Oct 11, 2020 08:00am
Is God Really Present in Your Church?

“You must be present with God to experience the presence of God!”

This quote has really been making an impact on my heart lately.  

Everyone has so many plans, strategies, programs, and good initiatives in their churches, but more than anything else we need God’s presence.  

For years we have taught pastors and church planters to pursue prayerful planning, but recently I heard Bill Elliff use the term “God-initiated planning,” and I like it even better.  

The need for God’s presence and praying without ceasing cannot be overstated.

First, God is omnipresent and that means he is everywhere. There is nowhere you can go that he has not already been. 

Also, there is the cultivated presence of God where James tells us to “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” The manifest presence of God is where his movement and presence are clearly seen, evident, and undeniable. He invades a situation in a unique and extraordinary way.  

So are you cultivating an environment where you are constantly aware of God’s presence in your life and in your ministry? 

There are many books describing what a church needs to look like or trying to describe its mission and vision: Purpose Driven Church, Simple Church, Essential Church, Vertical Church, and U-Turn Church, just to name a few. All of these are excellent resources with great insights and biblical instruction.  

Recently, I read The Presence Centered Church by Bill Elliff.  We had the privilege of interviewing Bill for and it was encouraging, challenging, and convicting.

As quickly as I could I purchased his book and began to devour its content. If you have a desire to lead your church where God wants it to be then begin spending a lot of time in the Word and in prayer. Take a prayer retreat and seek his presence in your life and in your church. Then get Bill’s book and allow its truth to speak to your soul from one who has walked this path of seeking the Lord’s presence in his life continually.  

Most of the content of this article comes from Bill and I want to give credit where credit is due but knowing Bill he would say, “No, it comes from the Lord.”  

You see, it is the evidence of his walking with the Lord and not settling for anything less than God’s presence in his life, his family, his church, and his nation. Bill challenged us with the reality of how humanistic we have become thinking we can pull off ministry and church ourselves. He says there is one question that shows how humanistic we really are, “How often do you pray?” 

When we leave a worship service we are often tempted to begin critiquing the music, the sermon, the attendance, etc. but far more important to ask is “Was God there?”  

As leaders we must do everything necessary, pay any price, to build a church where God is pleased to dwell. We must settle for nothing less than a culture that seeks, above all else, the presence and glory of God.  Where does that journey begin? It starts with you the leader seeking the invasion of God into your life in unique ways as he does what only he can do.

Three hundred years ago Jonathan Edwards, who ignited in America the “Great Awakening” of the 1700s, said that revival was the “extraordinary movement of God that produces extraordinary results.” God’s people praying and crying out to him in desperation can accelerate the movement of God.  

We cannot produce revival any more than we can produce fruit on our own, but we can develop an environment that is conducive to growth and invites God’s manifest presence. Our responsiveness does lead to more productivity as we sow the seed of God’s Word into our hearts and, as we pray, asking him to move in an extraordinary way. 

Where does it start?  Leaders, it must begin with you in your heart as you pursue an intimate relationship with him.  

We can only thrive as we abide in God, and when we are not abiding in him our fruit begins to wither. When Jesus called the disciples in Mark 3:14 says, “He also appointed 12—he also named them apostles—to be with him, to send them out to preach.”  

Notice the phrase “To be with Him.” We begin the journey of being His disciples by being with him, and that is also how the journey is sustained. 

It is not only learning and hearing about God, but rather it is living with him daily, constantly, in an intimate relationship. Remember the thing that stood out about Jesus’ disciples in Acts 4:13 was, “When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.”  

That is where you increase the production of fruit in your life by the environment you are in. Are you in God’s presence and do you seek the awareness to stay there?

Why is God’s presence so paramount?  In Bill’s words, “If you have God, you have all you need and more!”

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Copyright © 2020 by Larry Barker @ Used with permission. No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from