We live in a strange church age. We live in an age where the Pentecostals and charismatics shy away from the Holy Spirit. They deny tongues, they relegate healing to a secret back room in the service. Or in other churches, the gifts are limited (restricted?) to the full time super-anointed clergy where the laity are supposed to hear God via the priests.
Neither is a Biblical model, and neither is – or ever will be – the culture of Tree of Life Church.
Last Sunday – which was Easter Sunday – we turned up to our church to find out projector was not working properly. We had no words, no videos, no high fluting multi-media. I told the worship band we are going to have to do this without words. I got up and told the church we are going to have to worship without the screen today.
We started singing in the Spirit, singing in tongues, singing songs from the Spirit of God. Someone got up and sung a song in the Spirit, someone got up and sung the interpretation. The presence of God was so strong that I could barely stand. The atmosphere was thick with the glory of God.
It will always be our culture in Tree of Life that we flow in the Spirit, that we flow in the gifts of the Spirit, that everyone will be encouraged to be filled with the Spirit and flow in His gifts and goodness and grace. The gifts are not for the clergy, they are for the body.
Obviously when you have 150 people meeting in a room, it’s hard to let everyone have a chance to move in the gifts. Even harder when we start hitting the numbers we are dreaming off in Dagenham and other places. That’s why we are so committed to our small groups in the church. So we can get to know each other, worship together, study together but also so we can minister supernaturally to one another.
So how do you build a culture that is full of the Spirit? That’s a big question, and one of the hardest we have to answer for a number of reasons – one, a lot of people are nervous about the Holy Spirit because of bad experiences; two, not all that glitters is gold – not everything that says it is the Spirit of God is! We have had more than our fair share of false prophetic words, condemning messages and people trying to resurrect Old Testament ideas and drag them into the better New Covenant; and thirdly, because some people just don’t want to be in a church environment where the Spirit flows. They like being in control themselves. I don’t get that third one personally – when the singing began last Sunday, I knew I wasn’t in control anymore, God was, and I loved it. He is the best leader, the best Shepherd, the best King!
So we have to ensure that we are policing the spiritual without being so heavy handed that no one is prepared to step out and give it a go! We have to focus on small groups, we have to teach the Word and teach about the gifts and the love, and the goodness of God.
We line all our utterances, supernatural and natural, against three lynch pins:
- Does it sound like Jesus. If you have seen Jesus you have seen the Father. If a word comes forth that we cannot imagine Jesus saying, then we are concerned.
- Does it sound like the crucifixion and resurrection has happened. A lot of prophetic seems to forget about the cross. We want the cross and resurrection to be the heart of our supernatural ministry. It is complete, it is finished, it is done!
- Does it sound like the Bible. The Bible is the Word of God, and we want to keep to the Bible. We want to ensure that we rightly divide the Word though, and don’t bring obsolete covenant ideas into the better covenant. We might not all agree on how it should be divided, but I think we should be all aware that it needs to be divided, and it is still the sole written basis for our faith.
We also need to distinguish between weakness and wickedness. A new person, who genuinely loves the Lord, gives their first prophecy, and it starts off powerful and in the Spirit but they don’t know when to end, and it ends flat in the flesh. That’s just weakness of the human, I wouldn’t even correct that publicly, I would simply love that person and maybe in private say “Learn to end well”.
But a lady who has come from another church (this situation happened to us recently), but still goes to your house group, gets up and prophesies death on our church, prophesies that we are all ignoring the Lord and that the Lord will judge us severely unless we follow her. That is wicked. It is manipulation, it is intimidation. It is control, it is witchcraft. It is taking the Lord’s name in vain. It needed to be publicly and clearly stopped and exposed. And it was. And the lady left our fellowship.
But even with situations like these to deal with, having the gifts is ALWAYS better than not having them. Learn to create a culture where there is a fullness of the Spirit, not an emptiness.