Make Room for the Holy Ghost
Carlton L. Coon Sr.
Several years ago, a prominent Trinitarian Pentecostal group elected a new General Superintendent. Early in his tenure he stated, “We are in danger of becoming a religious group that is ‘Pentecostal’ in name only.” Hopefully that would not be the case with the United Pentecostal Church, yet I’ve attended services where God was a long way off. As an elder said, “There is nothing as dead as a dead Pentecostal service.”
To remain anything like the church Jesus intended, we must make room for the Holy Ghost. if we have well-organized and flawlessly executed church services but don’t pursue a move of the Holy Ghost, we are abandoning the strategic high ground in order to follow impact strategies that are available to any corporation in North America.
Every church must have a move of the Spirit. As a Pentecostal leader you are to be a catalyst through whom the Spirit works. We become ministers of the Word, ministers of music, youth ministers, but we need to ask ourselves, “Where is the ministry of the Spirit?”
Ministry without the Spirit simply will not work. Do not forget Paul’s question: “Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3).
A quick Bible survey is in order:
* In chaos the Spirit intervened: “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). We are people of the “word,” but before God said, the Spirit moved in the chaos.
* To give life the Spirit intervenes: “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (II Corinthians 3:6).
Acts of the Apostles is a model regarding what men must do in finding remedy for their sin. The question in response to the conviction of the gospel is, “What shall we do?” If the remedy, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,” works for those who were implicit in the murder of the Lord of glory; certainly that directive still works. Yet, there is more than doctrine in Acts. Several commentators have observed that those who named the book might better have named it “The Ghost. Acts of the Holy Ghost.” Their reasoning: Acts teaches that we humans are in a role of partnership with the Holy.
A survey continues of what the Spirit does in Acts:
* The Spirit directs: “Then he Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot” (8:29).
* The Spirit prepares: “While Peter thought … the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee” (10:19).
* The Spirit instructs as to faith and obedience: “And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting” (11:12).
* The Spirit prohibits a human action plan: “After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not” (16:7).
Get the picture? The Holy Ghost was not a spectator while the apostles worked.
How can we make room for the Holy Ghost?
Pray yourself sensitive. Prayer and fasting are emery boards for the soul. Prayer and fasting address calluses of life that limit our sensitivity. Pray yourself full of the Holy Ghost and fast yourself empty of self.
Make Jesus the main thing! The Holy Ghost is the spirit of Christ working in and among us. Don’t seek for the Holy Ghost; seek after and celebrate the Lord Jesus Christ. We can easily get off course with this so do a bit of assessment. Are our singing and activities vertical going upward toward God? It makes a difference! Horizontal activities singing about and talking of our experiences may have a place, but such activities will seldom be what allow the Holy Spirit to work.
Keep order but be flexible in the church service. Hoping for a Holy Ghost interruption does not eliminate the need for preparation, but the expectation of a divine interruption allows for immediate adjustments as the Holy Ghost interposes. My pastoral prayer was, “Jesus, you have a plan for this service; don’t let my plan get in the way of Your plan.
Prepare but be flexible with your sermon. What does God want to say to this congregation of people at this moment in time? What would the Holy Ghost have me do? Use patterns and models. I preached and taught in series. My Bible had a chart of twenty pastoral topics that needed to be addressed at least two times each year, but no scheduled series or chart of topics takes precedence over, “Thus says the Lord!” Sometimes those changes in course came two minutes before I walked into the pulpit. Quite often those shifts in direction came during pre-service prayer where the Holy Spirit was already moving in a unique fashion.
Give the Holy Ghost time. After praise, if the Lord Jesus is truly enthroned in the praise, why hurry on to another song, the offering, or some other activity? God is not as uncomfortable with non-activity and silent microphones as I am. If the Holy Ghost comes in, why not let the freshly enthroned God have time to operate? The Holy Ghost does more in moments than I can get done in decades. We confuse activity for anointing and volume for victory. Volume is a good thing at times (shout to the Lord), but God also speaks with a still small voice.
Baby Churches and a Move of the Holy Ghost.
Metro Missionary Anthony Ens is birthing a church in downtown Vancouver, BC. He recently reported:
Planting a church is like nothing we have tackled. We assumed that when we had services there would be deep moves of God. I don’t know why we assumed that, since 98% of the people in church are completely unchurched.
