Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Spirit Filled Churches

Once upon a time it fell to me to call a particular woman who had been visiting our church for a while to inquire if she was interested in being part of our next new members class. She wasn't.

"I love the sermons, and the people are really nice . . . but I just can't join a church that's not Spirit Filled."

I probed a little. "How is a Spirit Filled church different from ours?"

She was surprised that I didn't know. "You know--music that gets you up on your feet, people raising their hands to the Lord, praying in tongues, laying on hands for healing . . ."

I floated the theory that "good sermons and friendly people" were the manifestations of the Spirit that our church was filled with. But she had been nurtured in the belief that a Spirit Filled church looked one certain way and our way was not it.

My question to her, of course, was the standard Presbyterian line. You don't have to be happy clappy to be Spirit filled. The Spirit can be present in less flamboyant ways. Simplicity and Solemnity are also gifts of the Spirit.

But is that a cop out? Do we really like our reserved way because we like things scripted and safe? Is this a case of "methinks the Mainline doth protest too much?" We're not sure the Spirit is really present among us so we heap scorn on those who say they ARE sure?

What are the marks of a Spirit Filled church? How do you know when you are part of one?


Quotidian Grace said...

Great and important questions!

I started to answer here, but realized my answer was too long for a comment. So come over to my place where I'm going to post it.

cheesehead said...

As someone who grew up in a church where the outward, visible signs of the Spirit that your friend described were present in every service, I can answer this from a particular point of view.

I think that to sense the Spirit in a church that is less flamboyant, as you put it, requires a different way of being attentive. For some people it is harder.

Some churches just don't do subtle. It's a different level of expectation on the part of the worshipper. As a child I was expected to clap, raise my hands, speak in tongues. If I didn't, I knew my parents would get a call from the pastor, asking why I had "backslidden."

I would NEVER say that those things weren't geniune, but it was pretty easy for me as an impressionable child to get swept up in the emotion of it all.

Am I less open to the Spirit now as an adult--now that I don't do those things? I don't think so. I look harder, listen more attentively to the moving of the Spirit, and when I do, God is there.

SpookyRach said...

Happy clappy gives me hives. Maybe I should become a presbyterian.

I know it is judgmental, but I have the polar opposite attitude of the woman in your post. I could never join a church that describes itself as "spirit-filled" as she meant it. To me it suggests shallow and emotionally immature religion.

niebuhrian said...

I would guess that a postmodern approach to this question would state that any way or style of worship is "spirit-filled" if that it is the intention of the worshipping body to recognize the spirit among them. As a lifelong mainliner, the things that nourish me tend to border on the eclectic, from silence to labyrinths, song to sacrament, sermon to prayer, each has their own moment of significance that feeds my soul.

I don't need to raise my hands, clap or speak in tongues, nor do I need to disparage those who do, as long as their worship deepens their discipleship…

grace and peace

Greg Hazelrig said...

In a Spirit Filled Church nobody has to pray in tongues or "hang from the rafters". But in a Spirit Filled Church, people actually sing. I've been to churches where half the congregation just looks forward during the songs.

In a Spirit Filled Church upbeat songs are not sung like durges and the piano/organ/whatever instrument is not slowly killing the songs.

In a Spirit Filled Church people don't stare forward with glazed over eyes, look at their watches, or count the ceiling fans.

In a Spirit Filled Church people are receptive to allowing the Spirit to move them instead of on guard against the Spirit.

So a Spirit Filled Church doesn't have to be loud with hands clapping. But they shouldn't be afraid to allow the Spirit to move them in that direction if that's God's will. The key is that a Spirit Filled Church allows the Spirit to move instead of doing everything possible to keep the Spirit from moving.

Sorry so long. I've just seen my share of unSpirit Filled Churches.

hooligan said...

