In the spiritual realm, things aren’t always as they appear. If you remain suspicious that something is amiss in a church, run for your life. Your spiritual health is at stake.

We’ve all seen it. Bling, hairdos, flashy choirs, appeals for money, promises of riches — showbiz stuff. They’re easy to spot.

Then there are those more polite, subdued, ornate churches with services focused on formal religious ceremonies and messages concentrating on such things as social justice, climate change and improving society.

Much of it can be laudable as far as it goes, but what is “powering” their ministries, God’s heavenly fire or man’s flickering candle?

Have you ever walked into an unknown church or listened to an unfamiliar preacher and wondered if they are the “real deal” spiritually?

The speaker may be engaging, the musical accompaniment inspirational, the buildings impressive, the congregants sincere, yet something may seem amiss.

That missing “something” could very well be the Person of the Holy Spirit. 

In last week’s column, “The Fire of Pentecost Never Went Out,” I mentioned the recent phenomenon called the “Asbury Revival.”

It all started with a message at the Feb. 28 chapel meeting of Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, titled “Revive us by your love.”

To me and millions of others, it seems to be an example of the real deal. Of course, we’ll only know for sure if the spiritual fruit lasts in the lives of the people long after the revival itself. Only time will tell.

At the end of his seminal sermon, Pastor Zach Meerkreebs prayed, “… that we would forget any of the intensity and passion of Zach (the preacher) and that it would fall to the ground like dust.”

He went on to request, “But Holy Spirit, if you spoke to anyone here … produce fruit in their souls …”

Bingo! Point away from man, point toward God, and watch the people be spiritually enriched.

It’s not about the pastor, it’s about the people.

Without necessarily intending to, Meerkreebs gave us all an excellent template with which to compare authentic Christian ministry with the countless imposters going about in the world:

  • Focus away from the preacher and his accompanying “temple and its implements”
  • Focus upon Christ, magnifying His Person and work of redemption on our behalf
  • Look toward to the transformational work of the Holy Spirit in producing fruit in the lives of the people

Jesus promised His presence throughout the ages.

Late in Jesus Christ’s ministry on earth, just before His death, He spoke words of comfort to His followers as the realization of His impending departure began to dawn on them.

As written in John 16:13-15, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take from Mine and will disclose it to you.”

Bible commentator, Bill MacDonald wrote, “His (the Holy Spirit) principal work will be to glorify Christ. By this we can test all teaching and preaching. If it has the effect of magnifying the Savior, then it is of the Holy Spirit. ‘He will take from Mine’ means that He will receive of the great truths that concern Christ. These are the things He reveals to believers. The subject can never be exhausted!”

So, beware the Devil’s distractions.

Trouble is, there is competition for the attention of the “target–rich spiritual lives of distracted and preoccupied modern men and women.”

In another column I wrote, “In his satirical novel, The Screwtape Letters, author and theologian C.S. Lewis wrote of the fictional demon ‘Screwtape,’ who is training his novice nephew ‘Wormwood’ in the fine art of tempting humans. ‘Whatever their bodies do affects their souls. It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality, our best work is done by keeping things out.’

“The most effective technique for squeezing good knowledge out of one’s mind is to consume its ‘bandwidth’ with so many distractions that nothing else can get in. Those distractions don’t need to be particularly bad (or good for that matter), just compelling enough to hold the subject’s attention.”

Over the centuries churches have wandered into all manner of distractions — the “social gospel,” idolatrous religious practices, political entanglements, building programs, etc.

This has often made a shipwreck of their public testimonies and left their congregations bereft of true spiritual nourishment.

Fortunately, many churches have remained faithful to the mission of the gospel.

Evangelist Josh McDowell wrote: “The principal reason Christianity has flourished for millennia is that it delivers on its promises with astonishing regularity. You can laugh at Christianity. You can mock and ridicule it. But it works. If you trust Christ, start watching your attitudes and actions — Jesus Christ is in the business of changing lives.”

And that calls for the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit who is made welcome in individual lives, homes and church gatherings.

D.C. Collier

D.C. Collier

D.C. Collier is a Bible teacher, discipleship mentor and writer focused on Christian apologetics. A mechanical engineer and internet entrepreneur, he is the author of My Origin, My Destiny, a book focused on Christianity’s basic “value proposition.” Click here for more information, or contact him at The opinions expressed are his own.