What a Spirit Filled Church Looks Like
If the Holy Spirit were taken away from the New Testament church, ninety percent of what they did would come to a halt. But if the Holy Spirit were taken away from today’s church, only ten percent of what it does would cease."— A.W. Tozer
Church Without the Holy Spirit
There are thousands of churches that are doing great things, and to all the world they are considered successful. Social justice is great, church programs are great, being relevant is all well and good, but a church can hold multitudes with a continuous flow of new people but not be driven and guided by the Holy Spirit. Numbers don't necessarily mean the Spirit of God is working in a church. Francis Chan, in his book, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, agrees,
"Even our church growth can happen without Him. Let’s be honest: If you combine a charismatic speaker, a talented worship band, and some hip, creative events, people will attend your church. Yet this does not mean that the Holy Spirit of God is actively working and moving in the lives of the people who are coming. It simply means that you have created a space that is appealing enough to draw people in for an hour or two on Sunday."
A Look at the First Church
The New Testament Church operated under the Holy Spirit's power. A study through the book of Acts gives all the evidence. Acts 2:42-43 tells us they (the new Church) listened to the Apostles doctrine, stayed in regular fellowship, took the Lord's Supper, prayed together routinely. These practices should be the mainstay of the Church. Spirit-empowered worship contains all of these elements and more. Following this, there was a holy reverence amongst the people, and signs and wonders were done by the Spirit's work through the Apostles.
Reading further, in Acts 2:46-47 Luke tells us "So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."
This passage is rich with information about the Church that we need to pay attention to:
- They continued daily
- with one accord ( of one or same mind).
- in the temple (God's house).
- breaking bread from house to house, (daily fellowship).
- they ate with gladness and simplicity of heart (joy at being God's people, and being with God's people).
- they praised God (gave Him glory as they worshiped and fellowshipped together).
- they found favor with all the people (this would not last, unfortunately, because the Gospel was an offense as it spread).
- the Church grew daily with those who were being saved (they grew with conversions).
I find it interesting that they met together daily. Apparently, they went to the temple for worship every day; but considering that on the day of Pentecost alone there were 3,000 saved, plus the numbers added to the Church daily, the house to house daily meetings likely met in groups of various sizes. They just lived a life of fellowship and worship in community. This doesn't necessarily mean we need to be in church every night of the week, but we should be doing all these things frequently, and doing it because of the joy of the Spirit in our hearts, making us want to worship and fellowship together. We are a busy world. We can find lots of things to do that distract us from meeting together often. And because the Lord was adding converts daily, they were spreading the message by inviting people in the community to join them, and sharing the message whenever the opportunity arose in their daily lives.
As the Holy Spirit continued to work, the message of the gospel and the unity of the Church began to offend the unsaved Jews, and persecution began to sweep the Church in Jerusalem. The Christians then scattered. This was good because they were able to spread the Gospel boldly around the world. They couldn't help it; the Spirit compelled them to go. And so they did.
In Acts 4:31, we read that as they prayed, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God with boldness. Boldness is mentioned over and over throughout the book of Acts and the epistles. Boldly proclaiming the gospel meant the risk of being imprisoned or killed, but the Spirit that gave them boldness.
What Does a Holy Spirit Filled Church Look Like?
So what does a modern day, Holy Spirit filled church look like? Here are just a few things:
- A passion for Christ and His glory in every facet of church life.
- Bible exposition to rightly divide the word of truth.
- The practice of discipleship and discipleship training.
- People who joyfully and earnestly seek after godly living.
- A church that prays, calling on the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and work; not just before and after the sermon or Sunday school lesson, perfunctory blessings, or occasional prayer meetings, and a prayer chain. These are good and necessary, but it doesn't make a church a praying church. Regular prayer meetings (either formal or informal gatherings) where the people wait upon the Lord, seek His will, pray for one another and the community, and seek to be used by the Holy Spirit.
- Humble servant leadership. Such a leader is humble and meek, and is not interested in seeking the glory of man; rather he is interested in magnifying the Lord and equipping the saints. A humble leader knows he can only do God's will in his calling by being totally dependent on and led by the Holy Spirit of God.
- Being of one accord (of one mind), or unity of the Spirit. This does not mean everyone agrees with everyone else's opinion on things. It means being united in their love for God, for each other, and in purpose - which is to glorify God in all aspects of their life.
- Using the spiritual gifts to edify the body, and to glorify Christ in every way.
- Faithful and bold proclamation of the Gospel at home and afar. Acts 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
- Transformed lives. If there is not a work of the Spirit, things will just hum along as always. No repentance, no one coming to Christ, no one being transformed, comfort and complacency will be the norm. Jesus called this being lukewarm in Revelation 3:16.
Be filled with the Holy Spirit
Ephesians 5:18b tells us to be filled with the Spirit. The literal rendering of this word "filled" means to be filled again and again. If we want to glorify God in our daily lives, we must call on God every day to fill us with His Holy Spirit. Do you ever feel like your spiritual well has run dry? We need to go to God and say, "Fill 'er up!" And He will. Living the abundant, Spirit-filled life is not something we can do successfully in our own strength and willpower. And isn't it great we don't have to. Let us be filled with the Holy Spirit, again and again.
"Even our church growth can happen without Him. Let’s be honest: If you combine a charismatic speaker, a talented worship band, and some hip, creative events, people will attend your church. Yet this does not mean that the Holy Spirit of God is actively working and moving in the lives of the people who are coming. It simply means that you have created a space that is appealing enough to draw people in for an hour or two on Sunday."— Francis Chan - Forgotten God
The Fruit of the Spirit
The New Testament talks a lot about bearing fruit; in other words, evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in you and through you. Then it talks about the fruit of the Spirit:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such, there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22-23).
The fruit of the Spirit is Christlikeness. Paul says "If we live in the Spirit, let us all walk in the Spirit." This is a reiteration of what Paul was saying in Rom 8:5 when he stated that when our minds are on the Spirit we will live by the Spirit.
This all applies to the Church as well. When we pray, we must ask God to fill us as individuals, and when we gather together as a body, we must ask Him to fill us and empower us as a church to be Christlike in our worship and ministry. A Spirit-filled church will bear the fruit of Christlikeness, and in the harvest of souls.
So with that, let me say along with Paul in 2 Cor. 13:14 "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen."
© Lori Colbo 2014. All rights reserved.
© 2012 Lori Colbo