Holy Spirit you are welcome here if...

Holy Spirit you are welcome here if...

Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community by Brett McCracken

Together Empty Church is embracing the uncomfortable. Join us as we dig into Brett McCracken's new book Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community and uncover all the parts that make us uneasy about our faith, uneasy about being friends, and uneasy about building a church that realizes that comfort is not the goal of Christiantiy.

I grew up with the "weird" stuff of the Spirit. “Moves of the Spirit” were not unusual and were sought after. I remember the apex of some of the really weird stuff that doesn’t even have an exact comparison from the Bible. It was all normal to me and it was all real. I didn’t have a reason to think otherwise. I just wanted the Spirit to show up and do stuff. Child-like faith I suppose. 

I’m sure the doubts came long before Christian college, but being in such a pressure cooker certainly brings things out. Going to chapel 5 days a week makes you notice things that you wouldn't normally and I became extra skeptical when it came to many works of the Holy Spirit. It was not about if the Holy Spirit still did things today, but about the validity of what was going on and the motives of the people “doing them.” 

What do I mean?

It happens in churches and in chapel at college.

When people say that the Holy Spirit is working or God is present it is often connected with a mood created by music. Just play the right notes and suddenly everyone says God is there. Sometimes the way we use music makes it seem like we are worshiping an experience versus worshiping God who tangibly shows up. This made me wonder what we were really doing. Were we just playing music to play with emotions, saying its God, but there is no true power in it because it is just a form of manipulation? During this time I actually stopped listening to music because I wanted to know if there was something real or if we just sought “feel goods” from music rather than God himself. Don’t get me wrong, music has always been a part of Christianity and there is certainly a precedent for worshiping God through song, I just was skeptical of our overemphasis on music. People often want to listen to the music and have an emotional response but they do not want to listen to sermons that help build theology and challenge sinfulness. The music was in place of actual change and actual engagement with their God. That is what I was worried about.

It didn’t stop there, based on this mood, the decision would be made to continue music longer. People would have a word (either in tongues to be translated or just the word). When you see this happen several times, the same people do it over and over again, saying the same things over and over, whether it seems to have fit what as going on or not… When students are more interested in their next class being canceled since chapel went to late… When it is all coming from a mood made by music… it all comes into question if it is real. 

That’s what makes it uncomfortable.

I remember there was this group who had an overemphasis on the Spirit to the point that they could be disruptive in the name of throwing “spiritual gifts” in the face of all. Kind of like, “I know you don’t believe so look at this” It sometimes felt as if they were protesting in chapel and out. If you look at how Paul instructs for the gifts to be used, I felt they were out of line.

And that was uncomfortable.

I believe that the Holy Spirit DOES work in the miraculous and does speak to us and yet I was uncomfortable because I wasn’t sure what was really going on.  The thing is, I know that even if someone’s motive is wrong or if the majority of people are having an emotional response rather than a genuine God experience, God can still be there with people. I shouldn’t invalidate the work of the Holy Spirit just because I have questions of human perfection (I’ll let you in on a secret, humanity is terrible). 

The Holy Spirit represents the “irrational” aspects of believing in God. People will let you believe in a god without too much fuss, especially when it comes to what happens after death “good people go to a good place” kind go belief. But when you add in the Holy Spirit who is the active hand of God on the earth. In the beginning, the Spirit of God was moving, hovering, brooding over the face of the waters. The Spirit of God inspired Old Testament prophets and people dropped dead in the New Testament. The Spirit of God raised Jesus from the dead. “The Spirit of God proceeds from the Father and the Son and with the Father and the Son will be worshiped and glorified.”  The Spirit of God is that part of God that we can’t “control.” He is the one who makes deism invalid. But when we have to explain people being  “slain in the spirit, “drunk in the Spirit,” or “glory clouds” we really do lose any sense of control that we thought we had. Ultimately we are saying, "Holy Spirit you are welcome here if you behave." It is easier to replace Him with the Bible that we can place on a shelf or skip the hard parts rather than risk Him making people uncomfortable by actually coming to church. The Holy Spirit isn’t as easy to ignore nor should we.

And. That. Is. Uncomfortable.

About the Author | Sean Kready
An imperfect Christian, who sins on the daily, but tries to share his journey so that we all might know God better. This is our offering. An act of worship.

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This American Church
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*Original photo by John Price on Unsplash

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