I had heard the statement before, but I was intrigued again when I heard the quote by A.W. Tozer, who is attributed with saying, “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.”
My brief research on the internet, reveals that Tozer was answering the question, “What difference does the Holy Spirit make?” A very probing question, but Tozer’s answer is even more challenging. I’m not sure how he arrived at His answer but I thought I would start by assessing my church. What if the Holy Spirit withdrew from our church? Scary thought, but what would that look like?
1. Our church would be chaotic instead of charismatic. Addressing the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the context of a Church gathering, the Apostle Paul said, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” Without the Holy Spirit there would nothing to birth, build and shape the church. In the beginning we are able to see a before and after picture of our planet without the Spirit of God. “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Voice of the Holy Spirit are essential in harnessing the move of God. Proverbs 29:18 says, “when people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild (NLT).” Another translation gives us more insight into this verse and tells us that prophetic revelation is required to restrain ourselves from an anything goes mentality of what happens when we gather as a community of faith.
2. Our church would not see any conversions. In a post at TommyBrister.com, it was reported that over 75% of SBC churches are experiencing no conversion growth. It also noted that they had nearly 10,500 churches that were practically dead. How impractical! To be fair, I know that these declining statistics represent many religious organizations and movements across the board. What once were vibrant, life breathing, Spirit fueled churches are now flickering flames soon to be smoldering afterthoughts in communities that need Christ. Churches that are seeing people come to Christ are not just a result of good marketing. That may get people in the doors, but it’s presenting the powerful Gospel of Jesus Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to convict hearts. It doesn’t matter if you have an altar call or a table in the back. Evidence that the Holy Spirit is dwelling among a faith community is that lives our being changed!
3. Our church would be uncreative and unimaginative. I hate when I read and hear leaders in the Body of Christ criticizing and classifying the creativity of congregations as carnal. The Holy Spirit is an artist. In Exodus Moses said to the children of Israel, “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze…”
The meeting I most look forward to every week is our Creative Team Meeting where we look to the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us in our planning and preaching. Dying churches I believe have failed to discover the Holy Spirit as a creative designer!
4. Our church would cease to grow. I know that a mega church’s success is often ascribed to flashy marketing campaigns, over the top worship experiences with all the glitz, and great communicators; but if it was that easy wouldn’t everyone be having equal success when they attempted these similar things? Robert Morris is the Founding Senior Pastor of Gateway Church, a multi-campus, evangelistic, Spirit-empowered church in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Since it began in 2000, the church has grown to more than 24,000 active members. Yes, count the years again. In only 12 years the church has grown to 24,000! Simply put, Pastor Robert Morris makes this profound statement in his book The Blessed Church, “Healthy things grow!” When the Holy Spirit brings spiritual health to a person, you can anticipate that Kingdom growth is coming right behind it.
Acts 2:41 – Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
What would NOT happen if the Holy Spirit withdrew from the church you are a part of?
My next week’s post will be on what would keep happening if the Holy Spirit withdrew. That could be painful.