How We Should Listen In Church

           This last week, Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC held a human scheduled revival in which we prayed for God to move. Though I am not sure the true benefit of having a human scheduled revival, I am sure that asking God to come and to move has powerful consequences, even if we do not get to see those consequences. As we went through the week, I committed myself to learn whatever God would show me and I now wish to share what I have learned. Thus, my next few articles will reflect the things that God showed me this week specifically in the services we called revival.

As I wrote of before, there is a certain credulity or trust that we, as Christians, should have with others, especially our brothers and sisters. In trusting, we keep from making ourselves out to be fools and we are able to act in further wisdom: criticizing only what needs to be criticized and correcting the things that need to be corrected rather than wasting our time tearing down God’s people rather than building them up. This entire week, I was continuously challenged concerning this idea.

The preacher who came to speak God’s word to God’s congregation stood at his appointed time and began to speak. The first night, I sat I the church pew speechless to the fact that the preacher’s sermon consisted of about eighteen percent scripture. He started preaching from tradition and from experience and from fictional stories that he, himself created. How could God’s people benefit from fiction? How could they grow closer to God on the basis of tradition or the preacher’s own personal experience? They could not! Despite these proceedings, though, I thought maybe that first night was just an off night for the preacher, but he continued this style of preaching throughout the week. His use of scripture only got worse and worse.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”[1]

Quenching the Holy Spirit

            Here is a question I have. If God is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good, how is it that any human action could possibly quench Him or cause Him to reveal Himself to a lesser degree or halt His work, especially in a church service? Yet, we are challenged not to quench the Holy Spirit. Notice, though, the method by which we are commanded not to quench the Holy Spirit: rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, do not despise prophecies, but test everything and hold fast to what is good, and abstain from every form of evil.

There is a phenomenal concept registered within this passage, even at face value, and many Christians do not see it because quoting “do not quench the Spirit” has become so commonplace and so misquoted (quoted apart from its context in scripture). If any Christian fails at any moment to rejoice, to pray, to give thanks; or if any Christian chooses to despise prophecies, chooses not to test what he hears and hold fast to what is good; if he chooses not to abstain from every form of evil then he is not as aware of or open to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.

So, this phrase, “Do not quench the Spirit,” has a much grander meaning than what we usually attribute to it. To not quench the Spirit is to constantly be open and honest before God. It is not a command for God’s people not to limit God. It is a command for God’s people to always be receptive to God: no matter the actions, thoughts or beliefs of others and no matter the situations or circumstances they find themselves in.


Prayer without ceasing

            The western church today, for the most part, fails to pray without ceasing. In this sense, the church is constantly quenching the Holy Spirit. If we are not constantly in prayer, then we are not constantly connected to a perfect and holy God. If we are not connected to a perfect and holy God, then we cannot be receptive to how He would direct us. Yet, we still have the audacity to call ourselves His people. A people truly after God’s own heart would constantly pray because God would be the most important relationship they had.


The act of testing

            Furthermore, it is by prayer that we are able to test what is being said or to test different ideas that are being presented. While it is important not to criticize where criticism is not due, it is also important to constantly test ideas to see if they meet God’s standard. This is also why the memorizing of scripture is important. For, if we claim to live according to scripture and are unable to recognize when something fails to agree with what God has given us, then we are also unaware when someone steps into a church setting and begins preaching a false gospel or when someone works to convince Christians of a certain untruth regarding the God we worship. It is important that, in prayer and by reference to scripture, we know how to test what we hear and see!


We do not follow a preacher

Considering all this, then, we can be confident that God can move even when the preaching stinks! We do not attend church to listen to a preacher, but rather to hear from God and to give of ourselves to God. When ANY preacher steps into a pulpit or onto a stage or in front of a group, each listener should be actively listening and comparing what is said to scripture (even moreso if the preacher fails to use scripture). Not quenching the Holy Spirit means that we are more focused on what God would have us learn than we are concerned with how the preacher is failing or succeeding. We have a responsibility to God. We are in service for God. We should actively pursue God instead of passively listening while someone else talks about God. We forget, I guess, that God offers Himself equally to both the leadership and the laity! Praise be to God!

[1] 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

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