The following thoughts were put together in response to a question about churches ignoring the Holy Spirit in practice and worship:
5 words come to mind; limitation, tradition, scheduling, programming, and performance.
Right out of the gate, let me address the issue of attributing experiences (not found in Scripture) to the work of the Holy Spirit. In my honest analysis, some things going on in the name of the Holy Spirit are works of demons, and therefore would be considered blasphemous (attributing the work of Satan to the work of the Holy Spirit). Just because someone says the Holy Spirit is doing ‘this’ or saying ‘that’, doesn’t make it so. The Holy Spirit always works in conjunction with truth found in Scripture, therefore we can identity something that isn’t right which has been attributed to the Holy Spirit. This is why the Apostle John admonishes us to test or try the spirits. Most people would not recognize that I am referring to what they perceive as normal “spirit filled” activity. The reason being, that we read things from our own perspective without questioning ourselves and our practices. It is very hard for humans to deprogram from the practices they are accustomed to. This is true for everyone involved in this conversation.
Limitation: When a church functions within a box that was created by opinions, wrong motives, and a fear of being associated with “them” (whoever them might be) it creates limitations for God to move. This word limitation probably sums up the other four words we will discuss. Ultimately, we cannot limit the work of the Holy Spirit in the World, but we can in a very practical sense ask him to go work somewhere else, because we have our own way of doing things. One thing that must be understood in order for the Spirit of Christ to move and empower a congregation, is that it is His church, not ours. “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). I do not believe all churches (including Baptists) limit the Holy Spirit, though Ichabod (I Samuel 4:21) has been written above the door of many local congregations.
Tradition: The Holy Spirit is in the life transformation business. Any tradition that isn’t producing God honoring life change is hindering the work of the Holy Spirit. The church’s main purpose is to preach the gospel and make disciples that make disciples. We should ask of everything we are doing, “Why are we doing this, and what is it producing?”. The unwillingness to make changes that are necessary for transformation to occur, in essence is a choice that chooses tradition over the work of God.
Scheduling: I will just say here, that God isn’t limited to working on a particular day of the week, and we should open our schedules up to changes in meeting times for the purpose of being most effective. If my whole town works at a factory on Sunday morning, then church attendance on Sunday morning might be a little low. Beside the point I just made, the early churches met in homes every day of the week (Acts 2:41-47). Everything doesn’t have to be scheduled at the church building. The place of worship is not as important as the person of worship. “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” (John 4:21). An assembly can gather under a shade tree.
Programming: We are programmed down to our prayers. Our idea of prayer today is calling on Bro. SoSo at offering time. He prays the exact same prayer (every time) he prays at the supper table. So much so, that the kids hear it so often they memorize it, and pray the exact same prayer Bro. SoSo prayed. I think it goes something like, “Use this offering to the nourishment of our bodies.” You get the point, there is very little prayer and calling out to God on behalf of unbelievers and for revival in our cities. Jesus said, my Father’s house shall be called a house of prayer. Churches need to spend more time praying for salvation of individuals, and for boldness to preach the gospel. If there is one thing that must change in churches today, it is the amount of time we spend praying. “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31). The filling of the Holy Spirit is linked to prayer. It is OK to trash your order of service and just pray together as a church!
Performance: We have turned our worship services into a performance or the other extreme (dead boring). We are more concerned with what people like and think about our services than we are with God and genuine worship. Again, not every church falls into this category. There are a lot of things we can do as churches, if our motive is to honor God, preach the Word, and call for transformation though repentance and faith; but indeed that must be our motive. The key goes back to the question of, “Why are we doing this?”. This paragraph is not to say, do this or don’t do that, but the point is to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, instead of our fleshly ideas. There should be more performance of genuine good works outside of the meeting place, than on a stage. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).
The truth is, men spend more time repeating what other men said and are doing, rather than repeating and doing as the Spirit leads in conjunction with Scripture. I hope this post at least creates conversation that leads to changed lives. To God be the glory!