I know this will sound judgmental, so I hope for grace in advance, but I must say it. I have also been to "Spirit-Filled" churches with family and friends, and what always struck me was that the 'high' they got at church was immediately followed by a big meal and general stupor, until next Sunday, they could get their fix again. In constrast, the more mild-mannered churches I visited seemed to lead the worshippers directly into service to others. I found a link between the emotional roller-coaster at the one kind and an near-total disregard for any service outside the walls of the church. To me, it was a no-brainer. I couldn't believe that God wanted me all riled up one day a week and eating chips on the couch the other six.

SingingOwl said...

Rebe;, thanks for posting this question. It is an important one.

Okay, I admit, these comments were a bit jarring. A bit? No. A lot.

I guess several of you might think my (Pentecostal) church automatically will be "happy clappy" and that I'll think anything less is not of the Spirit.

First, a few comments. QG, I always find value in your stuff, so I'll go read shortly. :-)

Cheesehead, if not clapping or raising your hands or speaking in tongues meant you had "backslidden"--wow--I'm just speechless. Please let me apologize on behalf of my fellow Pentecostals. :-( ((((((cheesehead))))))))

SR, I hope, if you visited a church that described itself as "spirit filled" that you would do what the visiting woman should have done. She should have paid attention, been less fixed in her definitions, and she should not have ever said something as offensive as "I have to attend a church that is Sprit-filled." Bleech. What arrognace--or maybe just ignorance.

Plese don't assume that those who may use this term are all shallow and emotionally immature. That is just as damaging as me saying that ALL mainline churches are dry and formal and dead. (I would not say that, btw.)

Neither is true. Both are stereotypes and serve to keep us apart and divided.

Greg H. I loved what you said. Made me LOL.

Nrebuhrian, I agree completely with your last paragraph. Thanks.

I personally believe that all forms of worship are good and have their place. I am consistently amazed at the breadth of forms of worship found in scripture. They include:

Silence and contemplation
Meditation on God's Word
Bowing, kneeling, being face down
Clapping with joy
and more...all to be done with respect, order, humility and thankfullness.

I like being happy. And I like clapping and I like to be free to do any of the above, including silence and reverence. I like silence and candles and liturgy too.

Dunno know why I felt I had to say all that, since there is no way of knowing if any commenters will look back here.

SingingOwl said...

As for Hooligan, I am dumbfounded, and I am sorry for your relatives. They are missing it entirely. "Faith without works is dead."

Gordon said...

The term "spirit filled" is inevitably judgemental because it is implying that your church isn't. This is the rather nasty superiority complex of the charismatic movement.

Scott said...

May you all be filled to an overflowing fullness of God's Holy Spirit, and when this happens don't be surprised if it makes you a bit emotional. The Holy Spirit comes into agreement with your spirit and then empowers you to proclaim the good new of Christ, but before it can do this it has to move from your spirit through your soul and body and then ultimately into others. Your soul contains your emotions and your body contains your mind. All of this can at times be emotionally and mentally stimulating to say the least. It is the Love of God flowing through you!

Paula said...

I have just recently became a Christian in a spirit filled church. At the start it was very strange for me as I was very much a person who would never let my emotions be known, now I realise just how amazing it can be. Lately I have become quite emotional and slightly frustrated by not understanding what was happening to me. Scott (comment above) has put it all into perspective. Speaking from a new born-again christian's point of view, I definately prefer a spirit-filled church to a denominational church as it certainly maintains your attention and you are less likely to have a wondering mind. After every meeting I feel refreshed and revitilised.... totally filled with the holy spirit! So stop holding back you will instantly see the diference and have the luxury of passing it on!

Anonymous said...

One thing to keep in mind is that the main reason people are 'Spirit filled' is for ministry purposes. It's not to get your mind on yourself & your preference of worship styles. It is simply help from the Holy Spirit to reach out to others with His life changing power. There is much too much focus on self in the church when we should be thinking of how we can help others. I've found that the freedom in Spirit filled worship gives me more strength and confidence in Him to reach out to those around me. It's funny that God would ask us to praise Him, but in doing so we are given something so much more in return.

