Last Sunday was one of those particularly intense church services. For those who were not there, let me recap: Mid-worship, several people shared spontaneous words of encouragement and exhortation. We then opened a space for people to come forward to receive prayer for emotional and physical healing, followed by an extended time of singing and meditating on God’s promises to bring us freedom and work miraculously on our behalf. After the music set finished, we had a time of testimony and heard some remarkable stories of what God has been doing among us — including how He had just healed a woman’s knee. The healing has since been verified by the doctor, who canceled the scheduled procedure because it was deemed unnecessary. Needless to say, it was a powerful Sunday service.
For some, this is their favorite kind of church service — spontaneous and full of a wide range of emotions. In many ways, I concur. We do not simply want to learn about God, we want to interact with God. We want to know Him and be changed and empowered by Him. He is the God who created the entire emotional bandwidth, and it is only right that interacting with Him might release a wide range of feelings.
For others, this same context can be difficult; just because it is intense or emotional does not mean it’s necessarily from God. Again, I concur. We need to be constantly holding our experiences up to the measuring stick of God’s word. As a church, we must be 100 percent committed to doing what 1 John 4 says, “...test the spirits to see if they are from God.”
But what do you do when you’re just not feeling it? Maybe you are not ready to declare that what is going on is not from God, but you find yourself sitting on the outside, feeling skeptical of what others are experiencing and wondering about the genuineness of their motives. This is exactly where I found myself during the early 1990s, when my then-girlfriend Karen and her sister took me to Seattle Vineyard Church. This was my first exposure to a church that was open to a dynamic work of the Holy Spirit ministering in the body of Christ — or, people falling over or spontaneously laughing or weeping loudly. That was not within the boundaries of my religious tradition. I was skeptical, but I was also hungry for God. I neither wanted to miss out on what God was doing nor get swept up in something less than authentic. It took me a long time to trust what I saw, but I slowly became convinced that Jesus was truly working in that place. While I had no idea what some people were experiencing, I learned that I could trust the leadership, and my understanding of who God is began to significantly expand.
I believe we are entering a new season where we will see God moving in surprising ways. When God moves, He often stretches His children to trust one another and carefully discern His presence. If you find yourself on the outside or struggling with what others are experiencing, here are a few tips...
First, doubt your doubts. Ask questions like, “How do I know God is not moving right now? Am I judging that person or genuinely discerning?”
Second, pray things like, “God, I do not want to miss out on what You are doing. Help me to give people the benefit of the doubt. Help me see You at this moment.”
Third, intentionally build relationships with people who are experiencing things differently than you. The more you know people, the easier it is to trust them.
Finally, if things just feel off or consistently out of balance, come and talk to me. Discernment is a team sport, and I truly need to hear your voice.
I am so excited for the fruit that will come from this new season of stepping out in faith, following the Father’s lead and growing as a family.