Presence is Priority



September of 2011, I arrived at Gateway Church to preach and interview with the church body. It was a time for me to get to know them, and a time for them to get to know me. There are certain things I remember about that day, but one thing stands out to me. I vividly remember the sermon I preached.  However, I even more clearly remember the boldness I felt when I declared that, should we become their pastor, we would make God’s Presence our priority.

The text I came from that day was in Exodus 33, and zeroed in on Exodus 33:15 Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.” Moses was making a bold statement. Basically saying, I would rather stay in a wilderness with You than to enter into a promise without You. That was exactly what I was saying to Gateway that day!

God has done amazing things in our church family over the last five years. Often people ask me what the turning point was for our church. Without hesitation I tell them it was establishing a culture of pursuit for the Presence of God. People organically begin to invite other people to come share their experience when they’ve encountered Jesus. Healing takes place, freedom comes, and salvation is realized in God’s Presence. At Gateway, we are without question a church that gathers around the Presence of God.

I would like to share with you a few things I’ve learned over these last five years:

  1. You don’t plan Presence, but you do plan for it.

You can’t organize and plan the moment the Holy Spirit will manifest in a tangible way during your worship experience. That said, we have learned as a team to be ready when He shows up. We do plan our worship sets, transitions, and closings. However, we remain open to the leadership of the Spirit. God’s Presence will continue to manifest where He is honored.

  1. Sowing praise reaps Presence.

Challenge your church to be passionate about the Presence of God. Don’t expect the glory of God to fill a room full of people that are apathetic about Him. Preach about praise/pursuit, model them, disciple people in your congregation to be thermostats that help shift the atmosphere of a room. The praise team isn’t just the people on stage; many of them are in the crowd setting the tone in worship.

  1. Be seeker-friendly but stay Spirit-sensitive.

You can grieve/quench the Holy Spirit. That reality should be on the forefront of our minds. I will say that most of the time the Holy Spirit leads us into hospitable acts towards people, but there are times He will challenge us to press beyond our comfort. God must be the catalyst for our actions in a worship gathering. If God isn’t the catalyst, who are we really worshipping?

With that said, I want to be clear about some things. Longer services don’t necessarily mean greater spirituality or greater Presence. I don’t recommend holding people hostage during an altar call. We often dismiss and then allow people to come up for prayer. When the LORD leads us into a moment as a congregation, the people take it serious because I don’t hold them hostage every Sunday. Also, there is a major difference between poor planning and the Holy Spirit breaking into a service. Don’t plan poorly and then blame the Holy Spirit for a long drawn-out service.

There are no programs that can cultivate a Presence-driven atmosphere in your church. It requires leaders that have a relationship with God and are sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

To establish Presence in your church, you must establish Presence in your life!

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