What Happens If the Holy Spirit Goes to Your Church?
“Your church doesn’t have the Spirit like I’m used to.” That is what a returning church visitor said to me one Sunday evening. I encouraged her to keep visiting and perhaps her estimation of our worship environment would alter with time. She never returned. That conversation led me to think of the apostle Paul’s visit to Ephesus in Acts 19. Like this visitor, Paul questions the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of a group of believers.
Paul shows up in Ephesus, meets 12 disciples, and quickly discerns something is missing. It becomes clear to Paul that these 12 disciples are void of the Holy Spirit. Do you remember this? What does Paul observe in a short time that makes him aware that this group of believers is void of the Holy Spirit? The internal evidence is lacking but a little research and some exegetical work can shed light on these questions.
No evangelism, no Spirit
This is a congregation of 12. You and I know the size of a congregation should not matter much. However, Ephesus is estimated to have a quarter of a million residents during this time. Here is how Paul knows this church did not have the Holy Spirit. You ready? There are 250,000 people in the city, and the church has 12 members. As with congregations today, the gospel is not being proclaimed by these disciples. Lives are not being saved. They have 12 members. The rest of the city does not have a saving relationship with Christ, and they are happy to have 12 members?
Paul knows the Spirit is missing because the Holy Spirit is our equipper for evangelism. The Holy Spirit equips you to talk about Jesus outside of worship. You know Acts 1:8. You want to see the Holy Spirit at work? I am not going to point to how long or short your worship service is, but tell me, how many people are talking about Jesus when they leave the sanctuary, trying to win others to Christ? As a witness, you have the power of your testimony to effect change in somebody’s life. The Holy Spirit is our equipper for evangelism.
Homogeneity is not a sign of the Holy Spirit
Okay, Paul shows up. Meets some disciples. Teaches them. Baptizes them. Lays hands on them. Then he takes them into the synagogue and preaches for three months. Those in the synagogue refuse to believe Paul’s teaching. He and the 12 leave. He takes them to a lecture hall run by Tryannus. Paul preaches Jesus for two years, and both Greeks and Jews hear the word of God. Before Paul and the Holy Spirit show up to Ephesus, these disciples were made up of only Jews. That is why Paul could take the disciples into the synagogue.
Paul questions the presence of the Holy Spirit within their midst because homogeneity is not a sign of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s presence is seen when people who were divided in the world have learned to come together in the church. The Holy Spirit will allow women and men to sit together without judgement. The welfare recipients and wealthy will sit next to each other. An ex-convict can sit next to an honor-roll student and they can pass the peace of Christ to one another. That is a way to know the Holy Spirit is present in your church. Paul starts off with a Jewish only group. By the time he is done, it is a mixed crowd of Jews and Greeks. When the Spirit of God is at work in a church, all of God’s children are allowed to worship and serve God in that place. The Holy Spirit discontinues our divisions.
So, I have something to show that young lady if she ever returns to our congregation. I would take her to our Sure Foundation classroom and introduce to her 13 men and women to whom we evangelized over the past five months. I would show her our Sound Faith class that has 26 people who were baptized last year. And I would tell her the Holy Spirit is presently equipping us to evangelize our community. Then I would usher her into our worship service and allow her to see the African Americans, Mexican Americans, Liberians, White Americans, Bahamians, bi-racial, youth, middle age, high school dropouts, doctors, ex-convicts, and the mayor of our city—all of them and more, worshipping in one accord. I would explain that what she sees is a dissolving of division, thanks to the presence of the Holy Spirit.
We might not “have the Spirit” like she’s used to, but the evidence of the Holy Spirit is in this place. What about yours?