A Different Model for Church Growth
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. – Acts 2:4
No matter what denominational background you are from, and no matter what you believe about what speaking in tongues looks like, I hope that we can all agree that when a sinful, human body is filled with the Holy Spirit of God, that person will eventually speak very differently. On this particular Pentecost in Acts 2, the lives of the disciples of Jesus were changed forever. They went from hiding in an upper room wondering if they were going to die at the hands of Roman soldiers to being filled with God’s Spirit, leaving that room, and not giving a rip if they died. A great heart transformation took place. They were truly empowered to do the work of God.
In my own experience, I sought for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit in my early twenties, about five to six years after I was saved. I wanted to speak in tongues like the people I saw. If I didn’t speak in tongues, I wanted to interpret someone who did, like the people I saw. One Sunday night, I went forward seeking the Baptism in the Holy Ghost. Every hand in that church connected as they laid their hands on me. All I remember is that something like light filled my darkened soul. Though I didn’t speak in tongues like I thought I would, God gave me a different Spiritual gift. He would actually give me the very first gift on the list mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8: The Word of wisdom through the Spirit. I didn’t know it then, but from that day forward, I had an intense desire to read the Word. I didn’t just desire to read it; my desire was to understand it. Slowly but surely, I began to talk differently. Whereas before all I wanted to talk about was golf, music, movies, video games, and sports, now I wanted to talk about God.
Here is the deal: God intends for each of us to have our own flame. He intends for each one of us as members of His body of believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit. What we have going on right now in the American church is strange. I observe two types of preachers right now. One type is simply applying a business growth model and appearing very successful. If you find the right location, create the right look, brand a really cool logo, and present any non-offensive part of the Bible Sunday after Sunday with a really high-quality presentation that rivals the entertainment that you find in the world, and if that presentation is presented by a really cool looking dynamic speaker, you are almost guaranteed numerical success.
On the other hand (and only slightly better), there are preachers who I believe have a true flame of the Holy Spirit. They really know God and without a doubt are uttering His Words straight from His throne. In many of these churches, people flock to see the Holy Spirit emanate from their pastor/reverend/teacher. The unfortunate part is that the people in the congregation are content to be entertained by their flame. They want their pastor to study the Word and ascend the Holy Mountain to be with God throughout the week. They want their pastor to come down from that mountain with face shining and carrying a powerful word. They want hours and hours of study condensed into nice Cliff’s Notes so they gain understanding without having to labor. As Americans, we love maximum reward for minimum effort.
I think God is showing me a third type of model involving Spirit filled preachers that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen put into practice, and I’m sure praying this morning that I get to see it before I draw my last breath on this Earth.
Who got filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2?
All of them.
What would it be like to walk into a room where everyone in the entire room was really filled with the Spirit of God? What if to cultivate this Spirit, a leader had to cut some people loose and allow them to go elsewhere for a season? What if you had to do like Jesus did and run off crowds and crowds of people who wanted the benefits of following Him, but absolutely none of the responsibility in order to keep them away from the twelve who would go on to change the world in three short years? What if a Spirit filled pastor did not mind smaller numbers until each person in the congregation had the fire of God burning inside of them?
I’ll tell you the answer.
Anyone who encountered such a group of people would be changed forever.
The world around that group of people would be changed forever.
Lord, please let me see it.