I often use the phrase ‘Presence Based Church’. I want to explain what I mean by this phrase?
It can be summarized by saying our main focus is on encountering God. We don’t want to just talk or sing about Him we want to meet Him in person. I once thought this was our focus but God showed me it wasn’t. Our focus at the time was based on teaching and applying the word of God. Often focuses we can have are evangelism, community outreach, Bible studies, fellowship, etc.
The Lord started our church down this path of changing our focus when I heard Rick Joyner say, “Ask what attracts God and not what attracts people?” This shocked me when I heard it and I went down a multi-year path of evaluating everything we did. One thing we have learned is when people encounter God Himself and not just hear about Him many of their needs are automatically met. We still do teaching, evangelism, community outreach, Bible studies, discipleship classes, and fellowship but they are not the focus. They are important just not the most important.
I would have to write a small book to explain everything we are learning but here are a few points I want to share today:
We Camp Around His Presence Not The Sermon
The church is usually centered around the sermon. But Israel in the wilderness camped around the presence – the fire and cloud. The sermon is very important but if God’s presence is strong in whatever we may be doing – worship, ministry, etc. – we will stay there even if it is time for the sermon.
Learning to recognize, treasure and carry this presence is at the heart of the Christian life. Recalibrating our hearts to this supreme value affects everything. In a Word Based Church our highest priority is to be taught, instructed, learn, and grow. But there is no greater process to maturity than to be in His presence. A presence based church values a person who is in the room! He is not just there as a theological point.
We Camp Around His Presence Not Ministry
For years I was in a Charismatic church where the meeting was judged on how many signs, wonders and miracles manifested. We desire these things and regularly pray for them but this is not the highest sign of a good church meeting. The highest sign is did the signs and wonders and miracles bring a greater revelation of Jesus and did He show up as a result.
We Have To Retrain Christians as to the Nature of God
We have found a lot of Christians like to go to church but it scares them when His presence shows up. This is because most Christians think God is mad or sad at them and when He shows up they want to run out of fear. The presence of God is alien to most Christians! They are used to living in the Outer Court or Holy Place and not the Holy of Holies. A presence based church is not satisfied with just outreach (Outer court living), teaching and ministering (Holy Place living) but we want to go into the Holy of Holies.
So a presence based Church has to retrain Christians to understand God is good, He desires your presence, and that when we are intimate with Him it meets our deepest desire.