Two months in I was frustrated. We weren’t having the moves of God we are used to. Veteran church planters encouraged patience saying, “It can take six months before people are trained to respond to the Spirit.” It was encouraging to hear that this was the norm. Three weeks ago (July 2013) we had a turning point! As we sang about healing I invited people who needed healing to come forward for prayer. I was excited that several people came to the front. One who came up was a young Korean woman named Lisa. Shortly after I prayed for her, she began speaking in tongues quite loudly, weeping and worshiping the Lord. Something broke and soon people with Buddhist and Hindu backgrounds were lifting their hands. Lisa later apologized for being such a distraction. It took time to explain that what had happened was not a distraction. Then she said something that sent goose bumps over my wife and I. Understand, it was incredibly hot that day and the a/c was not keeping up. The heat was almost unbearable for the musicians.
Lisa asked, “Did someone prop a door open while I was at the altar?”
We hadn’t because the community center we rent is not keen on the noise we make. Lisa, newly filled with the Holy Ghost, said, “Well, that’s funny because as I was praying, I felt a cool breeze going over me the whole time.”
In a baby church, God showed up and made Himself real. What Missionary Ens described is what we must all pursue! No Apostolic church of any size needs to become content without a spiritual interruption.
Am I willing to have church for months without the Holy Ghost doing something that is not the result of human ability? How long since we had Sunday lunch or went home after a midweek service and could not explain what had happened in church? The unexplainable accomplished by the Holy Ghost is what has to be given some room and allowance to work!
Anticipate the Holy Ghost
The Holy Ghost can interrupt at any time. During the business session at a recent district conference, Jerald Staten (planting in Washington D.C.) was given time to express his burden and to tell of what Jesus is doing. As he spoke in that business meeting, the Holy Ghost moved in and for quite a time preachers were on their knees before the Lord. God can do anything at any time! Having a move of the Holy Ghost during a business session is not the norm; there are times that seem particularly geared for the Holy Ghost to intrude. Be particularly aware of these times in a service and learn to respond to them.
During time of prayer over needs: This works if there has been a personalizing of those needs. Try this: have people get in groups of three and share their personal needs with each other, then that group prays about those specific needs. You will have to coach the group a few times, but it is likely that the very first time you will see the Holy Ghost move into some of those prayer groups. As this happens, move through the groups praying for each one, particularly those where the Holy Ghost is at work.
During praise or worship: In a time of great struggle, our family visited the Pentecostals of Alexandria. During a time of praise, Vesta Mangun came where we stood and began ministering the spirit to us, “I love you, Jesus loves you; He has a plan for your life.” The sensitive handmaiden of the Lord was used as a vessel of the spirit who opened a door of ministry to us. Be sensitive and teach your people to be sensitive to these moments and respond to them as Sis. Mangun responded.
Strike while the iron is hot: The late evangelist Doyle Spears probably made the statement “Strike while the iron is hot,” at least 100,000 times. He was saying, “Something is happening here, let’s flow with the Holy Ghost.” If the Spirit is moving, don’t move past that moment regardless of who is scheduled to sing. When the iron is hot, my mentors taught me to get among the people and pray with those who are being touched by the spirit. Some have the disease of platformitis which anchors them to the front of a building. If you have platformitis, this very week you need to be healed and get among the people.
While you are preaching: Wanzie Sproles received the Holy Ghost “while he yet spoke.” I was the “he” yet speaking actually preaching from Acts 10. When you are preaching and the spirit moves stop sermonizing. Preaching past the move of the Holy Ghost is a common and often irreversible mistake. It is the preacher thinking, “I need to finish my good sermon in spite of what a great God is doing.”
Altar service: Revival is not measured by how high we leap; it is measured by how effectively we kneel. As a pastor, my approach was to aim everything toward the altar. It still is my strategy. The altar service is not an afterthought, it is the crescendo. A service can flow along with all signs of being subpar until the Holy Ghost meets us at the altar.
During an altar service you are to be a minister of the spirit. Let me give an example of ministering the spirit. I was in Odessa, Texas and watched during an altar service as the late J.T. Pugh stood near a man of the church. After a while, Bro. Pugh reached his arms around that man and hugged him close and began to minister to him. It was done quietly and without fanfare. Nobody else came to help, but something happened right there. You can do the same sort of thing by being sensitive to the Holy Ghost.
How essential is it to have a move of the Holy Ghost? “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
The above article, ‘Make Room for the Holy Ghost,’ is written by Carlton L. Coon Sr. The article was excerpted from the North American Missions magazine, Sept-Oct 2013 issue, pages 1-3 of Director’s Communique.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.