Anonymous said...

I learned a saying recently that applies to this conversation. It is: word without the spirit you dry up, spirit without the word you blow up, word with the spirit you grow up.

This emphasizes a balanced approach to the gospel, which is necessary for growth. So-called "spirit-filled" churches such as you find in the charismatic, word of faith, pentecostal circles can lead to an unbalanced understanding of the gospel and result in the self-centered approach to scripture. For example, the name-it-and-claim-it teachings and/or the speak-it-into-existance approach. To get discernment on this I suggest checking out Justin Peter's "A Call for Discernment".

Conversely, a Word heavy approach that de-emphasizes or limits the working of the Holy Spirit, such as the cessationist teachings, or the more dogmatic denominations, can quickly lead to over-intellectualizing our faith and be twisted into the pursuit of knowledge, which Ecclesiastes warns against, and was the failing of the Pharisees and Sudducees.

I have found the ability to be blessed in both settings, but the need for the balance. Sometimes I may be called by the spirit to more word focussed time while others I am found singing worship loudly as I drive down the road. Together I am blessed with the balanced message of the gospel message - that Jesus is the word and the Father is spirit and that I can commune with both and draw nearer still.

Ecclesiastes also tells us there is a time for war and a time for peace, a time to sing and a time to be quiet, etc. Being filled with the spirit and letting it lead you into any and all, to me, is evidence of being spirit-filled.

The spirit is in each of us, not the building (i.e. church). So if you have the Holy Spirit in you, you are part of the spirit-filled church. When you go to a place of worship and fellowship, you are making it a spirit-filled church activity by virtue of your being there. You are spirit-filled wherever you go, therefore any church you go to becomes spirit filled. If you detect the absence of the spirit due to the style of worship, hang around long enough for the spirit to lead you as to why you're there. It may be you are there to pray, or to sit quietly and learn from the message, or to free yourself to lift your hands in praise and clap joyously.

Whatever it is, you are filled with Almighty God's Holy Spirit, which is reason enough to praise, whether quietly to yourself, or loudly among the congregation.

God Bless You Church for Sharing Your Truths In Love. May We All Be Blessed By the Spirit That Fills Us!

Anonymous said...

Today I went to a spirit filled church with great hopes. I could not sing, since I have a cold. I was surprised that NO ONE sang around us.
So yes I agree, if the congregation does not even want to sing and praise the Lord, how can HE be among them?
Yes I had a vision and it was powerful, so yes I can praise the Lord even when I am silent, which is unusual for me. I have been looking for a church where the Holy Spirit likes to be. Most, well all churches I have been to have nice people and mostly ok sermons. So what is the problem?
If Jesus wanted us to meet in groups on Sunday, stay passive and then go home and live our life, well that is not what HE said we should do.
We are here to spread the message, yes each and every one of us. Spreading the message means evangelizing. Now if you think only the Pastor evangelizes, that is not what Jesus meant. Each one of us can go out and reach the lost.
So what to do now, just go on and repeat the act of singing three songs and preaching and going home?
Something is missing in this quotation. The Holy Spirit. BUT does HE come when we are passive?
Who wants to experience the supernatural?
We go out and evangelize!
Tell the lost that Jesus loves them,
Tell the lost that HE has a great plan for them.
Tell the lost that you will pray that they and their family have a long and healthy life.
Ask them to pray with you and repeat you,
Dear Jesus
Come into my heart, forgive me of my sins, wash me, cleanse me, fill me with your Holy Spirit.
Show me YOUR way, Lead me every day, Thank you Father in Heaven for your Son who died for us,
Yes the lost need to know that Jesus died for them, so where are the workers? The fields are white.
Then come together on Sunday and the worship will explode the teaching can begin! The Holy Spirit is there and wants to heal the sick, strengthen the weak and fill us all with JOY.
Oh to find a church with JOY.
So you say clapping your hands freaks you out? What will you tell Jesus when you stand face to face?
Its not about us, its all about HIM.
So who wants to step out and go on the Great Comission? The fields are here, you need to be a missionary. Be a home missionary, your work is cut out for you right here.
God bless you all,

Anonymous said...

