I was in a Sunday morning service once and in the middle of the sermon - the Pastor felt led to offer an invitation for salvation. You could tell he felt it quite urgent, but no one responded. He went back to preaching and finished the sermon, but feeling the same urgency - once again he gave the plea for people to make a decision to ask Jesus into their hearts and repent of their sin. Operating with a Word of Knowledge - which is knowledge given by the Holy Spirit of something presently happening and not previously known - he began to share that someone in the congregation had a most urgent need for salvation and should not put it off - not one more day.
It felt like we were all caught up in a supernatural vacuum at that moment and that everything was moving in slow motion. Suddenly - a gentleman stood to his feet and walked boldly to the altar where the Pastor stood waiting. He said in everyone's hearing, "I am the man you are talking about." The man's family began to rejoice - as did all the congregation - as he prayed right then and there and gave his life to Jesus. Before the next Sunday rolled around - that man had gone to be with the Lord.
What a sobering turn of events. How impacting it was to realize what would have happened had that gentleman not answered that invitation. He would have entered into an eternity forever separated from the presence of God. We do not have the luxury of having an "off week". Every service has to be surrendered and yielded to the leading of the Holy Spirit to accomplish His plan and purpose for that service. There are definitely things we can do to facilitate an atmosphere that promotes the presence of God and a move of the Holy Spirit. It behooves us to do all we can to usher in the presence of God without limit or restraint.
The church leadership is an army of gatekeepers that are to protect the presence of God in the service. They have to be trained to know how to do that. It doesn't matter what size church - God wants to have free reign there. He wants to inhabit our praises and touch His people as He wills. So, training for leadership is paramount. Teach them to recognize and respect the work of the Holy Spirit and they will protect and guard it.
God does everything decently and in order. There is a respect and reverence for the presence of God that is vanishing from our churches. When God instructed the priests as to how to enter His presence - there were things they could and could not do there. Remember the Ark of the Covenant they used to carry on poles? They did that because they were instructed not to touch the ark where the presence of God dwelt. For those that did it anyway - the penalty was instant death.
Now the curtain that limited access to His presence has been torn in two and we have open access to Him. But, the reverence and respect is still due His presence. When we give priority to that - we'll see a difference in the strength of the move of the Spirit and the level of intimacy of His presence.
When we don't reverence and respect His presence - we place limits and build walls. There were places Jesus went that He could do no mighty works because the people's attitudes shut Him down. It is the same difference with the presence of God in our services.
We can create and keep order in services in ways that deal with God's people with kindness and blessing. We can lovingly help people understand that we must respect the platform and altar. It is a place where the presence of God rests heavily. Many times eternity is fixed in the lives of people there. And, yes Jesus would have invited the children to come to Him there - but He would have engaged them in ways that respected the presence of His Father. When everyone is gone and you walk into the sanctuary up to the altar - can you feel His presence lingering there? Many, many times - YES! His presence doesn't turn on and off with a spicket. If the President of the United States enters a room the military stands at attention. They give respect and reverence to the office. How much more should we show our respect to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
The ushers and greeters are the most visible gatekeepers. They literally stand at the doors to assist and direct people. They are the most important ones to understand the flow of the Spirit in services. They can control the "people noise" and "movement".
You see, for many people - they come to church on Sunday morning and they have not been in the presence of God since the last Sunday. Becoming and staying immersed in the presence of God takes practice. The more we have been there - the longer we can stay there. The more we have been there - the deeper we can go in His presence. So, for many - definitely the unsaved - the least little thing will bring them OUT of the presence.
Someone trying to find a seat after service has begun or someone leaving and entering the sanctuary in the middle of service - these things the ushers and greeters can assist with. Opening and closing doors for people and guiding them to open seats are ways to keep control of those distraction factors.
All the leaders are a part of this. Ushers and greeters are not the only ones. The entire family should be taught to pitch in and extend ordering hospitality to the people that have been invited in. Doing all we can creates an atmosphere where everyone can receive the most of God's presence in that service.
That is all about dealing with the natural atmosphere. Now let's look at the supernatural atmosphere.
The worship leaders and worship team are the gatekeepers of the supernatural atmosphere in the service. They set the tone of the service and when they are moody and stressed - they may think it doesn't come across - but it DOES!! The priests used to have to do ceremonial washing before going into His presence and today - so do we.
We have to keep our relationship with God clean and fresh. Deal with the moodiness if you are prone to it - or any attitude that will hinder the flow of the presence of God during that service. When we don't deal with those things and put it all under the blood - we make the worship time about us and not about Him. And it is totally about Him.
Question. When you have to minister on Sunday - what do you do on Saturday night? If you are sleep deprived and exhausted on Sunday morning - what is your body wanting to do as the music for worship begins? It's hard - and in some cases - impossible to hear what God is directing for the worship time. Your body is screaming, "I WANT TO GO TO BED!" You can't be as alert or clear-minded as when you've had adequate rest. I know sometimes things happen - but as much is as in our control - we need to protect our commitment. If you are called to lead worship and you accept that call - manage your life accordingly. Our Father deserves that. Present to Him every Sunday a vessel fit for His use.
Also, for the worship - and this is a big one - we must be sensitive. A bull charging down the streets of Pamplona will not be easily stopped or directed! Silence is just as important part of worship as the music. We ask God to commune with His people - then we don't allow Him to get a word in edgewise! Can you imagine the Holy Spirit tapping on the worship leader's shoulder asking, "Could I say something here?" I think many times He wants to. We can be so married to our music list and creative transitions that we don't allow the Holy Spirit to instruct us differently. We want Him to inhabit our praises - but only on our terms.
When we have a best friend - for many it would be their mate - we know them so well that sitting in silence is not awkward. There is no need to fill up the space with noise. Why do we feel we have to do that with God?
Sometimes the deepest intimacy occurs when nothing is said at all. Our world is overrun with noise. Learn to be quiet with Him. If that is uncomfortable for you - keep doing it. Soon you'll find a sweetness of His presence there. He can speak or not.
In many of our churches - and I've been in quite a few - we have become content being in the outer court of His presence. We think that is the crest of the mountain and it's not. THERE IS SO MUCH MORE! He is calling us closer. The curtain was rent in two from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross. God paid an incredible price to give us access to Him. Don't settle for "Worship Lite". Don't settle for "Worship Fluff". Go after more.
We don't have the luxury of having an off week. Someone's eternity may very well be in the balance. They walk in the door of our churches - what kind of atmosphere should they walk into? Let's give them a place to encounter all of God.