Earlier this year I was preaching in a church that has a beautiful sanctuary. All of the appointments are precise, are in the best of taste, and have deep theological implications.
Then I saw something very interesting. There is a large banner right next to the wall showing the dove and the flame representing the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is oftentimes described by a flame and fire. The United Methodist logo has a flame and a cross. The cross represents the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The flame represents the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
Then I saw something very interesting. Right under the banner and behind the altar rail there is a large fire extinguisher.
Now I know that there is a safety code and fire extinguishers have to be present in certain places in public buildings. But having the fire extinguisher right next to the fire of the Holy Spirit was very interesting. It raised the question to me as to whether most of us are participating in fanning the flame of the fire of the Holy Spirit or using a fire extinguisher to put out the flame. Are we more effective with a fan or a fire extinguisher?
Acts 1:8 records that Jesus said to the disciples to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit’s power was received the Good News of Jesus Christ began to spread throughout the whole world. Nobody could stop it. They didn’t have any fire extinguishers in the Book of Acts!
There is a movement of God’s Spirit in our world today. It is most evident in the churches overseas where the church is growing exponentially. Here in America we have used our fire extinguishers so well that most churches are stagnant or declining. In the United Methodist Church we have closed more churches in the last 100 years than we have open today. There are similar statistics in other denominations.
In other places of the world people are open to the movement of God’s Spirit. They fan the flame. In China today I’m told that there are 15,000 new Christians every day. In India there are 10,000 new Christians every day. Many missionaries are going to unreached people groups. The power of the Holy Spirit is so strong that great movements of revival are taking place.
Similar stories are happening in South America, the Philippines, in Asia, and many places in the world.
In January 2012 I will be speaking at the Synergize 3! Conference in Orlando, Florida, where pastors from 35 countries around the world will be present. It is not uncommon for some of them to preach on a Sunday to 10, 20 or 40 thousand people! They have churches that dwarf the largest churches I have seen in our country. So many pastors and churches in other parts of the world are using fans to accelerate the flame of the Holy Spirit. Fire extinguishers are not an option.
I have been a part of the Synergize Leadership team and have been serving as co-chairman for North America. The goal is to carry out the vision of Dr. Bill Bright, to start five million churches and win one billion people to Christ. That is such a God-sized vision that only God through His Son Jesus Christ and the power of His Holy Spirit can cause that to happen. Please pray for this effort.
And practice fanning!