After being in so called Spirit filled churches for over thirty years, I believe I can answer this question. First of all, even tho they think otherwise, Charismatic Spirit filled churches do NOT have the market on holiness.. they all think they do.. but the people are as ornery, controlling, self righteous, etc as the rest of them (myself included)- but they DO have more miracles... why? Because they are open to them, ask for them and don't push them away with disbelief when they come. Most quiet churches aren't really praising God with all their heart, soul and might and then wonder why He doesn't show up. Having said that, sometimes you need loud and excited, sometimes you need quiet meditation which is why the churches should intermingle and not be so strict on membership... they should be one body.. but so far as much as they talk about it... that doesn't happen and people don't really love another with agape love..which is why real change doesn't come to America. through the churches

Anonymous said...

A spirit filled church is not referring to a church where the members have the holy spirit in them. All people who believe in their heart and confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and savior has this.

A spirit filled church refers to the second recieving of the holy spirit that the disciples recieved on pentacost and every believer after that was specifically baptised in by the laying on of hands in the new testament. Remember, Apollos' disciples who knew the gospel and Jesus but Paul and the gang still had to come and lay hands on them so they could be filled by the holy spirit? It is always evidenced by speaking in tongues, prophecy, and outward manifestations of the holy spirit.

All 100% biblical. The filling of the holy spirit is a very intimate thing allowing extreme intimacy with God. The amount of speaking in tongues etc. . . that a church will do in public in front of visitors is different. Many churches feel they need to tone down sunday Services because they don't want to frighten new believers raised in a very conservative Westernized church style.
They usually have a special service or special meetings to do some of the more spiritual things unless otherwise told by God.

Anonymous said...

Spirit-filled, filled with the Holy Spirit both the church because of the worship going on and inviting His Spirit, and also operating in His gifts: tongues, healing, prophecy, words of knowledge, etc. Laying on of hands in prayer for healing and deliverance. All that crazy stuff God loves us to do in order to bring His people into the fold as whole and healed beings.

Anonymous said...

My church used to be spirit filled but somE where along the track it let sits way.. I have been unhappy since then...

Anonymous said...

all of this talk is just talk if you have not experienced being filled in the holy ghost "with evidance of speaking in tongues".
A person with experience is never at the mercy of those without experience. There are millions of Christ followers that have experienced being filled with the spiri"tongues". There is a power from god to break of old ways and to connect with Jesus like never before.

Theresia $ said...

I Thank God for calling me into a Spirit Filled Church 3 years ago! I grew up in a Baptist Church were it was not done,(speaking in Tongues) Until Now Gods Call,(I attend a UPC Church, where everyone loves me for whom I am, short, fat, dyed hair and I wear jeans.) All you have to replied to Gods Call. You have to truly invite him into your heart, I was able to quit bad habits, and thus the Lord Filled me with His spirit,(evidence of stammering lips) Its like a heat lamp on your head, and thus you loose control of your jaw. Some of my Sisters & Brothers dance in the Spirit, some cry in the Spirit,Some Laugh in the Spirit, some are very quite. Everyone has their own relationship with God. A peace comes over you and its all between you and God. I love my Church, we go 3 times a week. I do attend a church that carries my old membership, from my previous ten years now and then for special occasions. They don't speak out in tongues :( but Gods Spirit Dwells in ME when I am there! Glory goes to God. Seek and Ye shall Find. His Spirit is REAL. And Miracles are there for us to reciev.

The Christian Aspie said...

Just one question.

