The message on social media promised that if Id click on the link, Id see a church service Id never forget.
After more than 50 years of church services, thats a hard invitation to resist. I couldnt help it. Drawn like a fly to road kill, I clicked the link.
What I saw next on the YouTube video was truly hard to believe. I had never seen anything like it before, and hope to never seen anything like it again.
It was a small church, and an older man was singing a song. Everyone was dressed tastefully, and to their credit, all the women seemed quite polite. They sat without moving or talking, and none of them complained about the awful music.
The men in the room, on the other hand, were a different story. They ran from side to side, from front to back, and occasionally, over one another. One rather athletic individual actually ran to the very front of the room and in a single bound, high-jumped into the baptistery.
Thankfully, there was water in the pool.
It was amazing. And disgraceful. By the time the clip ended, I wished Id never seen it. Unfortunately, the clip had gone viral, and millions had watched the spirit-filled swan dive. A good number of them, no doubt, had found yet one more reason to laugh at the entire idea of what it means to be a person of faith.
Is this, I wondered, what people think it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
Without hesitation, the Bibles answer is no. There are even explicit instructions to one over-active church to calm down. Its right there in 1 Corinthians 14, leading up to a reminder that God is not the author of confusion. Though thats true in every inch of the universe, the original context of the instruction was for order in worship.
At the same time, lets be honest. Many church services give the impression that the people sitting in the pews have been sprayed in place with concrete. Sometimes, people even look like theyre angry that someone made them come to church. Is this what it means to be filled with the spirit of God?
Without hesitation, the answer is no.
Turning worship of an all-creative, all-powerful, all-loving God into a boring experience isnt an honor to God any more than turning a time of worship into a circus.
Jesus used an illustration that really helps me understand how easy it is to spot a person filled with the spirit of God.
You know the wind is there, he said, talking to a man named Nicodemus, but you cant see it. What you see, instead, is the evidence of the wind. Thats my paraphrase of the conversation that had just begun in John 3.
What a great illustration! If youre on the beach and you see a sailboat moving briskly across the water, you know the wind is blowing, even if you cant feel a breeze. If you look through a window and see coats flapping and hats flying, you know the wind is there.
Seeing the evidence of a spirit-filled life is just as easy.
Paul referred to this evidence as fruit. It takes a while, but in due time, a plant will produce the fruit that it has spent a lifetime cultivating.
The evidence? Love, joy and peace. Then comes patience, kindness and goodness. Faithfulness, gentleness and self-control round out the list, and if you ever see the complete package, you know the spirit has been blowing.
Actually, you know the person with the nine fruits has adjusted his life to the spirit. Shes thrown up a sail to catch the wind, and shes adjusted her journey to where the spirit will take her.
And as easily as you would know that the wind is blowing, youll spot the people whove managed to find the spirit of God.
I know, I know. That kind of life is so understated, so filled with humility and service, it will never go viral on YouTube.
But that kind of life will be incredibly satisfying to you. It will win the respect of everyone around you, and by the end of your life, it will bring joy to the face of the one who gave the spirit in the first place.
So throw up your sail, and catch the spirit!
Andy Cook is the pastor of Shirley Hills Baptist Church in Warner Robins.