Happy Thursday, friends!
I pray you are well, and that you are adoring and serving Jesus with all your affection and mind. May passion for His Name never wear thin in us!
You may have heard the following unfortunate statement: if the Holy Spirit were to depart from the typical American church, 95% of that church’s activities would continue on as normal. I’m not sure how I feel about that statistic (prayerfully, the typical American church is deeply aware of God’s Presence!), but it is still as sobering as a cold shower.
I am beyond blessed to belong to a church that, from the top leadership to the newest child in our kids’ ministry, our entire team hungers for the Presence of God. We (you included, I’m certain) belong to a generation of God-seekers who understand that it is God and God only who makes the meaningful difference that our very existence craves.
Indeed, the deepest cry of man is answered as he responds to the Presence of God. As the Westminster Catechism goes, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” So it stands to reason, then, that the Church’s primary purpose is the same, simply on a larger scale.
But could it be that in churches laden with admirable intentions, we have still missed the point? If the point of a church’s existence is to respond, individually and corporately, to the Presence of God, then any element that itself receives first place in a church is bound to produce warped disciples. Have we celebrated the programs, ministries, and personalities more than Jesus? Is His Presence anywhere to be found? Certainly, we must utilize different elements to point people to Jesus (for example, the sermon or the music), but if any of these mere elements themselves becomes the priority, we have already lost.
Let me reiterate. Say the priority in a church is the sermon itself, instead of utilizing the sermon to see people respond to the Presence of God. Out of a high value for the Word of God—which is a beautiful value indeed—that church may churn out well-educated scholars who can explain the difference between transubstantiation, consubstantiation, and memorialism, or who are even challenged to be morally better people… but what is the point if these scholars don’t actually respond to the Presence of Jesus?
And the same goes for a church whose single priority is the music, or the youth ministry, or a charismatic figurehead, or the monthly breakfast, or the …
Even stripped down to the individual level, spiritual disciplines themselves are worthless without the Presence of God. What sort of works-based religion is it if I rise before dawn every morning to read the Word of God and yet neglect the very Presence of Whom inspired it?
Spokes on a wheel are crucial because that’s what holds the wheel together… but the point of each spoke is so that the wheel may roll forward. Likewise, studying the Bible, singing in worship, engaging in a sermon, and even prayer is only effective when it drives us into — and we encounter — the Presence of almighty God. Any of these elements without His Presence is ultimately worthless.
I hope you hear my heart, and that you are challenged to find God’s Presence in whatever it is you’re doing. Worship leaders, ask yourself: Has it become about the song instead of about creating space where people can respond to His Presence? Teachers, ask yourself: Has it become about the sermon instead of about setting people up to respond to His Presence? Church leaders, ask yourself: Has it become about the systems, programs, and ministries instead of about seeing people respond to His Presence? Even personally, ask yourself: Have I prioritized simply reading the Bible, fasting, or prayer instead of seeking His living and intimate Presence by means of reading the Bible, fasting, or prayer? Do you see the difference?
The worship of Jesus, and working for Jesus, without an honest hunger for the Presence of Jesus is hollow, stale, and no salvation is found in it.
Jesus, let me be like Moses, that great prophet who declared he would not move forward unless Your Presence went with him. Oh, to be like David who admitted that he panted for the Presence of the holy God as a weary deer panted for water. Yes! I pray that for you, as well. I pray that the statistic I mentioned above would be proven utterly false in these end times: that our churches would be so hinged on the Presence of God, so submissively dependent on His Spirit.
Seek His Presence today, friends. Not emotion, not a program, not a personality. Seek Jesus… and we will find Him.
P.S. If this post challenged you or raised questions, perhaps check out an earlier post of mine, “Worshipers & Workers.”