If your church isn't "spirit filled" (filled with the Holy Spirit), just what is it filled with?

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm crazy, but if you are filled with the Holy Spirit why would it matter where you are at? God has a purpose for each one of us. If we are filled with the Spirit wouldn't we have the ultimate understanding of others and LOVE? Wouldn't the Spirit be oozing from the you so it shouldn't matter where you are at because you bring the Spirit with you and share it because it is flowing out from you? I believe that God wanted us ALL to be filled with the Holy Spirit through accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior. By doing that we would be filled and would want to share and spread the GOOD NEWS to ALL. I don't think He would fill us with the Spirit to be JUDGEMENTAL of how the Spirit works in others.

DelusionDispeller said...

Sorry, I agree with the lady that did not want to join your church. I have been in many kinds of churches, and spirit-filled is the only way to go!

It's not just about the music, it's about God's leading. Friendly people are wonderful, but strong relationship with God and His Spirit, nothin like it!

I have yet to find one near me.

Colin said...

I've been a christian for a while, nearly 40 years. I've been in many of the different denominations under the Christian umbrella. I don't really understand why one group would really want to elevate themselves over another. Sure the "Happy Clappy Churches" have introduced us to a different style of worship and songs but the "Healthy Fundamental" churches have preached the Word faithfully through the centuries. You can find flaws in any church you go to, even "Spirit Filled" ones. The Lord uses people from both flavors. We are all saved by Grace. There are differences in teaching but hey guys let's Love our brothers and sisters who are "In Christ" God does so should we! He is the same Spirit who gives gifts to us all.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled on this blog because im trying to understand more about being baptized with the Holy Ghost. I have never seen this done, nor do I quite understand it. But I know that it is biblical. I am a Christian and left a church that was very legalistic and had alot of man made rules. I now go to a church where I really felt the spirit when I first attended, but to say it is spirit filled....nah...I am seeing alot of legalism in this church also; such as the service has to be only so long, heaven for bid we go over.If we have a childrens program it can only be 15 min, because that is the way it has always been done. For Christmas, only one person could do a special or solo, because that would make the service to long. This is all making me bonkers. I feel like a spirit filled church is one that doesnt have the holy spirit on a time limit. I think the holy service should lead the service not the all mighty watch or our stomachs. But some churches that speak in tongues tell you you have to grow your hair long, you cant wear make up, you cant do this you cant do that...again legalism and man made rules creep into the church and can really damper things. I am seeing that some people are afraid to let the Holy Spirit lead, that they want man to be in control.

Anonymous said...

Continued from last post. I think a spirit filled church is one that when they sing the songs on Sunday, that it is actually done with joy and praise. "God in habits the praises of his people" I dont think God is going to inhabit our praises if we act like we are dead when we are singing. I want to worship God where this is happening. I want to worship him where if I want to speak in tongues it isnt looked down on, but neither is it expected or your not doing your part. Ive seen videos of people in different countries such as China and they look like they are really worshiping our Savior.They preach until the spirit tells them to stop. They stop singing when the spirit says stop. I know there is no perfect church, but I want to belong to one where I feel his presence is this way. Im reminded of when David danced for the Lord and the women thought he was nuts. But he was praising our Lord, and thats what He wants!!!

Rechae Due said...

Baptized in Jesus name filled with the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues.... and once you had that experience that you can never go back.I have a reason to clap my hands and jump up and down in glory..he woke me up this morning he put food on the table he woke my bdaykids up this morning he got me to work safely hallelujah (Apostolic Faith)

Anonymous said...

