Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Dispelling the Fog Machine (The Presence-Driven Church)

Linda, on a Michigan beach

Years ago one of our youth leaders bought a fog machine. One night we put it in our church building's gym, invited our kids to a roller skating party, and fired the machine up. I felt like a kid as I watched fog fill the room, and skaters emerging out of the thickness only to disappear as they rolled past me.

I thought about bringing it into the sanctuary. On a Sunday morning. I'll be back stage. Worship will be happening. Someone pushes a button.

The fog.

It's pointed toward the platform. It achieves the texture of cumulus clouds. I emerge.

No one sees me yet. Rock guitars screaming a Queen-like worship song. Colored stage lights suspended on scaffolding rotating side to side.

The house lights are down.

Spotlights on.

Through the cloud of glory a podium is seen.

There, approaching from  behind, the shadow of a human figure.

It is I.

I preach. How awesome am I? There is a hush as people put their phones away.

I look better in the dark. I appear sculpted and trim. I am a rock star of a preacher wearing tight jeans.

The alarm goes off. I wake up, and put on the bathrobe I've had for twenty years. My hair, what there is of it, is punked, au natural.

I shake my head and breathe a sigh of relief. The nightmare is over. I reassure myself - "I am not pastor of a performance-driven church."

The presence-driven apostle Paul once wrote:

You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it—and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else. (1 Cor. 2)

No staging.

No ambiance.

No set up.

No performance.

No fog machine (but, yes, we do have one).

Just faith.

Just Jesus.

Just the Spirit.

Just the power of God.

Just his presence.

I'm working on two books - Leading the Presence-Driven Church, and Transformation: How God Shapes the Human Heart.

My book on prayer is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.