? Now the real question, have you ever had a weird experience and thought, “I am never going back to that CHURCH again”?
I will never forget the conversation I had with a friend of mine who was beginning to look for a church he could call home. He had taken the time to visit a church on a Sunday morning. He was interested, seeking, looking for a place to connect. As he recalled the story of events to me the following week, it made me feel weird and uncomfortable for him. It was like nothing I had ever heard before. As the service unfolded, my friend, a newcomer at this church service, felt more and more out of place. As the congregation seemed to “welcome the Spirit” in a way that felt comfortable for them, my friend felt more and more uncomfortable. And for what its worth, I would have felt uncomfortable too, despite my 20 years of experience inviting the Spirit.
For the sake of time, and to keep the focus of the article on in perspective, let’s just say the more the congregation invited the Spirit, the more demonstrative the leaders got. As my friend recounted the story he used words like “screaming” to describe the leaders and phrases like “release the demons” to describe the focus of the service. There were other details that added to his discomfort, and my friend left the service early. He was freaked out!
As I talked with my friend, I found myself in an interesting place. I believe that God moves and sets us free (2 Corinthians 3:17, Galatians 5:1, Luke 4:18). I believe in spiritual warfare and that we have been given authority to cast out demons and proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God (Matthew 10:7-8, Mark 6:7). I believe in and have experienced the movement of the Spirit, but as my friend told me his story, I felt very uncomfortable because I knew that it totally freaked him out.
So, how do we as leaders welcome the Spirit without freaking out newcomers? Let me offer some thoughts that will hopefully encourage you in welcoming the Spirit and new guests into your ministry.
First, just as the article is titled, we must recognize that this is a balancing act. Balance is key in this process. Balance is simply an even distribution of weight. As I have been thinking about this topic, I believe the biggest challenge we face is discovering the balance between the GIFTS of the Spirit and the FRUIT of the Spirit. Let me explain what I mean. It has been my experience that people associate the ministry of the Spirit with speaking in tongues, prophetic words, falling down, and other powerful encounters. These are accurate associations. 1 Corinthians 12 offers us a great framework for how the Spirit gifts us within ministry.
I do not want to minimize the gifts of the Spirit; however, these are not the only expressions of the movement of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” I believe it is critical that we acknowledge how powerful the fruit of the Spirit is as well. In our ministry, we must learn to balance the gifts and the fruit. Whenever love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are being expressed within your ministry, be encouraged; the Spirit is active and alive. Whenever people are healed, give words of encouragement, or are given the gift of faith, take heart that the Spirit is moving in your midst. The fruit of the Spirit is a great way to introduce newcomers to the ministry of the Spirit. So, let’s commit to both the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit. This will help us be able to hold an appropriate tension within our ministry that I think will help us welcome newcomers as we welcome the Spirit.
Second, regularly provide context for newcomers when you notice the Spirit is moving. Remember, if we are balancing the gifts and the fruit, we can offer perspective and understanding for what is taking place. As leaders, this is our job. The ministry of the Spirit does not need to be a weird experience; however, if a newcomer has never experienced anything like what is happening, it might seem really weird. Simply take time from the front to share perspective from scripture that gives context for what is taking place. Here are a few perspectives from scripture that have encouraged me in welcoming the Spirit:
- John 14 – Jesus teaches that we will do the same things He has done and that God the Father will send us the Holy Spirit.
- Acts – the book is full of expressions of being filled with the Holy Spirit
- Romans 5:1-11 – the Holy Spirit is an expression of God’s love for us
- 1 Corinthians 12 – gifts of the Spirit
- Galatians 5:22-23 – fruit of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit is God with us and in us. The presence of God is a sweet gift that we can experience. His presence provides a wonderful opportunity for people to know and experience God’s love. My encouragement in this balancing act is to allow the Holy Spirit to be alive in you and to allow scripture to give you confidence in providing context for others. The Holy Spirit is God with us…and God is good!
One final thought…as you invite the Spirit, remember that we do not need to make it more than it is. Creating hype and trying to make the experience greater is not our job. We can be ourselves and allow the Spirit the same freedom.