I am currently re-reading J.I. Packer’s masterpiece “Knowing God.” It’s in my personal top 20 “Greatest Books of All Time.” I am constantly trying to expand my mind around the idea of how big and glorious God is. The closer to God I get, the smaller I feel and the more that I genuinely believe that “the fear of of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10) I like what the priest in the movie Rudy said when he confessed, “There is a God and I am not him.” Realizing how small I am next to a huge God brings no condemnation to me at all. It actually brings me great relief.
I pastor Bridgeway Church, which is located in the heart of the Bible belt. Some people would even call Greenville, South Carolina the “buckle” of the Bible belt. At Bridgeway, we focus on raising disciples and being a community of believers that stands between the Word and the Spirit. We refuse to just be a church that focuses on the Word and is afraid of the Supernatural. However, we have zero desire to chase Supernatural things without a solid foundation in the Word. We want both. The reason that we want to be this way is because this is who Jesus is. When He was on the earth, He spoke truth and also walked in the Supernatural effortlessly. He seemed to specialize in the “Radical Middle.”
Two Sunday’s ago in our corporate Worship service we had an unusual encounter. During the musical worship aspect of our service, a gold cloud appeared in the front of the auditorium. It was not a vision or an encounter in the spirit realm. It was in the natural realm and people from all over the auditorium saw it. As you can imagine, it created many questions. I’ve been going to church services most of my life and I’ve never seen anything like this. To act like this is normal is overcompensation in my mind. I want to be honest, vulnerable, and clear with my thoughts as I address this encounter.
I do not know why it happened. We did not pray for it to happen. At Bridgeway, we will never chase signs and wonders. At Bridgeway, we will be wide open to whatever God wants to do in our midst. At Bridgeway, we will keep our focus on Jesus Christ and not on signs and wonders.
I have learned over the years that most people seem to want God on their own terms. I know that I was that way for much of my life until I had a radical encounter with Jesus Christ. I was 29 years old when I prayed, “Lord, I want You on Your terms and not mine. I don’t care what that looks like. I want all of You.” Be careful before you pray a prayer like that. The fact is that it is impossible to have all of Jesus without it costing you something. When you receive Him on His terms, you have to die to yourself and submit to His process.
When I first looked up during worship and saw the cloud, I asked God, “What do You want to teach me right now that I have never learned before?” (I have learned that God seems to never answer the “why” question, so I have stopped asking that. He will answer the other question almost every time.) He immediately said, “I want to remind you that I am with you always. As things get harder in your leadership, simply trust me. I am with you and this church.”
I sometimes wonder what it is like from God’s perspective as He leads us? I wonder if He searches the earth looking for a community of people that will be open to whatever He wants to do? I love getting to know Him through His Word but I also am open to anything else He wants to do in my life or at this church. As Bill Johnson said one time, “Maybe signs are there to make you wonder.”
One thing I know is this: We did not worship that experience when it happened and all we want here at Bridgeway is the Jesus behind the experience. There are two errors leadership can make when something like this happens. 1. Focus on the experience so much that our eyes get off of Jesus. 2. Ignore the experience thinking that this is “wisdom.” I believe what many Christians call “wisdom” God calls “unbelief and fear.” I don’t want to do either of those things. The calling on our church is to be a bridge. A bridge between the Natural and the Supernatural and between the Word and the Spirit.
Come Lord Jesus.