Title: Looking at Spirit Ministry Afresh
Looking at Spirit Ministry Afresh
Part 2: The Expectation of a Spirit-led Church
A glimpse into a Sunday morning service
NB. There is no 'Contents' to this page as it is anticipated you will read the page straight through in its entirety
I have been asked to teach on living the spiritual life, walking in the Spirit, hearing from God etc. i.e. a spirit-led church. The difficulty is that so often we see the teaching in scripture but cannot envisage how it works out today. Instead of preaching what I feel the Lord would have me do this morning is provide a representation of a spirit-led church on a Sunday morning. That is all it is and therefore it omits many other facets of the life of a church, but it does try and focus on the possibilities of church life when the church gathers together.
All I can say is that I have sought to conform a) to scripture and b) to the experiences of church life I have known in the past.
Two of the early arrivals were the band's drummer, Dave, and his cousin Martin. As they entered the building, Dave said, “Welcome to our church. I hope while you're staying with us for these few days, you'll find the church a blessing.”
“Thanks,” Martin replied, I expect I will.”
The two wandered through the main room to the Coffee Lounge at the rear where already the smell of fresh coffee was starting to drift out.
Dave explained. “For a quarter of an hour before the service starts, we encourage quietness in the main room for people to come in and be still before the Lord and start sensing His presence. There may be some quiet and gentle music in the background but it won't be invasive. Quite a lot of people will come in here beforehand and fellowship and have a coffee. Some people travel in quite a distance and so it is nice for them to just be able to come in here first and relax with a coffee before going into the service.”
Over the next half hour Martin met members of the church who came in and he chatted and watched what went on while Dave went off to check his drum kit. As he sat and watched, several times he saw two's and three's around the coffee tables pause up and pray and lay hands on one of the group who was clearly being ministered to. Things obviously happened here before “the service”; a good sign.
In that time a number of people had come in, some obviously at home there, others being invited in who were visitors , and as he listened to what was being said around him the visitors were clearly a mix of Christians and seekers, but he was touched by the gentle hospitality that each one received as members showed them where to get coffee, where the toilets were, and explained about the start of the service. Some of the visitors had stayed in the coffee lounge while others had moved into the main room and settled themselves, often in the back half of the room where they could be part of what was going on and yet observe from a good vantage point what was happening.
With five minutes to go Martin moved into the main area and found himself a seat. There was a gentle peace filling the room. Every couple of minutes the screen at the front had a different verse of Scripture to help people think on the Lord.
Start of the Service
Eventually it was obviously ‘start time' and a leader went to one of the four stand microphones that stood in an arc across the front of the room and started to gently pray, welcoming the Lord to their gathering: “Lord Jesus, we thank you that you are here. We pause in your presence and acknowledge your greatness. We thank you that you are both our Lord and our Saviour and that you love and have died for each and every one of us here this morning. Lord, we need the help of your Holy Spirit to make us sensitive to your presence. Open our hearts, open our ears to hear what you want to say and do this morning as we gather with you. Holy Spirit please come.”
There was a pause and a silence and then a gentle ripple of praise and thanks across the room.
The Leader turned to the people. “Good morning. It's good to be together in God's presence isn't it? If you are visiting this morning, we'd like you to feel completely relaxed and be part of all that goes on. Our main desire as we come here is to sense the leading of God together, because one of the things about being a Christian is that we can learn to listen to God and receive His love in a variety of ways. If you have been to other churches you will find, perhaps, that our emphasis is not on music as it is so often elsewhere, but on focusing in different ways on God's presence and making space for Him to speak or move. ‘God is love', the Bible says and He is here this morning to express His love, and our worship, as and when it comes, will be a response to that activity of God in our midst. Music will be an instrument that we will use to help us be aware of His presence and to allow His Spirit to flow in and through us.”
With that he stepped back and one of the women from the group of men and women scattered around the front, in front of the band, stepped up and started to sing unaccompanied. In many ways her words echoed something of that which the leader had prayed but Martin, who came from a more traditional evangelical church, found the beautiful spontaneity of the singing moving and lifting. As she came to a stop, the band gently led in to a quiet worship song, and the words appeared on the screen at the front and the people joined in.
Singing in the Spirit
To Martin's surprise, because he had not experienced this before, the song, instead of ending, seemed to melt into a form of free flowing music that he found difficult to describe – free flowing but with limited chords and repeated phrasing with an unearthly beauty about it. People all around him were gently harmonizing with the music in words and language he could not understand, strange and yet beautiful. As it flowed on he found himself a yearning spectator, yearning to have this freedom to flow in a worship that went beyond the intellect, and he became aware of tears running down his face. Eventually the music came to an end and there was a heavy silence.
