One year, I had the privilege of offering the sermon at a non-denominational church in the community where I was serving as pastor. It was a growing church that was reaching a lot of unchurched people.
You could sense the Holy Spirit at work through the pastor and that congregation. Having attended one of their worship services on one of my vacation Sundays, I knew that the congregation was very expressive during worship.
Many lifted their hands during the worship music. Some shouted words like, “Amen,” or “Preach It,” during the sermon. They were a very expressive and Spirit filled church.
On the Sunday that I preached at this non-denominational church, I began my sermon by telling them that it was an honor for an introverted mainline Methodist preacher like me to be invited to such a growing Pentecostal congregation.
After the sermon, the pastor of this congregation thanked me for my message, but then offered this little bit of criticism. He said, “I wish you wouldn’t have called us a Pentecostal Church, because a lot of our people don’t like that word. It carries too much baggage. We want to simply be known as a Spirit filled church.”
I haven’t forgotten what this pastor told me. “We want to simply be know as a Spirit filled church.” What a great description of a church. “We want to simply be known as a Spirit filled church.”
I wonder how much we think of Athens First UMC as a “Spirit filled church.” And what does that even mean to be known as a “Spirit filled church?”
Does it mean that we raise our hands during a hymn? Does it mean that we speak in tongues? Does it mean that we dance in the aisles?
Actually, I don’t think it has anything to do with any of these things, although once in a while, you might see somebody lifting their hands or tapping their foot during a worship service here. There isn’t just one way to express ourselves in worship, that’s for sure.
The important thing is to be aware that the third person of the Trinity is in this place. The Holy Spirit is in this place whenever we gather.
We are part of a Spirit-filled church in which the Holy Spirit fills this beautiful room every time we meet. For Jesus said, “wherever two or three are gathered, there I am in the midst of them.”
Isn’t it great to be part of a Spirit filled church?
We all long to be the best church that God is calling us to be. Somebody recently shared with me a tongue in cheek “Disciple Model Church Kit” that you can get through the mail. Wouldn’t it be great if it was that easy?
This Disciple Model Church Kit contains a perfect pastor, a highly efficient, totally organized, fully mature governing board, representing the diversity of the congregation.
This kit also contains the perfect congregation which consists of 273 members. 48 of these members are 55 years and older but extremely healthy. 95 members ages 40 to 54 who all work more than 60 hours a week but are also able to devote ten hours or more a week to the church.
85 members are ages 25 to 39 most of whom are raising bright, well-behaved children who sit quietly in worship. 45 members are ages 18 to 24 mostly single, but they all love traditional music and old hymns.
In addition, the kit contains, 27 – 15 to 17 year olds. 33 – 12 to 14 year olds. 49 – 6 to 11 year olds. 43 – 2 to 5 year olds. And 32 kids in the nursery.
A supplemental kit contains modular pieces which allow you to build the sort of physical plant you wish, including: a sanctuary with movable pews and chairs on wheels. A fellowship hall that can convert into a home theater complete with stadium seating. Classrooms which can only expand.
And for an additional cost, a pastor’s study can also be included, providing a place for the pastor to work on sermons and have meetings.
This kit requires some assembly. Batteries and power source not included.
I was almost ready to order this kit until I read that last line, “Batteries and power source not included.”
Pentecost Sunday is the day for us to remember that a disciple model church kit is really useless when it doesn’t come with a power source. And that power source is the Holy Spirit.
Two thousand years ago, a handful of Jesus’ disciples were gathered in an Upper Room. And in the middle of someone’s prayer for God to send His Spirit, the floor began to rumble, some dishes fell off the table, some candles flew across the room, and each of them held on for dear life as this powerful wind was thrust upon them.
And then what looked like little flames of fire started to dance around them until there was a little flame over top of each person in that room. Not one person was left out, Luke is sure to tell us.
All had received the flame of God. And Luke tells us that each disciple was filled with the wind of God’s Spirit. God sent his mighty wind upon his gathered disciples.
Seven days ago, a group of teenagers gathered in a different Upper Room, also known as the 3rd floor of a large church located along South College Street in Athens, Ohio. Like that first Pentecost, it got a little windy that night as a storm blew threw the area.
They had gathered to discover how the Holy Spirit is present throughout the entire church, and not just one small part of it. And so the Holy Spirit led them on a tour of the place. They called it the Fruit of the Spirit tour. Fruit that every Spirit-filled church has in large quantities.
The first stop was right where they began, there in the Upper Room, I mean the 3rd floor. And when they looked out one of the windows, they could see the surrounding neighborhoods below and how the Holy Spirit is leading the church to love their neighbors.
A Spirit-filled church overflows with the fruit of love.
The next stop on the Fruit of the Spirit tour was the large sanctuary where some of our youth spelled out the word, “Joy,” another fruit of the Spirit. This is where we experience the joy of worship every Sunday.
A Spirit-filled church overflows with the fruit of joy.
And before they continued to the next room, they looked back and saw the large cross in the sanctuary and they were reminded that this is also a space where we experience God’s peace. Some have said that this church is to always be a haven of blessing and peace.
A Spirit-filled church overflows with the fruit of peace.
