Recently I was confronted by a man who made an Apology, in the debate sense, for insuring that people in his congregation seek a shallower experience of God presence in his services. Clearly the man is in error to the point of rebellion, but it called to mind the fact that there is an increasing trend, in the wake of heretical extremism, to dampen down the strange fire and excess. This man’s error is to avoid strange and wild practices by insuring that the presence of God was given so little freedom to move on his people that no fire would occur.
For the uninitiated, Fire is a metaphor for the intense emotional and physiological responses that can occur when a believer encounters the incorporeal presence of the Holy Spirit, first hand. If you think back to that “warm fuzzy” you got the first time you had a crush on someone, and filter out the sexual response entirely, that is essentially what the prophet referred to as “having fire shut up” in his bones. This is normative for those who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, as well as those who are receptive but fail to take the next step, and if there is a reliable initial evidence other than the fruit of the spirit I’d like to argue for this.
That said this man (I can’t in good conscience call him a pastor) is clearly not baptized in the Holy Spirit, the Ruakh Elohim, that filled the prophets of the Old Covenant and flowed out of the prophet of the New. No Godly man, filled with the Spirit and in right relationship with God, would ever seek to curb the activity of the Spirit. What this man said was, “here we have order and you can practice your gift at home alone.” Such an egregious challenge to the authority of God’s spirit is unconscionable. Yet, in the wake of counterfeit revivals such as Brownsville Texas, Orlando Florida, Toronto Canada and Broken Arrow Oklahoma–there is an increasing trend, even in the bastions of orthodox Christian faith, to suppress the will of God and the relationship with his people, to avoid the embarrassment of such sacrilege as Barking, Laughing on Command, and selling artifacts imbued with “prayer”.
I can empathize with this man’s stated motive, while not agreeing with the solution, one that clearly indicates his lack of faith and suggests that his motives may be far less sincere. But the insurance against such excesses is simple and effective. Every congregation must be led by a board of deacons and elders who are themselves so on fire as well as genuine, that they can discern in the Spirit when something is not Godly and genuine, and curtail it as it begins. Every church must be led by a Pastor or Rector who is Baptized in the Holy Ghost and clearly gifted not with teaching or administration, but with prophecy and discernment of spirits.
Churches were never meant to be so large that the members do not know one another intimately. Heresy and excess are born in the shadows produced by impersonal mega church congregations and small groups, where small misinterpretations of scripture by uncalled leaders grow unchecked into heretical dogmas. Ministry leaders have ceased to be Pastors with the intimacy of knowing each member and sharing each member’s struggles and knowing their rate of growth and learning, to being showmen and entertainers with crowds who follow them while starving for lack of real personal ministry. They’ve farmed this out to others and there is no connection between the pastor who will be held accountable and the members who suffer for lack of personal attention.
Another solution that has arisen is to have each prophet submit or deliver his prophecy to the pastor for evaluation, before delivering it cold and on queue, when the pastor has chosen to make room for it between the announcements and the last song. Imagine telling Jesus, “now tell us what are you going to say to those Sadducees? hmmm. Dogs is a bit strong, they may think you are calling them male prostitutes– How about deeply mistaken brothers. Doesn’t that sound like what God is really saying? Now about this word thieves–”
The key to insuring good order is to submit more fully and genuinely to God. God is not the author of confusion. He uses foolish things to stump the wise, but have a little faith! The Holy Spirit is a gentle spirit and gentleman. He’ll never create confusion, no matter how the congregation babbles while praying in tongues. The only insurance the church has against false prophets, on the order of A A Alan, Cyril of Alexandria, Joseph Smith and Elen G White, is the presence of the Holy Spirit. You have to ask yourself who really benefits from quenching the fire, and silencing the gifted members. Shouldn’t we all seek the baptism so that there will be more who are qualified to discern to the false and counterfeit fire, the false prophet, the deceiver?
From the voice of many counselors is wisdom. This is the defense against strange fire insuring that the whole congregation is baptized in the Spirit and sensing his presence, not relying on emotions and human reason to decide what feels right, insures that the strange and the anti-Christ will be evident. Seek the spirit and find a church where the pastor isn’t too important to have coffee with you, and is filled with the spirit with the evidence of prayer in tongues, gift of prophecy, and spiritual fruit such as humility.
Be a part of God’s solution!