The following commentary is by Terry Teykl, author of The Presence-Based Church, My Most Wanted: 40 Days to Pray for the Lost, and Pray the Price: United Methodists United in Prayer.
Dr. Terry Teykl
An elder in the Texas Annual Conference, Dr. Teykl is a “prayer evangelist,” traveling across the U.S. and around the world encouraging churches to develop and maintain prayer ministries.
He also serves as the “prayer pastor” at Faithbridge UMC in Spring, Texas.
Terry Teykl holds a Master of Theology from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. He earned a Doctor of Ministry degree with honors from Oral Roberts University.
He is the founder of Renewal Ministries and Prayer Point Press.
|I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
(Jesus in Matthew 16:18)
As the Church of Jesus Christ, are we overcoming — or are we being overcome?
I have to ask myself that question as I read about the events going on in our world today and the struggles our denomination is facing. Hemorrhaging and weak, we hardly seem like the prevailing church that started in the Upper Room and spread throughout an entire continent within a year-and-a-half.
I believe one reasons for our dysfunction is that we have become a church sold out to people. We have bought into consumerism and all the tenets thereof. The consumer-driven marketplace feeds on such factors as ingenuity, entertainment location, and image. The mottos are, “Make the customer happy. Give ‘em what they want and they will come back for more. Make a profit at all cost.” The individual consumer is the prize.
While consumerism has its place in the marketplace, it is not difficult to see why it becomes a toxic virus when it is allowed to bleed over into the church.
When, as a church, we buy into the consumerism model, we begin to forfeit our birthrights as part of Jesus’ earthly bride. Driven by marketing, image control, and entertainment value, we allow ourselves to be shaped by the needs and desires of the church-shopping masses.
The whole thing becomes a people-to-people affair based on research and statistics. We do religious things based on careful assessment of human behavior in the “church industry.” Like Martha in the kitchen, we get so busy serving people that we neglect Jesus in the living room!
Being “culturally relevant” is fine — please hear me — but the church exists for God’s pleasure, not the pleasure of humankind. We are His bride, His love, created to represent Him and worship Him to His glory and honor.
We are not to be a consumer-based church, but a Presence-based church, sold out to inviting and welcoming the Presence of God.
The Presence-based church isn’t defined by procedures or specific worship styles. A Presence-based church doesn’t surface by following a prescribed formula, such as singing certain songs or ministering to people in a certain way.
Most importantly, a church is not Presence-based because of what it does or doesn’t do on Sunday morning. A church service is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. It is simply a weekly expression of all that is going on under the surface.
Any church can become more Presence-based than it currently is. Any congregation, regardless of size or affiliation, can desire more of God and hunger for His manifest Presence. The issue is not so much about how we worship, but why we worship, and the heart attitude that we embody.
The Presence-based church isn’t interested in the question, “Are we attracting people?” but rather, “Are we attracting the Presence of God,” and, “Is He welcome and honored above all else?”
To be Presence-based, we must, like the Israelites in the desert, put the new Ark, which is Jesus, in the very center of our camp and be led, governed, taught, and sustained by Him alone. He is to be our identity.
The ‘Mary’ heart
Though there are several characteristics of a Presence-based church, the most distinguishing mark is a passion and hunger to know God as expressed through worship and prayer. Presence-based churches have the heart of Mary, who loved nothing more than sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Like the Levites who waited in the temple, lured by an intense fascination with the Ark of the Covenant, the people of the Presence-based church have tasted the incomparable sweetness of God’s nearness and bear His divine imprint. They worship because they are drawn to the Presence of God, and because being created by God for that purpose, they feel more alive and fulfilled during worship than at any other time. It is their passion and purpose.
In the Presence-based church, worship isn’t confined to a one hour service on Sunday morning. It is an ongoing dance that engages all that we are in loving all that He is. Presence-based worship is a response to a God who is so terrifyingly magnificent, yet so intimately known, that praise and adoration burst forth naturally and without effort. It cannot be contained.
Small groups worship at the feet of Jesus. The worship leaders usher the congregation to the feet of Jesus Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Even board meetings engage the business of the church at the feet of Jesus.
The Presence-based church lives on the cutting edge of worship because its people are constantly looking for ways to press past any barriers that would hinder their expression of love and adoration.
Worship leaders in Presence-based churches may ask people to bow or kneel or worship in a prolonged period of silence and listening. They may introduce His people to worship music from different cultures. Occasionally, they may even dismiss the visitors at the end of the service and invite the regular members to stay and continue worshiping past noon.
Outside the camp
The prayer life of the Presence-based church follows a similar pattern. Hungry to know God’s ways, His glory, His heart, His voice, His rest and His thoughts, the people push past prayer that meets human agendas to seek God just for Himself. They pray to see His face, not just move His hand.
This is a realm of prayer that few ever experience. It is the purist form of prayer that teeters close to the edge of worship — that of praying to know God for no other reason except that He is worthy to be known.
It is the prayer of healthy desperation, a yearning prayer without crisis. It longs to press against the veil of the spiritual realm with such humility and endurance that the breath of God can be felt.
The Presence-based church goes beyond the familiar to seek God. Just as Moses went “outside the camp” to be with God in the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 33:7), the Presence-based church is always pushing past the successes of yesterday and going beyond the normal routine of church life to pray and experience God in new ways.
Seeking God, romancing with Him, deepens our spiritual understanding and faith. It greatly enhances God’s ability to transform lives and impact communities through us. That is why we need to go outside the camp to seek God for all that He is.
Vast knowledge and profound experience awaits the body of believers that can shake free from the familiar long enough to gaze at the heavens and listen for the heartbeat of God.
Many of our churches today are experiencing “Presence starvation,” and the deficiency is crippling. They have fasted the Presence for so long that they have forgotten what it is like to feast. All the while, Jesus is in the living room, beckoning anyone who will to come and sit at His feet.
Those who do will have “chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from [them]” (Luke 10:42).
Used by permission of Terry Teykl and Prayer Point Press: www.PrayerPoint Press.com
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