Each time the citizens of the United States of America elect a president, he is sworn into office swearing to uphold the constitution of the United States. But there is even higher responsibility for the president when he takes office and that is to serve and protect the people of this country. Likewise, I believe church leaders have callings on their lives in varying degrees as well. But I think the highest calling of any church leader should be to bring the presence of God to the body of believers.
I believe in order for the presence to come, where people truly get free as well experience true freedom, there has to be some measure of release for that to occur. Said another way, based on what I see in the church today, I don’t believe there is enough freedom in most churches. People in the church in America do not express themselves with as much freedom as they could in worship, or in confessing their sins to one another, or in walking out Matt 18 so that we can have real relationships that can withstand some fire and conflict. No, in truth, most of us go to church week after week and never have a meaningful conversation with anyone, much less God. We are spiritually and emotionally disconnected from our church in most ways.
That of course is the symptom. The problem is bringing freedom into the corporate environment where the Holy Spirit can go to work on the body. I believe there is a co-responsibility to respond and also cooperate with how the Spirit is flowing in the body at any one time. But the initial move is created by the leadership of any church in the creation of a culture that respects freedom enough to allow the presence to come.
Of course I am of the mind and biased by my own beliefs that there are degrees of the “presence” that God’s people can experience. Is he in the local protestant church? Of course. God loves the church. But he also wants us to grow into a deeper, more intimate relationship with him. If we want those added layers of his presence, we must respond to what he’s doing. For instance, Peter walked on water. Was he in the presence of God? Did he experience the Lord on a level different from the other disciples? How about Paul? Were his profound epistles the consequence of just a s0-so relationship with God?
To me this is a consequence of freedom. I believe that people who have more freedom experience more in the spirit vs. those who are bound up in what others think, see, feel or say. Being bound up is truly restrictive because if we make decisions based on what others think, see, feel or say then we’re not following God. Yes, perhaps he is using people to shape us but that’s in case of sin. After all, he used a donkey once so who says he can’t use your friends and church. But that doesn’t apply to expressing your freedom, does it? Certainly we don’t think that God would tell another person to guilt you into not being so expressive in worship, would we? Of course not! Now that would be silly. Therefore we must be careful not to assume too much when someone complains. It may just be their flesh that is annoyed by your freedom.
Lately I have felt like freedom is a bit of a dirty word in church circles. I never understood why I seemed to get the Christian equivalent of a football stiff-arm at the mere mention of the word. If you mention that you want more freedom, let’s face it, you will get frowns at times. And I’m not talking just about leaders either. You will get that from anyone. At best your requests are usually met with polite dismissals of any such ideas. At worst, you walk away feeling like some kind of weirdo or extremist. In other words, it’s a pretty rare that anyone, and especially leaders (simply because there are fewer of them) who embraces freedom in the corporate environment. After all, there is a lot at stake for leaders with freedom. And while I understand that fact for why it takes some leaders a while to come around, I still feel that God would not want us to sacrifice his presence by clamping down on any expressions of freedom when it happens spontaneously.
I have learned in recent months that freedom is a challenge to everyone, not just the person who feels like they’ll burst from the inside out if they can’t fully express their heart toward God. The expression to move freely is one thing, but what holds it back is quite another. The first we can control but the other we cannot. On one hand, I may feel as if I have this boldness coming over me that compels me to dance before Jesus, but on the other, if there is no culture of freedom in which I am allowed to do so, I may feel held back.
I often wonder what would happen if a rebel gang of worshippers went to the front of a church and just started dancing before the Lord during Sunday morning worship. What would come of them if they did? What would others in the body think? Would they complain? Could a church that was not that free tolerate that kind of emotion toward God without a pastor crackdown? And more importantly, what would they possibly say to those people that wouldn’t sound like a cop out of the commandment to worship and “Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind?” Wouldn’t those people doing it be free while the rest in church, for the most part, remained “dignified?” After all, wouldn’t such an act only mirror what David did when he danced before God?
How would we want our church to be defined? And if it’s not for more freedom and joy, why not? What possible reason could someone have against that freedom to express one’s heart before God? That people will be offended? That people will leave? I say, too bad! You never had them to begin with. Do you think Jesus made the Pharisees uncomfortable? Did he offend people? You can bet on it!
These questions stretch our structures and beliefs. They also define where we are at with God in my opinion. So much so that people don’t like these questions much. I understand it’s easier to not think about it, but in reality, they let us know where we stand with God. We should give some thought to these questions before we’re faced with such an event. Otherwise, we’re going to be thrust into some situations that will make us very uncomfortable and if that happens, it’s not going to be pretty.