The other day, I talked with a fellow pastor who was so discouraged. His church was being criticized by people saying they did not “feel God” at church. This pastor was brokenhearted. After reflecting on this a while and after much prayer, I felt the need to shed some light on what some may being feeling concerning the presence of God in church. This could easily be a lengthy blog series posting many different concepts, however, I will try to place this into bullet points.
First of all, let’s get on the same page about what the church is not and what it is. That may bring a lot of clarification by itself.
Church is not… a weekly church service.
Church is not… a building or club.
Church is not… a concert, gig, or party.
Church is… what that Bible calls the “Body of Christ” or the “Bride of Christ”.
Church is… the people of God.
Church is… a time when God’s people come together to celebrate and seek God together.
Now, here are SEVEN reasons why you MIGHT NOT ‘feel‘ the presence of God at church:
This list assumes you are already a born again believers and have a relationship with God.
1. God is under no obligation to touch you with His presence.
Don’t get me wrong. God wants His creation to feel His presence. That is why we were created. We were created for fellowship with Him. However, as King and Creator of the Universe, He is under no obligation to bless You with His presence just because you showed up for church that day. He is God and His agenda is not our own.
2. Sin separates us from God’s fellowship.
When you sin an break the heart of God, the sin in our lives separates our fellowship with Him. You can see evidence of this all the way back in the Garden of Eden. When the first two people sinned, the result was they had to be separated from God and His goodness. When Jesus paid for our sins by His death, burial, and resurrection our past, present, and future sin can be washed away. However, just because our sin is taken care of in the eyes of eternity, that does not mean there are no consequences for sin. The wages of sin still manifest themselves through earthly consequences and our separation from His presence. If you noticing a lack of God’s presence in your life, make sure there is no unconfessed sin in your life.
3. You get out what you put in.
When you go to church, what is your mindset? Are you ready and expecting God to meet you there or are you critical and wondering what will happen? When I was sixteen, my parents made me buy my first car. When I asked why, my dad said, “So you will respect it more. You need buy-in.” There are too many people attending church today without any buy-in. They do not give, they do not serve, and they are not really part of the local congregation. People around the world meet in houses, basements, huts, or underground caves. Therefore, perfection of the service flow has nothing to do with your experience with God. It’s more about the position of your heart and the hunger you have for God’s presence that makes the difference.
4. Do you support your pastors or criticize them?
Remember pastors are people too. It hurts when you are critical because they work hard to try and create environments where people can connect with God. Planning a worship experience is hard work. It is physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. For me, it usually takes about three days to fully recover from each Sunday only to get ready to do it all over again. I love what God has called me to but that does not make it easier. Your pastor is looking for team players not Monday morning quarterbacks. Trust me, your pastor knows exactly where are the problems are and wants to fix it more than you do. Join the team and help make things better.
5. The pastoral staff is trying harder than you probably realize.
There are probably exceptions to this one but, for the most part, your church is most likely trying harder than you are giving them credit. It takes a lot of time and energy to schedule people to serve, get the services scheduled, handle all the stuff that goes on outside of Sunday, pastoral care events, counseling, plugging people into ministry, crisis moments, sermon preparation, future planning, financial accountability, etc. The church does not do everything just on Sunday. Many times the church does not have a specific area of ministry covered because no one has stepped into that role yet. If there is an “empty spot” at church that drives you crazy, that could be God showing you an area for ministry. Jump on the team and help your church reach more people for the Kingdom of God.
6. The church needs you on the team not criticism.
I think I have covered this sufficiently above. The main idea is to realize nothing is made better by criticism. Jumping on the team and using your time, talents, and treasure is how you can help make things better.
7. You may be a victim of a consumer based culture.
Our culture is becoming more self-centered by the day. There are so many options and so many opportunities to get exactly what you want and exactly how you like it that we begin to believe all of life is supposed to be like that. Modern technology and opportunity is great but we must be careful not to allow ourselves to become spoiled and bring that into the Kingdom of God. The economy of God’s Kingdom is not being served but serving. Jesus said those who want to be first must be the last. It is those who sit in their chairs week after week complaining that end up receiving the least amount of God’s presence. Do not allow the enemy to lie to you by saying that church is all about meeting your needs. Church is a place to gather with your brother and sisters in Christ, celebrate the goodness of God, get equipped for reaching others, then going back out to win more people to Christ. You can look throughout church history. The only time the church began to become stagnant was when it thought only of itself and making itself feel good. As long as we are thinking about others, God’s presence will move among us.
There are more but these are the main points I feel some may be battling with as it relates to feeling God in your church. Let’s not allow the enemy to separate and divide us. Rather, let’s get on the same team and do the work of ministry. There are too many people living everyday without Jesus for us to criticize one another.