Tuesday, May 03, 2022

No Shameful Entertainment In the Presence-Driven Church

One of our Redeemer kids

I am an aging guitar player. I started lessons on the steel guitar at age five, transitioned to electric guitar, and then added acoustic guitar, especially finger style picking. As a teen I loved big, loud, Marshall amplifiers. Stacks of them, piled to the rooftops!

I liked ambiance. There was something about playing in dimly lit bars, on a little stage, with colored lighting. I always looked better in the dark.

I liked black lights and fog machines and dry ice and incense and Hammond B-3 organs and strobe lights and long hair and bell bottoms. Even though the bands I played in were short-lived and unknown, these things made us look and sound better than we really were. At the time, these things were thought to be cool, and people looked at you like you were cool if you played in a band that slowly emerged through the false, foggy atmosphere holding Fender guitars slung to the waist.

This is called Entertainment.

Then, I had an encounter with God. My life direction was forever changed. My friends changed, my drug habit changed (it was gone), I changed my major in college, I stopped dating for a year, I picked up a Bible and began to read, the music I listened to changed, I became a youth leader in a church, I became a public speaker (the thing I most feared in life!), my habits began to change, the way I viewed life and reality changed, and my experiences changed, because my heart was changing and transforming. I realized I needed a lot more changing, and that attitude was a change for me. God did something to me that a black light with some added fog and dry ice failed to do.

This is called Power. Real Power effects change.

Power is what we were told in the book of Acts would happen when the Holy Spirit gets into a person. "You shall receive Power," said Jesus.

Real Church is a Power Encounter with the Holy Spirit. This has nothing to do with Entertainment. Entertainment is programmable and predictable. It gets old, quickly. It can be fun to go to a show or a concert, but who would want to see the same thing week after week?

In the Presence-Driven Church no Sunday is the same. This is because the Spirit is allowed to lead, and the Spirit cannot be programmed, and is essentially unpredictable, from our cognitively shrunken point of view.

A Presence-Driven Church has a cost. The pastors and the people must have a habitual praying life. They must resolutely abide in Christ. They must have a worshiping lifestyle. Their focus must be on knowing God, not on knowing about God. They must be servants, rather than rulers. They must become familiar with God, a result of which will be increasing discernment and hearing from God. Pastors in Presence-Driven Churches become facilitators of God's presence, and are equipped to do so because their primary act is spending much time with God. You won't need a black light to do this.

James McDonald writes:

"A real encounter with the living God changes everything. First, it magnifies the Lord, and then it puts me and my ego and my sin and my burdens all in their rightful place.
That is what church is supposed to do and be. Not an encounter with the glory of God in creation but an encounter with God in a different, even more awesome way that only church can provide. However, church today as a weekly experience with the manifest glory of God is the greatest lack we face. The lost are not found because God’s glory is not revealed in church. Children wander because church is pathetically predictable or shamefully entertaining but hardly ever authentically God." (MacDonald, 
Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs for. What Every Church Can Be, Kindle Locations 56-61)