Evangelism and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

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Evangelicals have a conundrum on their hands. The very title suggest that they have a public faith, but few people feel equipped our empowered to make Jesus real to others in common everyday places they live. Pastor Adam Stadtmiller again breaks down the baptism of the Holy Spirit and it fundamental purpose. Evangelism.

 

Finding The Perfectly Imperfect Church

I sat there waiting for the Executive Pastor to show up. He was twenty-five minutes late. I had been asked to interview for the newly created Campus Pastor position at this well known and highly effective Orange County megachurch.

The lobby was bustling and the waiting easy. There were plenty flat-screens on the walls pumping out the latest worship gigs, a Keurig station offering dark bold Sumatran, free wifi, leather couches and interior decor that coagulated the best of surf hipster, New York chic and rustic farm house. Stunning. Unfortunately, the few people hustling by did not seem to notice.

As I sat there in opulent comfort, my mind flashed back to a church meeting I had attended in Thailand a decade earlier. The coffee was instant, the floor seating hard and the only decor a faded picture of a brown eyed Jesus hanging on the cross. The spirit of peace in that place was tangible. It was as if no one was trying. I mean that in the best of lights.

The executive pastor arrived with lavish apologies for his tardiness. A radio interview had gone long. He was likable, focused and obviously loved Jesus. Under his arm was a copy of Fast Company magazine. He told me to wait another five minutes and that his assistant would come out and collect me for the meeting. I was offered another coffee. For me, the interview had already ended. I knew we were headed to the same destination, but on different paths.

If there is one thing I have learned in twenty-plus years of leading in churches is that you can buy church. Check that. You can buy or create a church experience for your community that will offer them the temptation to think that this church has it all together. It’s also a great growth strategy, as it allows people to check the box of being part of something that is effective and meaningful.

As a pastor of a small local church and having just come out of 10 years ministering in a mega church setting, I feel the pressure to create a “Fast Church”, one with all the modern bells and whistles, singing the latest anthems and offering clean efficient systems to organize people around legitimate spiritual causes.

The problem that I face, is that if I went after that, it would not be long before I was the wizard behind the curtain offering up an illusion of spiritual perfection that would not only be soul killing for me, but also for those I lead.

It’s one thing to talk about messy churches and lives from the pulpit, but it’s quite another to actually allow that messiness to be part of your church staff, volunteer base or even organizational systems.
What I often see are churches that preach and sing about brokenness and authenticity, but then go out and try to create a church image and culture that presents modern ideals of perfectionism. Here is what I mean. Would you allow a seriously obese person  to be your door greeters? Can we allow someone to stay on staff who is not reaching their targets and goals for one reason or another believing that sometimes God cares more about your staff as individuals then what they can produce. Can someone be on the worship team that occasionally sings flat and do heads roll if the sound or PowerPoint is not run with Spielberg perfection?

I believe that when we present authenticity and imperfection from the stage but don’t allow that to play itself out in the ebb and flow of our church matrix’s and social systems, we are actually creating a culture that never let’s people truly be free. In fact it heaps unseen heavy burdens on their heads.

No, I am not advocating a sloppy church. Being an A Type control junkie, it pains me to be patient as God grows those I lead. I see every perceived misstep, off note and occasional unedited promotional piece. The thing is that deep down, my desire to present the perfect church has more to do with how I want people to perceive me then trying to offer them a savior who brought a casual perfection, but never demanded it in return.

The Blessing of Contentment

Phil. 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I have come to expect getting the best parking spot in the lot. I don’t pray for them, they just appear. Out of nowhere they materialize, and there I am with another premier spot. If Jesus would quit giving me parking spots it would be a lot easier not to expect them, but there it was again today as I pulled into Rubio’s during the storm of the century. I was content, at least for the moment.
The secret of contentment is expecting nothing more than Jesus. When we are satisfied with knowing Christ, we can be satisfied in all situations. Jesus is either everything or nothing. There is no middle ground. The pure Christian life equals Jesus plus nothing. Most agree to this when it comes to sin and our fleshly desires, but what about in the arena of blessings? What about all the good things we want God to lavish on us – like parking spots, spouses and the new iPhone 4? The things we feel entitled to as a follower of Christ?
While I want blessing in the temporal, blessing beyond knowing Jesus is always icing on the proverbial cake. To be sure, God takes great pleasure in blessing his children in the temporal. He regularly messes with my personal theology by giving me parking spots. I don’t remember the last time I had to look for a stall to park. It is almost like God is saying, “Hey, don’t forget that I love taking care of my son.”
What I want to steer clear from is feeling this type of blessing is a foregone conclusion to knowing God. This is the essence of the prosperity gospel: We are due a certain amount of worldly blessings because we are children of God. I personally prefer to stand with those who have preached Jesus as crucified, risen, coming again. This is all I need, and all I need to know. Do I want that parking spot, Yes! But, my hope is to have a faith survives devoid of temporal blessing. Am I the type of believer that is content when these things don’t materialize?
The central question then stands, “is Jesus enough?” Is Jesus and cancer enough? Are Jesus and an unfair lifetime prison sentence enough? When it is not – when God’s path leads to a life of suffering instead of plenty – how will we stand? How will we not question why? How will we cling to our faith?
The deeper I submerge myself into Christ, the less I am caring about blessing on this earth. The greater glimpse I get of the true extravagance of Jesus’ worth and the ultimate blessing that is knowing him, the more all temporary forms of lesser blessing seem. The blessing of knowing Jesus nullifies all others. This is not to say that they are not good, even given by God. Rather it is to point out that they fail the test of eternity. They all will pass away.
Nonetheless, the fact still remains that God is a God of rich blessings in the temporal and eternal. As the apostle John say’s:
John 1:16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.
So I guess I am going to keep getting my parking spots while doing my best not to put my faith in their appearance.
Be blessed,
Adam
More scriptures on contentment:
Phil. 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
1Tim. 6:8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
Heb. 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”