I can’t wait to get back to church. I want to see people face to face, give my friends a hug, and shake hands with acquaintances and visitors.
As Ariel, the Little Mermaid, sang, “I want to be where the people are…”
Don’t get me wrong, I love online church. I am thankful we live in a day and age where the technology and social media have made it possible to enjoy church from the comfort of my own living room. And I am particularly grateful these circumstances have forced our church to start streaming (Full disclosure: I have been lobbying my pastor to develop an online presence for a while).
However, no Zoom meeting, FaceTime, or video stream will ever take the place of a gathering of believers praising and worshiping God as one.
Since I am a trumpet player, allow me to make a musical comparison. You see, musicians understand this concept. Playing before a packed house is a lot different than playing in front of empty seats.
There’s a line in the movie, “Blues Brothers 2000,” where Elwood’s young sidekick, Buster Blues, has to remind him of the power of music: “The Elwood Blues I know once said that no pharmaceutical product could ever equal the rush you get when the band hits that groove; the people are dancin’, and shoutin’, and swayin’; and the house is rockin’!”
If you want to see a New Testament comparison, just look at the day of Pentecost.
They were having so much fun in the presence of God that the locals thought they were drunk (reference Acts 2:13). Yet, it was simply the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon a body of believers that were of one mind and one accord.
Just like there is a group dynamic, there are interpersonal dynamics that only happen when people are together. There is something to be said for close personal contact amongst believers. For some things to take place, believers need to touch one another.
Jesus commissioned us to lay hands on the sick (reference Mark 16:18). That is impossible to do virtually; that is something that has to be done face to face. Don’t misunderstand me, I know people can and have gotten healed by a television or radio minister speaking Words of life. They believe the Word spoken by the evangelist, released their faith (i.e., believed the Word they heard), and received a supernatural manifestation of healing right from their home (or car, or from wherever they were listening). But the great commission stands: we are called to lay hands on the sick.
There are times when hands are laid upon those who are entering another phase of their ministry, such as the ordaining of deacons (reference Acts 6:1-6) or when Barnabas and Saul were sent: “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:2,3).
Through the laying on of hands, the Holy Ghost has been given. Peter and John did this in Samaria (reference Acts 8:17) and Paul did it in Ephesus (reference Acts 19:6). The Lord used Peter and John’s experience to instruct me how to pray for people to receive the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.
Personal story: There was a period of time in the late ’80s and early ’90s when I would minister at a youth prison on a fairly regular basis. It was not uncommon for me to minister on the benefits of spending time in prayer, speaking in tongues.
After one service, a young man approached me and said he wanted the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. The problem was, I knew how it had helped me, but I didn’t know how to minister it to anyone on a personal level.
As I left the prison, I was troubled. Here I was teaching about the benefits of something which I had no idea how to give to others.
It was just a week or two later I heard Rick Renner teach on Acts 8, explaining step by step how the apostles laid their hands on the people and they received the Holy Ghost. The Lord used his teaching, and the laying on of hands by another visiting evangelist, to instruct me on how to minister to individuals seeking the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.
The next time I visited the prison, I had no issues teaching on the benefits of the Holy Spirit and seeing the manifestation of the same in those young men’s lives.
I was forever marked; I was forever changed. Now, any time someone wants the Holy Spirit, I know how to minister to them and can get them filled.
“But why are you telling us this, Brother Tim?”
Because it happens with a personal connection. Anytime I minister to an individual, I am compelled to hold their hands.
And the most logical place and time for that kind of personal ministry to happen is at church, amongst a body of believers.
You see, church is not just for those that are hurting; those who need forgiveness, encouragement, healing, or deliverance. Those that the Lord has gifted need an outlet, as well.
As Jesus taught His disciples, “… freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8b).
The Lord has blessed me tremendously over the years.
Consequently, I love altar calls on Sunday mornings, when I can pray with those in need of a touch from the Lord. It’s an opportunity for me to give what I have freely received.
Am I ready to go back to church? You’re dog gone tooting!
Tim Hughes is a lay minister and elder at Ascension Life Church in Athens. He can be reached at email@example.com