Do We Value God’s Presence? Or, Can We Do Church Without Him?

So, Where’s God?

Here’s what I’ve come to realize after all these years in the ministry: Too much of my church ministry has been done without any consideration for the presence and power of God! If your church is typical very little thought is given to God’s presence in your worship service; and, the rest of your ministry effort!

I “assumed” His presence as I performed ministry in the power of my own wisdom and effort. Oh, I prayed regularly; and, I read His Word consistently. But, most of my prayers were requests to bless my efforts or my ministry! Sound familiar?

I prayed that God would just use me; and, give me wisdom — my ministry was “me-centered” and “me-powered” rather than “God-centered” and “God-powered”! I never thought about asking Him to “show up”! I never really gave consideration to the fact that spiritual work requires His Presence; or, it isn’t HIS WORK!

Moses’ Passion For God’s Presence

Recently, I found myself reading Exodus 33; and, it seems like the Presence of God was a really big deal to Moses. Let me set the stage for you – God had miraculously presented Himself to Moses & Israel and called them out of Egypt. At the time God showed up they were a people enslaved by the Egyptians; and, it was a pretty sweet deal for the Pyramid builders! They were pretty reluctant to let Israel go when Moses came ’round and demanded it. But God had a way of persuading Pharoah to let them go; so, out to the wilderness they went on their way to a new home – the Promised Land!

God would meet with Moses and tell him how to lead the people; but, more than that He actually accompanied the people on their journey – God went with them! He dwelt among them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. So, they knew He was present with them!

But if you remember what happened back in ch.32, the people committed “idolatry” in an incredibly grievous, immoral way – they made a golden calf and worshipped it while Moses was busy talking with God. So provoked was God, by their act of unbelief, that He told Moses to “stand back” while He destroyed them for their sin! But Moses interceded for the people and God “changed His mind” (or “repented”) about killing them. But, He also “changed the rules” for their wilderness journey!

Just take a quick peak at v.3; and, you’ll see God telling Moses, “But I will not go with you because you are a stiff-necked people; otherwise, I might destroy you on the way.” So, they needed to keep on making their way to the Promised Land; but, God wasn’t going with them! The next verse says: “When the people heard this bad news, they mourned…”

Now I confess to reading that “like a calf looking at a new gate”. Somehow I had overlooked that little phrase, “…But I will not go with you…” Instead, God said He would “…send an angel ahead…” of them to drive out the inhabitants of the land. But, God wasn’t going to be making the trip! This was an incredibly significant development!

Let the response of the people sink in: “…they MOURNED!” This was bad news! To do the Lord’s work without God’s presence was bad news! Notice how Moses tells God (v.15) that he just can’t do God’s work without God’s presence — “If your presence does not go, don’t make us go up from here.” “Don’t make us go without YOU”, Moses says. And, then he makes this incredibly insightful & revealing statement in v.16, “…I and Your people will BE DISTINGUISHED by this from all the other people on the face of the earth.” “It’s YOUR PRESENCE, with us, that makes us DIFFERENT from everyone else! You have to go with us,” Moses pleads! It’s the presence of God that makes His followers DISTINCT from everyone else on the planet.

Hey Church: Is God Present?

Could it be that it’s the “Presence of God” that we’re missing in our churches? Is that the reason for it’s decline? Has God refused to show up because we’ve been content to do try and do church in our own strength and wisdom? How’s that working?

If the church is to prosper again, like it did during New Testament days, we have to get over ourselves! We have to stop living like it’s all about us! Like Moses, we need to beg God to be present in our church and to lead us according to HIS AGENDA; or, it’s just not worth doing!

We need to do church in our brokenness and our weakness! Because when “I am weak” than “He is strong”! He shows up when we admit that our plans, our wisdom, our abilities, our talents, and, our effort just won’t get the job done!

As Jesus’ church we can’t be satisfied with anything less than God’s presence in our midst — in our ministry to the body & to the world at large! For Israel, it was bad news if God wasn’t present; and, it should be bad news to us if we sense a lack of God’s presence in our ministry.

We bring glory to God when His glory — His attributes — permeate our congregation! When God “shows up” the world will see Jesus when they see us worship; when they see how we interact with each other; and, when they observe our ministry!

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