3. Church is becoming and will become more experiential
I believe that by necessity church will increasingly become more experiential. By that I mean people will need to feel something before they can know something. I’m not trying to be pessimistic, in fact it’s the opposite, but we are living in dark days. I’ll get to the positive and faith filled perspective in a minute. For now let me unpack the dark days.
People are in spiritual darkness with little awareness of the light. Basic biblical understanding that was present in previous generations even among the non religious is now scarce to be found. What was once a battle of beliefs is now a battle of understanding and knowledge itself. By the way I think it has always taken the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of the spiritually blind. However, I believe the blindness is deeper than it’s ever been. Our culture is no longer differing from Christianity in what it believes, but also in how it believes. I’ll write soon about this phenomenon, but it permeates modern thought. Once we all operated from the same operational system, but with different applications. Today we are operating on completely different operational systems.
The deeper how of knowledge puts self as the center of truth. To stand and try to proclaim the Gospel is met with a person who believes you are sharing your truth, but it differs from their truth. In true human form the person believes their truth supersedes your truth even though the truth you are proclaiming is the truth of God’s word. There is very little idea of truth being something that is other or outside of a person that needs to be discovered. This all gets very confusing, but we are not battling over what is right and wrong, we are battling for who gets to determine what right and wrong even is. The center of truth is the center of self which is problematic. A person can hear the truth and internalize it and produce the opposite of the truth. For instance, God loves you is the truth. When that truth is shared with someone who sees self as the center of truth it is translated God loves me so there is little reason to change or deal with the sin that is destroying my life. After all, I’m the one who determines what is sin and what isn’t
All of this to say that people have to experience something outside of themselves. The “other” that we have as the church is the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s the experience of God in the power of the Spirit that creates the opportunity for light to begin to penetrate the darkness. Think Paul on the road to Damascus. Completely aware of the teachings of Christianity and completely opposed to them until an experience with the power of God that simultaneously blinded his natural eyes and opened his spiritual eyes. People need an experience with the power of the Holy Spirit in order to have their heart opened to receive the truth of God’s word. It’s the experience with God’s presence that creates an awareness of something real outside of themselves. Some of this is generational. It’s different for my age and older. We were given an operational system that said truth was out there and need to be discovered. We were and many still are looking for the truth and once we see it we need the Holy Spirit to open our eyes of understanding. However, there is a younger generation that has a different OS. Like Paul they will need an encounter with the presence of God before being able to be aware that there is a truth to know and be seen. We certainly shouldn’t give up the practical preaching and teaching of the truth of God’s word, we just need Holy Spirit moments in our services more than ever before.
Here’s the incredibly positive part of the cultural moment we are living in as the church. Once people experience the presence of God there is an openness to the truth of God’s word. The walls of unbelief crash and the truth of God’s word replaces the lies the enemy has built into people’s lives. I know it sounds cliche, but the darker the night the brighter the light. There is darkness and there are spiritual strongholds, but we have this wildcard called the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will make the difference. The Holy Spirit will build the church through God’s people. The Holy Spirit will lead and guide people into all truth. Lifeless and spiritless expressions of church will most likely gravitate towards error. Churches alive by the Holy Spirit will turn cities upside down. Let’s be seekers of God’s presence and power. It’s not really anything new. We’ve never been able to do any of this without God’s power and presence anyway. It’s just a fresh perspective on what’s always been our reality. We have no existence without God’s presence.