Today I begin a serialization of Chapter 4 from The Spirit Filled Church. Please buy the book and consider joining Terry Virgo in person at 300 Leaders.
Empowered by The Spirit And The Word
For me, being baptized with the Holy Spirit was like the knocking over of a first domino in a line of dominoes which are still falling. The implications for my church life were radical.
At the time of the early outbreak of charismatic life there were two schools of thought. One was that this was a private and personal experience which need not interfere in any way with your normal experience of church-going. The other was a realization that something fresh and new was happening that demanded a new wineskin to cope with the new wine.
Jesus warned about the dangers of pouring new wine into an old wineskin and said that no one used new cloth to sew up an old garment. The presence of the Holy Spirit was fresh, exciting and attractive. Jesus was so much more manifestly present amongst us. Surely we were not meant to interpret this experience in purely private ways. The Scripture says that the manifestation of the Spirit is for the common good (1 Corinthians 10:8). Evidently, if others were to benefit, there had to be a sharing of the gifts in a public context, not exclusively in private.
The gathered church is meant to be a place where the presence of the Holy Spirit is evident; you can’t miss Him if He is manifest! We are expected to be a Spirit-filled community, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody” to the Lord with all our heart (Ephesians 5:19). As Gordon Fee argues, “Perhaps most noteworthy from the available evidence is the free, spontaneous nature of worship in Paul’s churches, apparently orchestrated by the Spirit himself. Worship is expressed in a variety of ways and with the (potential) participation of everyone (1 Corinthians 14:26)” (Gordon Fee, Paul, the Spirit and the People of God, Hodder & Stoughton, 1997).
Things must change
Structures had to change. Space had to be made for God to freely work amongst us. Gradually it became clear that the widespread growth of charismatic life was resulting in fresh expressions of church. People who had no previous experience of this kind of church began to gather in homes and informal contexts to worship and celebrate the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Those “heady” days seem long ago now. Many of the house churches which I helped to get started have grown to a substantial size. Several that began with one or two dozen people are now in their several hundreds, and what for many began as “the house church movement” seems to be rapidly becoming the “warehouse church movement” as worshippers crowd into premises formerly used for industrial purposes but now packed with enthusiastic worshippers of God.
Lessons learned in the informality of private homes had to be translated into a new setting. Relaxed intimacy could continue but the developing of relationships had to be pursued in multiplied small groups.
Worship inevitably became affected by the new setting and the growing numbers. Musical instruments, PA, platforms and overheads all had to be brought into use. Nevertheless, the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit is non-negotiable. Paul defines the true people of God as those who “worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).
Paul describes church life as awash with the Holy Spirit. In Corinth he urged that things should be done decently and in order so that, for instance, there should only be two or three prophesying, and two or three speaking in tongues and being interpreted. The New Testament church was profoundly aware of the presence of God. Even outsiders would be undone and uncovered, “declaring that God is certainly among you” (1 Corinthians 14:25).
Sadly, this had not been my previous experience as a member of a good evangelical church which was greatly enriched by the outstanding preaching ministry of its pastor. I had often been arrested, convicted, comforted and inspired by his superb preaching gift, but during the hymn-singing that preceded his teaching one never encountered the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
Clear biblical factors rooted in the presence of the Holy Spirit were missing in our church life. There was need for restoration in the church, not merely personal renewal or even revival but structural restoration. Foundational issues had to be addressed. Things had to change!
Copyright. Used by permission of Monarch Books.