ome of my favorite moments growing up in the Church of God have been “Holy Ghost services.” In these sacred meetings, I have found a sense of freedom to worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
Such services are often punctuated with anointed singing, fervent prayer, dynamic preaching, and inspiring testimonies, followed by a miraculous altar service. At
the altar, I have witnessed people “saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8), healed and delivered, receiving miracles, and filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Manifestations of the Holy Spirit are manifold when the altar service is filled with people led by the Spirit.
The Church of God was born of the Spirit during the Holiness Movement in the late 19th century, followed by a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Since then, the Church of God has been a singing church (Eph. 5:19), a praying church (1 Tim. 2:8), a preaching church (2 Tim. 4:2), and a worshiping church (Acts 2:47). Through the years, all of our effectiveness in ministry has been predicated on the abiding presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
Yet now, as a Church of God pastor, I am observing how the mood in our worship services is shifting away from the move and operation of the Holy Spirit. Much to
my chagrin, disrespect to the Holy Spirit is displayed in worship services when there is . . .
• truancy rather than punctuality
• routine rather than renewal
• conversation rather than conversions
• looking around rather than looking up
• distractions rather than discernment
• recession rather than intercession
• hastiness rather than holiness.
Born-again Christians should not joke, imitate, or laugh about speaking in tongues, spiritual manifestations, or spiritual worship. To refer to the incoherent speech of an individual or the illegible handwriting of another as if one should pray for the interpretation thereof is a disgrace to the Holy Spirit. I am afraid too many people in too many Pentecostal churches have grown accustomed or familiar to the demonstration of the Holy Spirit to the extent they remain seated in their pews engaging in text-messaging, reading a church bulletin, or conversing with their neighbor.
During an altar service in a church I once pastored, several people were sincerely seeking the Lord while two men chose to get up from their pews, walk to the back of the sanctuary, and stand against the wall in order to talk while looking on at what was happening at the altar. In their attitude and action, the church service was reduced to no more than a mere spectacle or show. The Holy Spirit is not in this world to entertain us but to draw us to the Father (1 Cor. 2:10-13).
After preaching one night in a church revival, I gave the altar call, and many came forward to seek the Lord. However, several men chose to promptly walk out of the church to smoke cigarettes. An individual at this same church once told my father that he was “not interested in the Holy Ghost.” In both instances, these men were spiritually bankrupt, if not altogether spiritually dead. These men evidenced qualities of “carnal” Christians (3:1-3).
In a distant church several years later, the Holy Spirit began to move mightily in leading us in worship. Worship was both vocal and demonstrative as the Spirit moved across the congregation like a wave of the sea. At that time, a young woman who had been standing up during the worship service quickly sat down, pulled out a mirror, and began frantically putting on makeup. Such things “ought not so to be,” as James wrote about “blessing and cursing” coming out of the same mouth (James 3:10). There is a “more excellent way”—the way of sincere love (1 Cor. 12:31).
It would be wise for all of us to show respect to the Holy Spirit by following these practices:
• Arrive early for prayer, fellowship, and worship. Peter and John arrived at the Temple “at the hour of prayer” (Acts 3:1).
• Be attentive to the music and message of the church service (see Luke 8:18). We should be good listeners who “receive with meekness the engrafted word” (James 1:21).
• Listen intently to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church (Rev. 1:10; 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).
• Know how to behave in church(1Tim. 3:15). This admonition is applicable not only to bishops and deacons but to all who attend our church services.
• “Receive ye the HolyGhost”(John 20:22). This commandment comes from the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit—Jesus Christ our Lord. Later, the apostle Paul
inquired of disciples at Ephesus if they had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-2). When they said no, Paul “laid his hands upon them” in prayer, and they each received (v. 6).
May we welcome the Person, the presence, and the power of the Holy Spirit in all that we do. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).