Speaking in tongues
Suddenly there was the clear voice of a woman speaking out in a language, if you could call it that, that was completely unknown to him. It flowed for about half a minute and then there was a silence. Then another woman's voice spoke and poured out the inner yearnings of her heart, it appeared to Martin, in a most beautiful way, crying to the Lord for meaning and purpose while surrendering before His greatness. When it came to the end there was a holy silence, but then a snuffling and outright crying from another woman, a visitor: “But that's exactly what I have been feeling when I came in here this morning. How could she know?”
Explanation & further ministry
The leader at the front stepped up to the microphone again. “If you are visiting this morning, and have never witnessed this sort of thing before, what we have just heard is what is called the gift of tongues followed by the interpretation, the inner cry of the heart in prayer which can often be identified with by others in the congregation. It is just another way of God releasing His Holy Spirit through us, for us to realize in a different form His love for us. He understands and is there for you. Cheryl and Cathy, would like to pray with our guest?”
Martin watched as two women went and invited the lady to go to the back where they could pray for her. He suspected that the two ladies in question were the ones who had brought the tongue and the interpretation.
The band led into a strong worship song and Martin found himself just caught up in the wonder of the words and the power of the music. As it came to an end, a number of people flowed on in prayer filled with praise and thanksgiving for the next couple of minutes.
Waiting on God and Ministry
As the prayer time came to an end, the leader stepped up again and said, “We're going to have a time of waiting on the Lord to allow Him to minister to us as He wills. Again, if you are a visitor, we invite you to just watch and listen and maybe the Lord might have something for you.”
Martin noted that several of the men and women near the front moved nearer the microphones. Music played very quietly in the background but otherwise a stillness prevailed.
Word for a difficult work situation
After a minute of so, one of the men stepped to a microphone and appeared to direct what he was saying to one of the men on the other side, away from where Martin was sitting.
“Colin, many of us have been praying for your difficult work situation over this past week, that you shared with us last Sunday. I feel the Lord has put before me a verse from Nehemiah 4 where the builders of the wall had been facing opposition and we read, “we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat .” Note that they both prayed and took wise action. I believe the Lord would say to you, “Son, I am there for you in that situation and I want you to continually bring that situation to me in prayer until the change comes, but in the meantime listen to me and I will share my wisdom with you so that you may know what action you are to take in the meantime, and I will use that action to melt the hearts of others there in your work place.” A man on the second row across from Martin nodded.
The main leader stepped forward again and addressed the speaker. “Des, why don't you and Phil take Colin out back and pray with him for that wisdom.” Des, Colin and another man unknown to Martin went out of the side door to pray.
Word about an unsaved husband
One of the women near the front stepped up to the nearest microphone and addressed herself to what turned out to be a women three along the row from Martin. “Angela, I know your heart aches for your husband to come to the Lord and I sense the Lord is saying to you, “Daughter, this is your time.” May I read to you and remind you of the apostle Peter's words, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.” I believe the Lord would encourage you and say, “My daughter, I am blessed by my beauty that shines in and through you. You have been patient and persevered but it is not my intent that your husband remain in the darkness any longer, and I want you to know in that in the month ahead I will be working in his heart. Continue to pray for him and be ready when he suggests he comes along here one Sunday in a month's time. This is both your time and his. Your joy will be full.”
Martin, looking along the row, saw tears pouring down Angela's face.
The leader, still at the other microphone, spoke. “OK folks you know the procedure. Carrie would you and Dawn like to go and pray with Angela.”
As they women moved off together, he turned to the rest of the congregation.
“In case you are visiting and are wondering, whenever the Lord brings a word of knowledge or prophecy encouraging someone, we always think it is good to pray that word in with them to complete the encouragement and build a sense of fellowship; we're here for one another. Let's have a pause for a few minutes. Musicians, do you have something for us?”
The girl who had sung at the beginning of the service stepped up to the microphone again and started to sing, again unaccompanied and quite obviously spontaneously. The words seemed to flow from heaven and all over the room tears were running down faces at the beauty of the Lord's love being poured into the room.
As she came to a halt, the leader uttered, “That was beautiful; let's just be silent for a moment or two to give ourselves time to absorb the beauty of that.”
There was silence for a minute or so, and then he spoke again.
“There is a real sense of the Lord's presence here and I have that feeling that He wants to minister in some very practical ways. Can we wait on Him a little longer?”
Word of knowledge for healing
Then another of the women near the front stepped up to a microphone. “I've just become aware of a pain in my left ankle. Is there someone here who has injured their ankle?”
A voice near the back piped up. It was a young man. “Yes, I twisted my ankle playing football yesterday afternoon, and I've got it strapped up but it's really painful and stiff”
The girl at the front smiled, “Well, I believe God wants to heal it for you. Would a couple from the healing team like to pray for Mike?” A couple of men accompanied the young man out for prayer.
