I’ve talked about this before, but some years ago, on a mission trip to Eastern Europe, I experienced something I thought I had never previously encountered. Sitting in a small church in Erfurt, formerly a communist party social hall (delicious irony, that), and talking with a young pastor while we were being videotaped, I was overcome by what I can only describe as a presence.
So were the pastor and the cameraman. For no discernible reason, the three of us began to weep, and simultaneously.
It lasted but a few minutes. We looked at one another, and knew something had happened. I don’t think any of us could ever describe it exactly; I remember feeling slightly dazed. And I remember thinking everything has changed.
It seems almost too easy to say it was the Holy Spirit. No tongues of fire appeared upon our heads; no odd languages escaped our mouths. Just the weeping, a sadness, a kind of gentle desolation.
I had never experienced anything like it before, inside or outside of church. In American culture, people will look at you a little strangely when you describe an experience like that.
Whatever it was, it was real.
I didn’t see anything; but something happened, something as real as the wind.
I think hesitate to name what I think it was because I have no corresponding experience to validate it.
In Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, Francis Chan says “there is a big gap between what we read in Scripture about the Holy Spirit and how most believers and churches operate today.” We pray to the Father; we have a “personal experience” with Jesus. But the Spirit is banished to a closet somewhere in the basement.
Right from the start, Chan is asking some tough questions. Without the Holy Spirit, does the church live any differently than any other group of people? Have we indeed banished the Spirit to the basement? Do we really even understand what the Holy Spirit is?
One of Chan’s statements is haunting. “The light of the American church is flickering and nearly extinguished,” he writes, “having largely sold out to the kingdoms and values of this world.” I ask myself if that’s true. Are we indeed more concerned about weekly attendance than the movement of the Holy Spirit?
It promises to be a wild ride of a book.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, a group of us have begun reading Chan’s Forgotten God. To see more posts on the book’s introduction, please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact. And consider joining us – we’re covering a chapter a week (and I downloaded my copy on Kindle).
Photograph by Lynn Greyling via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.