How can you tell if a church is Spirit-filled? Some of our “friends” will quickly say that it is obvious: there is an outward display of the sign gifts of speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, and working of miracles. I am not debating the existence of the cessation of those gifts when I say that is absolutely not the evidence according to Jesus.
Jesus gives an incredible promise right before His ascension. He says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) In fact, Jesus tells this gathering of early disciples, “Don’t leave Jerusalem until this promise is fulfilled.” (my paraphrase). This promise is fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when the church is simultaneously baptized with and filled with the Holy Spirit. Those are not the same thing, but they both happen on the day of Pentecost.
It is hard to find a pattern in the book of Acts because the same things do not happen every time, well except for one. There is one characteristic that is always evidenced when believers are filled with the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts. Study it for yourself. It is not speaking in tongues; it is not working miracles; it is actually not the demonstration of any particular gift. What does happen every single time without exception when someone is filled with the Spirit is they boldly proclaim the Gospel.
On the day of Pentecost, there is a “speaking in tongues” but it is not an unknown language. The disciples proclaim the Gospel and all the ethnic groups gathered in Jerusalem for the festival hear the Gospel in their heart language. So the evidence that a church is “Spirit-filled” is the reality that it is missional.
Hang with me. If evangelism is the sharing of the Gospel, then missions is sharing the Gospel in a way that the people listening actually hear the Gospel. Missions is sharing the Gospel in contextually appropriate ways.
Emil Bruner once said, “A church exists for mission like a fire exists by burning.” To be a church in the perspective of Acts 1:8 is to be missional. A church filled with the Spirit will be a witness in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Those four different descriptions of geography, by the way, are simultaneous and not sequential.
I will be so bold as to say any church that is not “Spirit-filled” is living on borrowed time. Styles of worship are not the determining factor for vitality and vibrancy in our futures. The filling of the Spirit is the essential. The one indispensable person in our church is not the pastor, not an elder, not a deacon, not a prominent member, not a charter member, not any human. The one indispensable person is the Holy Spirit.
As we launch into 2016 lets not get distracted with secondary issues. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing. Is your church “Spirit-filled?”