Word releasing help for a financial situation
Another of the men near the front stepped up to a microphone: “I have a sense that there is someone here who has a financial problem and the Lord would like to help you. Is there someone who finds a stirring within them over that?”
A young woman with a small child beside her replied hesitantly. “Well, I don't know if this is what you mean, and I know it's down to my stupidity really, but our house insurance ran out last week and I hadn't got round to renewing it because we were short of money and then on Friday some local kids throw a stone through our big front window. The neighbour was very good and nailed a sheet of old ply over it as a temporary remedy but I went and talked to a local window firm and they say it will cost three hundred pounds to be repaired, and we just don't have that sort of money, so I don't know what to do, and I know it's my fault.”
man at the microphone smiled at her. “Well let's not worry about blame
for the moment; I just feel God wants to help you.”
“I'm with you. I believe the Lord wants to help you Jenny, and the way is simple and obvious. Church, Jenny has a need and we can meet it. Will someone take that ice cream box over there and pass it along the rows. Folks, if you'd like to bless Jenny put your change or spare notes in it.
While music played in the background the box went round and the money was counted.
“Two-seventy-five, folks. Hey, who held back?” Jeff laughed.
Three men got up at the same moment, looked at each other, hesitated and then all came forward and each dropped a twenty pound note in the box.
“Thanks guys, good of you. Thirty five pound bonus, Jenny. I think the Lord must be saying buy something for yourself to make up for the stress you've had, be blessed!” And he handed the box to her. “Thank you,” she replied somewhat lamely and with obvious embarrassment, “Thank you so much.”
Three words of knowledge and prophecy
The moment was saved by another man stepping up to a microphone. “I have three different word, for three people here. I don't know who they are, but they will know.
(1) The first one is a man. This morning, quite early before you came here, you went out into your garden and sat on a log and prayed and asked God for a sign that He was there. Nothing happened but you are here. This is the sign you asked for. The Lord says He heard you and understands what you are going through. Although the circumstances will not change, you will have a new sense of His presence with you and you will find a grace you have not known before. This situation will only carry on for another few weeks.
(2) The second word is for a woman who has been despairing over her son. You have not seen or heard from him for over three years. The Lord says to you, “My eyes are upon your son and I see all that he is going through. Give me your cares and leave him in my hands. I am doing a work in him and when he returns within the next six months you will see a great change in him. Simply continue to pray for him and leave him with me, but be at peace as you pray and turn your requests into thanks.
(3) The third word is for a teenager. The Lord says to you, “I understand all the thoughts and feelings that you have been having and I want to reassure you that your parents will not split up. I want you to commit them to me and listen to me, for I wish to share my wisdom with you so that you may know the role you have to play in their salvation. Rest in my love and know that within two years both of them will have committed their lives to me and will be new people, and you will have a new family. Be assured of my love for you all.”
There was a pause and a silence for a moment or two.
The main leader, Jeff, spoke. “If one of those words was for you, come and see us at the end of the morning and we will pray with you for your circumstances. Don't let drop anything that the Lord has spoken to you. I have a sense that that is all we have for this ministry time so let's just sing something by way of thanks to the Lord.”
“Can I say something before we do sing,” a voice broke in. It was Mike with the ankle. “I just wanted to testify that two of the guys prayed for my ankle and it is completely healed, completely restored. There is no longer any pain and it feels perfectly strong again. The Lord has healed me!”
There was a spontaneous round of applause and a number of ‘Hallelujahs'.
The band moved into a song of praise and thanksgiving.
Prophetic call for intercessors
As the song came to an end, the drummer, Martin's cousin, Dave, just carried on beating on one drum to a beat that sounded just like marching. Eventually he came to a halt.
One of the other men stepped up to a microphone. “I believe the Lord would say to us that there is a battle being waged in our linked church in Kosovo and they are need of spiritual warriors who will come along side them and wage warfare in the spiritual realms in intercessory prayer. The Lord is looking for those who will respond to this call and give a week of their time to fly out to that church and give a week of prayer to them. If this is you – and I believe the Lord is calling four people – please will you come and see Jeff at the end. I believe the church there is also struggling with the work of rebuilding the women's safe home and some practical help is required. Again, I believe the Lord is calling a half a dozen to give two weeks of their time to go and give themselves to this work. Again, do let Jeff know at the end if this touches your heart, and we will e-mail them and just check this need.”
