Where does God fit in?

A.W.Tozer wrote: “If God had taken His Holy Spirit out of
the Early Church, 95% of the activity would have stopped and everybody would
have noticed the difference. If God were to take His Holy Spirit out of the
church today, 95% of the activity would go on as before and nobody would notice
the difference?”

Perhaps God already HAS
taken His Spirit out of the church – but we just haven’t noticed yet! In the
activities of our churches, and in our own lives as ministers, we see lots of enthusiasm
and hard work. But looking more closely it can be humbling to ask, “Where does
God fit in?” 

I want to stress that these questions come from 25 years in
ministry and experiences in Mission Consultancy, Mentoring and discussions at
Ministers’ Fellowships in various places. I am delighted to say that these are
NOT issues which challenge the church at North Springfield – which makes a
refreshing change from other places.

Worship is supposed to be a dynamic encounter with the
Living God. We could be very depressed if we reflected honestly on how rarely
our people meet with God in our services. How rarely they are overwhelmed by
His love and joy and peace. How rarely they learn something from our preaching
(or indeed in Home Groups, or personal devotions, if they still do these) which
transforms their lives or brings them even a little bit closer to Jesus. On an
average week, where does God fit in to our worship?

The Early Church didn’t have a “strategy” for outreach or
evangelism. In the words of Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, the primary witness of the
Early Church was the work of the Holy Spirit, in signs and wonders, miracles of
healing and deliverance, in prophetic messages and dreams and visions, in
transformed lives and sacrificial love. God the Holy Spirit moved, everybody
wanted to know, “How did that happen?” 
And the Christians’ response was, “God did that!” Today we have so many
programmes for outreach (I have used some and I have written my own too) but,
really, where does God fit in to our outreach?

In the process of recognition of a call to ministry, in
training for ministry, in the process of Mentoring for Newly Accredited
Ministers, in patterns of appraisal and “Continuing Professional Development”,
the emphasis is almost entirely on knowledge and understanding and skills
useful in ministry. Qualities of holiness, spirituality, prayerfulness and
passion for God are undervalued and in some situations even regarded as
suspicious! From day to day, where does God fit in to our calling and practice of

Deacons (and Elders if appointed) are supposed to be the
spiritual core of the church. But in these days Deacons must bear
responsibilities as Managing Trustees under Charity Law and as Employers under
employment and pension law. They must navigate Health and Safety, Child
Protection and countless other legal minefields. In many churches some of the
more prayerful and holy people refuse to stand as Deacons, so the church ends
up being led by managers. In some churches such “leaders” are conspicuously
absent on the days of prayer and nights of prayer. They never lead worship or
preach – they just make the legal and financial decisions which define and
constrain the activities and the direction of the church. Somebody said that “a
church will never rise above the spirituality of its leadership.” In some
churches the Spirit is being strangled by regulation and red tape.  Where does God fit in to our leadership

God should be at the centre of everything we are and
everything we do as believers and as churches. Nowhere should this be more
apparent than in our prayer lives, individually and corporately. In fact in
many churches, prayer is less important than it has ever been. Former BMS
Missionary  Eric Westwood said this in
his address as the President of the Baptist Union: “We must write prayer again
into the lifestyle of our churches; meaningful prayer, urgent prayer, repentant
prayer, constant prayer, Spirit-led prayer, even sacrificial prayer!” When he
was General Secretary of the Baptist Union, David Coffey said this. “Many
churches need to recover this lost principle. Not prayer as a token gesture,
some spiritual national anthem where we profess loyalty to the King and then
proceed to the real purpose of our gathering. But urgent and dynamic prayer
that seeks God in such a manner that everyone becomes aware that, unless God
intervenes, we are doomed!

In worship, outreach, ministry, leadership and our prayer
lives – where does God fit in?

A.W.Tozer also wrote, “The presence is more important than
the programme!!! Whether it was worship or evangelism or fellowship the Early
Church never relied on any programme but always gathered together in the
greater glory of the Presence of God.” Writing 50 years ago, prophetic
words fulfilled in so many of the so-called “successful” churches today, Tozer
warns that, “In these days all too often the programme has been
substituted for the presence.  The
programme rather than the Lord of glory is the centre of attraction.”
Tozer goes on, “If we make Christ the supreme and constant object of
devotion the programme will take its place as a gentle aid!”

Here are some of the questions:
We must make sure that prayer is indeed at the heart of everything we do.
We must not let charity law and health and safety stand in the way of being the
church and taking risks for the gospel.
We must be prepared to go out on a limb for God, “Attempting great things for
God and expecting great things from God” (William Carey)
We must put the spiritual growth of our congregations at the top of our tasks
of ministry – one way being “Making Disciples One-to-One.”

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