There is a part of God that most of the churches are not familiar too. The Real,tangible,Powerful and Glory of the Lord! The Spirit of the Lord not just the heart or mind. God is taking the church to a new level growing from just plain scripture to the essence of Himself and the reality in which He wants us to walk in Him. Where we have HIS power and authority. Where all the promises of his Word are real and present. Most christians only have a small part of His Word and thats just the simple Good news word. But thats not enough. There are also hundreds or holy spirit filled christians that speak in tounges and prophecy and lay on of hands and heal from the Spirit of God. What that lady was pointing out is that she needed to be fed from the spirit of God and the power that feeds her spirit not just scripture repeated from regaurdless of what the heart intention is. She needs the food tangible power of God dGods spirit to feed her spirit because the traditional sermons just doesnt cut it. Once youve been touched by the spirit of God you can never go back to the same old same old. Im a Spirit filled Christian speaking in tounges prophesying prophecy seeing visions recieving prophetic dreams and walking in HIS Glory laying on of hands. Doing the same things that jesus did and Greater acording to HIS WORD! People are afraid to take that step of faith. They dont know that His Spirit is Real in this time with all his promises of the New testimment. They dont know they havent experienced it so they speak against it because it doesnt make sense to them. But Find a Holy spirit Filled church and be filled with his Spirit and i promise you your life will be changed forever. I chanllenge you to take a step of faith and see what people are talking about (THIS SPIRIT FILLED CHURCH) before you speak of what you do not know. See it for yourself. People are afraid to step out of there comfort box and unless they walk in faith into the spirit of God they will never Grow and experience the riches of His Spirit. What if were right what if that lady is right? what if just checked out a Holy spirit filled church that worships JESUS in Spirit and truth and not religion.
Whats the worst that can happen? WHat that you get supernatural Healing and Recieve the Gift of tougnes which is for everyone? What that you might just feel the presence of God and not just speak about it? Or that you might not find anything. in either case you would be taking a step of faith and growing a little bit by trying something new and not staying caught up in your limited Box. You cant see more of God if you do not seek! Seek His face and you shall see HIM! Keep preaching his word but not go any farther than repeating his WORD and you will not get anything more than what you already know! Go to a spirit filled church and feed off a sermon that comes straight from God Real-time instead of a preperated scholar taught sermon. There are many Spirit filled Churches and even more Spirit filled Christians. You really dont know who your talking to. You could be speaking to a great king in the spirit of God with Great authority that will give you so much freedom and deliverence from the world and show you your destiny in Jesus Christ the Messiah the Greatest King and Commander in Chief of All of heaven and Earth! Were in a war against darkness and demons and principalities and powers of Darkness! Get Filled and Be blessed!

Anonymous said...

Being a Spirit Filled Christian means to be filled with the SPirit of God the tangible Power of God The Glory of God and Jesus Which He shares with His Children! The Glory The Power and Glory which raises people from the Dead Which Sees the past present and future and Shares that insight with His Children! The Spiritual Promises of the new testiment being filled with His Spiritual Gifts thats in the bible THE REAL DEAL! And not just being filled once. But Constantly be Filled and Filled AND FILLED! WIth his SPIRIT and Growing in Spirit! Walking by His spirit more than lovely Sermons that just bores me to sleep. No wonder people cant wait till the sermon is over and get so bored and lose motivation. Because there not recieing the Food of the Spirit but its like there just listening to an old boring professor! NO Get JESUS AND THEN GET HIS SPIRIT AND BE FILLED AND YOU WILL literally tangibly crave His Spirit and to go to a spirit filled church because you cant get enough of His Spirit HIs True Food! The religious church is being starved. Recieving nothing more than boreing repetive words! IF anyone is intrested in this SPRIT FILLING and want to know more or just talk about this to get a better undertsanding of what so many (Spirit Filled) Belivers Christians are talking about you can email me at
His Spirit is Real His Power is real and Just like i stated above Once youve been exposed to HIS Tangible Spirit and are Filled. Youll never be same youll settle for nothing less than HIs Awesome Spirit LOVE! Worship God in Spirit and Truth not religion. Theres a Difference! Dont be Stubborn Take a step of Faith Seek HIS FACE Seek a Spirit Filled Church and BE Blessed like youve never been before!