The Fruit of the Spirit tour continued when they noticed a large clock in one of the rooms near an elevator. These young disciples were reminded that the Holy Spirit helps us to be patient in our faith as we seek to remain dedicated in following God.
A Spirit-filled church overflows with the fruit of patience.
Next on the Fruit of the Spirit tour was the large church kitchen. This room in the church reminded the youth of all the kindness that is done in this space, especially all the meals that are made to feed the hungry.
A Spirit-filled church overflows with the fruit of kindness.
The Fruit of the Spirit tour then continued in the long Sunday School/Growing Tree Preschool hallway.
It was during that part of the tour that the young disciples noticed the Sunday School quilt made by children and the Growing Tree preschool children’s handprints. These are symbols of God’s gentleness expressed through the lives of our little ones.
A Spirit-filled church overflows with the fruit of gentleness.
The Holy Spirit then led those young disciples back to the Upper Room where they encountered God’s goodness through enjoying some Fruit of the Spirit salad and dominos pizza. The Spirit feeds us with good things.
A Spirit-filled church overflows with the Spirit of goodness.
Next on the tour and in that same room, they noticed the large wooden cross and a small prayer rock. The little praying angel reminded them of God’s gift of being faithful in praying.
A Spirit-filled church overflows with the Spirit of faithfulness.
The Fruit of the Spirit tour then led them down to the front entrance of the church, the Welcome Center. This is the place where Connect Time is held that always offers lots of pastries and desserts in between services. This reminded them that after one or two of those sweets, it’s important to remember that God offers the gift of self-control.
A Spirit-filled church overflows with the Spirit of self-control.
The Holy Spirit filled had filled the entire house where those teenagers had gathered just one week ago. I want to say thank you to our youth and our youth leaders for reminding us that we really do have a Spirit-filled church, a church that is filled with the fruit of the spirit;
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.
The fun part about being part of a Spirit-filled church is to celebrate the many ways that the Spirit is active in the life of the church.
Like even in just this past week alone. Here are a just a couple of examples in addition to our youth group’s encounter with the Holy Spirit last Sunday night.
Last Sunday after worship, one of you introduced me to a friend you brought to church with you. When people are inviting people to church, that’s a sign of a Spirit-filled church!
This past Monday evening, people from our partnering United Methodist churches gathered for a covered dish meal and shared in Holy Communion together at Pisgah United Methodist Church.
The Spirit was present in that 1836 church building as Rick Seiter and his organist led us in a joy-filled hymn sing and together we joined each other in a circle and shared praises as we offered the bread and the cup to each other.
When Christians join in fellowship with other churches, that’s a sign of a Spirit-filled church!
This past Tuesday, Jenaye Hill and I conducted a funeral service for an elderly man who was originally from this area but had moved out west several years ago. He wasn’t connected to our church, but the family told the funeral home that they wanted a Methodist preacher to conduct the service.
During the service, Jenaye and I were able to tell the family and friends of their loved one that they were all lifted up in prayer earlier that morning by our Tuesday prayer team. We also gave them grief support books to share with each other and to help them in their grieving process.
Athens First, you provided these books thanks to your support of our Stephen Ministry outreach.
When a church has caring ministries like Stephen Ministry and a prayer team that meets every single week to lift up prayer needs, that’s a sign that it’s a Spirit-filled church.
And just this last little way that the Holy Spirit is present in this place and this happened this morning. Every Sunday morning, before the start of our first worship service, a group of people join with me in the sanctuary to pray for our morning together.
They pray for all of you to be blessed through our worship services. And they pray for me to preach an above average sermon.
This is just another sign among many that we are a Spirit-filled church.
And that’s just this past week alone. I wonder how the Holy Spirit is going to blow through the church this upcoming week. I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as a normal week when you serve in a Spirit-filled church.
A few months ago, a friend of mine visited here for worship one Sunday morning. He had never been to our church. It was his first visit. I had a chance to talk with him in our Welcome Center following worship that morning.
His first words to me after the service were, “I can feel the Holy Spirit in this place.”
From the third floor and all of the way down to our kitchen, and all the other rooms in between, I agree with my friend. The Spirit is in this place.
I can feel it, too.
A Spirit Filled Church
Small Group Discussion Questions
May 20, 2018
If you were in charge of putting together a “Disciple Model Church Kit” that included all the accessories needed for a perfect church, what would those things be?
Pastor Robert shared that the most important thing a “Disciple Model Church Kit” would need is the Holy Spirit. The story of Pentecost reminds us that without the Holy Spirit, the disciples would not have been able to boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and include more and more people into the life of the new church.
Share a specific way that you sense the Holy Spirit at work in your life and in the life of the church.
It was shared in the sermon that a thriving Spirit-filled church is overflowing with the fruit of the Spirit that includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.
Where do you see these 9 important fruits of the Spirit at work through the church? What are some specific ways you might incorporate this fruit in your own walk with Christ?
Close your time together by praying this Holy Spirit/Pentecost prayer together:
Almighty and everlasting God, your Holy Spirit came to the saints in Jerusalem. You came in the form of a rushing wind and tongues of flames that filled the entire place where the disciples were gathered. We welcome the flame of your Spirit to fill our lives in this moment. Come, Holy Spirit, come! Amen.