Dispersal for teaching
Jeff stepped forward. “Amen! Well, I think it is time for our teaching times. If you are visiting us, this is a time where we divide up into different groups. The children and the teens will each go to their own rooms for the next half hour, and we invite the rest of you to go to one of the three areas indicated on the Notice sheet you will have found on your chair when you came in. In here I will be taking the subject entitled, “Jesus who brings wholeness,” while in the coffee lounge Martin will be continuing the theme of “Family Dynamics” and this week's subject is “Family Finances.” In the Green Room, Joyce will be taking a practical session on “Listening to God in the Quiet Places”. Each of the sessions will last no longer than about twenty minutes and each of them will be recorded and will be available tomorrow on the church's website. At the end of that time, teas and coffees will be served in the Coffee Lounge, and we invite you to stay on and share with us. If you would like someone to pray with you at the end, please come and have a word with any one of us wearing a red badge. OK, let's go to our groups,”
The people started standing up and there was general movement.
Martin decided he would stay in the main room and see what Jeff had to say about Jesus who brings wholeness.
Some half an hour later drummer Dave found his cousin drinking more coffee and chatting with people in the Coffee Lounge.
“Well, how did you get on? What did you think of this morning?” he asked Martin.
“It was a bit different from anything I've experienced but I liked it. I was a bit surprised because, when Jeff said at the beginning that your emphasis was not on music, I expected a service without any music, but that wasn't so. It was there and, yes, it was like he said, it was used to help release us up for God's Spirit to flow in us. Is that the right way of putting it?”
Dave laughed. “Yes, that's exactly right. In our worship we give our bodies, our minds and our spirits to Him so He can communicate His love in and through us one to another.”
“Yes, I see that,” Martin replied. “I was amazed at the number of times and ways God spoke, but His speaking seemed to open up the way for further encounter with him as people prayed for one another and then He clearly moved and touched them. But I've got a question. I know my Bible fairly well. In 1 Cor 14 doesn't Paul say only three prophets should speak? I think I counted something like seven people bringing words this morning.”
“Were any of them wrong? Was there an atmosphere of confusion? Would you prefer some of them weren't brought?” Dave asked.
“No, I just wondered how it squared with Scripture.”
“Well, I think Paul was speaking into a situation where he had witnessed people getting it wrong, or it being badly administered, so confusion reigned. In 1 Cor 14:26 Paul says “ When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation”, which suggests a wider involvement of the congregation. A bit later, after the reference to the two or three prophets, he says, “For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged,” which again suggests more people and more forms of revelation. Perhaps we can distinguish between prophets and those with the gift of prophecy, and the inference would be that what prophets bring is weightier, “big message stuff” if you like, whereas gifts bring revelations in different forms, as we've witnessed this morning.
If you look at the words that came, they came in a variety of ways to achieve different ends. The word about the man's business difficulties and the next word about the unsaved husband were straight forward words of prophecy bringing encouragement and direction. After the early worship came a word of knowledge that opened the way for healing and then a word of knowledge about a financial need which opened the way for us to respond to that. The next three words came through one man, the first starting with knowledge to encourage the listener to believe the encouragement that followed. The other two were simple words of prophecy bringing encouragement and strengthening.
The final two words from another person brought words of knowledge about a foreign church situation and then a call for responders. Each of the sets of words had different elements and different outcomes. They were well spaced out in the worship times, and confusion was avoided by the elder presiding over what was taking place and guiding the personal ministry that followed.”
Martin nodded. “Yes, I liked the fact that he released people to follow up on each word, and I've been listening to people in here testifying over coffee about the outworkings of those various words. The fruit of God's blessing and activity was clearly there.”
“So it was a good experience, then?” Dave enquired.
“Oh yes, but it wasn't just that there were a lot of ‘words' opening up ministry, it was the general sense of the Lord's presence throughout I thought the two occasions when the girl singer sang spontaneously, presumably as the Spirit led her, were particularly beautiful. I don't think in my church you would have seen people weeping either with joy or thankfulness or sorrow as I've seen here this morning. Also the tongue and interpretation were particularly precious bringing revelation and a real sense of the holiness of God. I thought for the non-Christian visitors it was clearly another world, but one which has moved them. I was standing near one of them talking to one of the leaders and he was clearly blown away by the way you responded to the girl with the financial need and I heard him saying, “I've never come across people who respond like this. I don't know what you've got, but I want it.” I don't know what happened because the leader suggested they move into the quietness of one of the other small rooms to talk on. And then I know it was an outsider who felt God speaking to him because he was the one who had been sitting in his garden earlier and prayed, because he got talking to me and I had to pass him on to Jeff. So in answer to your question, yes it has been a good experience here this morning. Oh, just one final question. How come you seem to have such insight into all that goes on here? I thought you were just the band's drummer?”
Dave laughed. “Well actually I only play about once every two months just for fun really. I'm actually one of the elders.”