Back in November I spent a weekend doing what I love most: teaching and encouraging a group of leaders from a local church. We had a proposed agenda for Friday night and all day Saturday, but we quickly scrapped that outline and let God have His way. As we prayed and prophesied over each person, the spiritual temperature of that church went from cool to hot within 24 hours. I love it when God takes over!
After Sunday morning's message, in which I shared how to be filled with the Holy Spirit, people who wanted that experience jammed the altar. More folks lined up for prayer after the service, too, including a young man who needed to get his heart right with God.
When the Holy Spirit is present in power, spiritual hunger rises. Healing and joy are released. The flame inside us is fanned into a blaze, and our dying embers come alive.
But as I look around at churches today, even among congregations that use the Pentecostal or charismatic label, it appears that Pentecost has become a stale concept. Many churches have intentionally turned their spiritual thermostats way down below room temperature in an effort to be relevant and sophisticated.
We wanted to fit in with the culture so badly that we moved uptown, reinvented our message and remodeled our altars. I'm all for making changes to reach a new audience. But I fear that the fire on our altars went out while we were buying our expensive sound systems and installing coffee bars.
We've invented a new variety of dry religion. It looks nothing like your grandmother's three-hymns-and-a-boring-lecture. Today's version includes upbeat music, a casual dress code, relaxed meeting times and popcorn sermons. We even use PowerPoint and movie clips! We're proud to say, “Hey, we're not religious!”
But let's remember that if we aren't open to the Holy Spirit-and if we aren't willing to take the risks involved in Pentecost-then our trendy, postmodern worship experience can become as boring as a three-hour pipe organ concert.
Please hear me. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with PowerPoint or coffee lounges. I'm glad we have cordless microphones and Jumbotron video screens. We should use the newest technology to reach our culture. But there's nothing worse than an American megachurch full of high-tech gadgets that is devoid of genuine spiritual life.
Does anybody out there notice that something is missing? Look around at your own church. Is the Holy Spirit welcome?
How long has it been since someone gave a prophecy or a message in tongues in a service? Do sick people come to the altar for healing? How long has it been since someone was so overcome by conviction that they ran to the front seeking salvation?
Are things so regimented that God can't interrupt man's programs? It's time to look beyond our slick facades and recover what's been misplaced-before we lose a generation.
We are in the same predicament as the sons of the prophets who turned to Elisha for help (see 2 Kings 6:1-7). They were busy building their house when one of the men dropped his ax head in the Jordan River. He had lost his most valuable tool, and he couldn't build anything without it.
The man cried for help and Elisha supernaturally discerned where the ax head was submerged. Then Elisha caused the heavy iron tool to float to the surface of the water.
In all our religious busyness we must recognize that we've lost the ax head. We're trying to build ministries without the one tool that can do the job. Maybe we thought we could use a cheaper substitute, but our lightweight imitations don't work.
We may dress and perform like hip, tech-savvy, 21st century Christians, but we don't have the power of Pentecost. We've become dull and helpless.
We must return to the Jordan-the place where the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus-and cry out to God for His power to be restored. We must have the Spirit's sharp edge. Only He can cut through sinful hearts and spark the blaze that will engulf our nation in authentic spiritual revival.
J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma and author of 10 Lies the Church Tells Women (Charisma House). You can read his biweekly online column at www.charismanow.com.