By Rhonda Jones
The other day I was having a conversation with a friend regarding the lack of spirituality in the church. I was telling my friend that I had spent over 20 years being a faithful member in one church or another. I participated in many groups and committees, was on the witnessing team, participated in children’s church, and was a Sunday School and Youth Group teacher. For years, I’d never miss a Sunday service and often attended mid-week service as well. Some churches became my family, others I made lots of friends. In my early days as a Christian I absorbed the word of God. It was my first 5 years of being a Christian that I memorized most of the scriptures I know. I ate, slept, and breathed Christianity.
Over the years, my relationship with church took on many facets. Over different periods I attended church to growth spirituality, other times looking for a husband, still other times desiring a social life, and then came a period that I had no desire to attend church at all. I would often find myself in the pews thinking, what in the heck am I doing here? I couldn’t wait until service was over. Church had become a ritualistic habit for me. After one disappointing church experience after another, I decided to take a sabbatical. I had done this before, many years early but then was overridden with guilt. The thought of not going to church had to mean I was backslidden and on my way to hell! But this time it was different, perhaps I was more mature. I knew my relationship with God was strong and my going to Church out of habit had not much to do with it.
Many years early I went through a period of utter despair. I had lost something very meaningful to me and it tore me right at the core of my heart. There was so much pain in my life and my routine habits of being a good Christian didn’t stop me from hurting. I did all the things I was supposed to do, but my condition didn’t improve. This was the time in my life that I entered what I we often hear as “desert.” There I was alone and forsaken. Everything stripped away. Everything but God. Except, during this time, my old ways of connecting with him didn’t seem to work for me anymore. This was a sign that God was requiring something deeper of me. This is when I became a seeker and at the same time I became a receiver. This is when my eyes of understanding began to open and God’s word, the scriptures, and his Voice began to animate in my life.
The old way of approaching God wasn’t good enough for me anymore. I was beginning to build a relationship with Him. I would actually sit on my couch and talk to Him aloud. His voice became so much more clearer to me. I saw new revelations in everything, especially in the scriptures. I began to desire the deep spiritual truths of God, truths that would lead to a more joyful, fruitful, and peaceful life. I wanted to be taught by the Holy Spirit. I often meditated on the scripture that said, once the Holy Spirit comes, we wouldn’t even need a teacher, because the Holy Spirit would teach us all things. I’m living proof of this, as are many others. I began to realize the Spirit of God that lives inside all of us and is waiting for us to become aware of him and to trust Him.
Which leads me back to that question, why does the church lack spirituality? The kind of spirituality that Jesus described when he said another form of worship is coming, in which God’s worshippers will worship him in spirit and in truth, for those are the types of worshippers God desires. I believe the church lacks this type of spirituality because it puts formulas over relationship. It gives us a 10-point plan. If you do this, you will receive that. It enslaves us with rules, bylaws, and codes of conduct. It imposses the one message fits all type of instruction. It encourages us to “do” for God, but not “abide” in God. It pushes us to be a busy Martha, instead of a doting Mary; which Jesus said is far better. It often puts more importance on the words of those in authority, than on the still small voice of God speaking in our hearts. We’re not encouraged to strengthen that voice and thus it often goes unheard. To many of us know of God, but fail to truly know Him, just as Job said, I’ve heard of you, but now my eyes see you for myself. Or in the case of Moses who spent 40 days with God on Mount Sanai and the children of Israel looked at awe upon his countenance when he came down from again. We see God’s presence from afar.
But where there is a problem there is also a solution. In the book of Acts Chapter 1 after the ascension of Jesus, the disciples were told, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard Him speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” The scriptures go onto say that the men came and waited together in prayer and on that day a sound like a mighty rushing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
In Acts 2 Chapter 17 it declares, in the last days, God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people, your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions; your old men will dream dreams. Even on your servants, both men and woman, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above…and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
What the Bible is speaking of in the preceding verses is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers. The Holy Spirit can manifests himself in the Christian in countless ways. We can speak in tongues, dream dreams, have visions, heal the sick, prophesy, cast out demons, receive wisdom and discernment, and so much more. The Holy Spirit is the power house behind God’s word.
Yet, what is key to this all is that Jesus told the disciplines to “tarry” to “wait” for this manifestation. They didn’t have to strive for it. They didn’t have to look for it. They didn’t even have to pray for it. They were just instructed to wait for it; to wait on God. Isaiah 43: 31 declares … those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. Why? Because when we are filled with God’s spirit we are endowed with His power, his wisdom, and his strength. And all we need to do to receive it, is to desire it and wait– linger and abide with God.
So how can we as Christians move from “doing” to “abiding? How do we move from formulas for the Christian life to hearing directly from God for our life “alone”? How do we obtain the manifestation of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of his presence in our midst? I believe it is by being still and waiting, by tarrying until he comes to meet us. It requires the heart of a seeker. It often requires sequestering ourselves from those things that pull us away from God; even the good things like a church meeting. It requires meditating on God and entering into his presence. If the church will point us in that direction, in collective waiting, collective silence, collective presence, and collective listening, then we can learn to know God in the intricacies of our own hearts and spirits. A spirit that knows the way, but needs to be awakened. A spirit that has everything it needs, NOW to live a fruitful, Godly, and joyful life! A spirit that realizes that, the Kingdom of God resides within us and not outside us.