PENTECOST SUNDAY PRELUDE: “When the Holy Spirit is Absent”

This Sunday at Vine Street Christian Church, we celebrate the pouring out of the power of the Holy Spirit onto the church of Jesus Christ. In the Book of Acts, Chapter 2, verses 1-4, the description of that event leaves us wondering …    

Acts 2:1-4 (NIV)

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent 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.

As Robin was overheard asking Batman: Holy Spirit Batman – What Was That? 

Our worship service this Sunday, as God leads us, will offer a Pentecost experience for each person participating and for the congregation as a whole. I can feel in my heart the excitement in anticipation of Sunday! BUT … before we get to that, perhaps we should to see what things can be like in a church where the Holy Spirit is absent. 

For example, take our picture above. Here we have the money changers, the so-called den of thieves, setting up business on Temple grounds so that maximum profits may be gained from those least able to provide. Right below it, we have the description from the Book of Acts of the first Pentecost. Take a moment to think about these 2 different models of church. Think of them as the 2 ends of a line which depicts the fullness of the Holy Spirit in a church. On a scale of 1 to 10, The picture would be 1, and the scripture would be 10. 

So, that begs the question; Where are we on this Holy Spirit scale? How could we know? What indicators (signs) might there be to show us how we might rank? Those are the tough and important questions we should be asking of ourselves, and our church. 

For me sometimes, especially in matters of the Spirit, it’s easier to look for the lack of something rather than for the thing itself. Justice, for instance, is harder for me to see and understand than injustice. The Holy Spirit can be that way, too. 

So, I found a list of attributes that indicate if a church is dying. How grim is that!? For me, a “dying” church means “no Spirit.” They go together. Let’s see which of, and how often, these tendencies show up here at Vine Street:  

Churches that are dying:

  • Don’t Evangelize 
  • Regularly Criticize Leaders
  • Attend Services Infrequently 
  • Refuse to Volunteer
  • Neglect the Youth
  • Complain More Than Encourage
  • Stop Taking the Bible Seriously
  • Value Personal Preferences Over Souls 

I first saw this list on Twitter, and the responses to it are even more provocative, and probably still coming in! Here are some of the “tweets” in response: 

  • Make the World a “Boogeyman”
  • No Plans for Pastoral Care of the Whole Congregation
  • Treat Single Adults, Divorced People, and Widows/Widowers as a Single Outlier Group Who Can be an Afterthought 
  • Teach People to Fear Their Neighbor Rather than Love Them
  • Don’t Pray
  • Fail to Encourage “Backyard Missionaries” 
  • Reduce the Kingdom of God to (Republican or Democratic) Politics 
  • Keep “Sinners” at a Safe Distance
  • Forget Their First Love

And many more … Wow! Isn’t that rich food for thought, at no cost! 

This church of ours has never been one to shy away from self-examination. As I joined this spiritual journey of yours some 3 ½ years ago, I have seen the integrity and honesty of this church … of you! And God has been leading us. He’s brought us right to this place, today. And in so doing, God has prepared us for tomorrow by pouring out the power of the Holy Spirit on Vine Street Christian Church, Arthur, Illinois. 

Self-reflection is a powerful thing. Even for a church. Think about things you might add to this list. Keep it real. Be honest. Share if you feel called to. But most importantly, pray about it … lift it up to God with all your heart … and then ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. And wait (the hardest part!) for God to move. 

That’s it! Through that prayer, you have lifted us up to the power of the Holy Spirit. And if we all do that, daily, then God will work in mighty ways in the months to come. How, you ask? Through the Spirit of the Living God … which will melt us; mold us; fill us; and use us; in every way God has planned!    

God within us … and all around us,                                                                                           Pastor Bob <><