Probably more people than I realise today have been in a good number of different churches One person may be something of a Baptist/Presbyterian/Pentecostal now attending an Orthodox church, or another some other blend . And the more “blended” Christians become, and the more blended the churches become, we all tend toward the things we all agree on, and say things in a way that's the most agreeable to the most people; and all this can be really good.
Anybody who has built a fire knows that, once it is kindled one can expect a great flame at the first as the flame spreads through the clean material. Once the fire has spread, the material tends to collapse together and a layer of ash forms which limits the air flow, and the flames die out. The wood has “internalised” the heat, and as without the flames to keep the air flowing, tends to die out entirely.
After three years' time, we might say that Jesus “built” His Church. A mass of over five hundred followers, with eleven dedicated apostles to lead them, eleven into whom He had poured His life in teaching them carefully all the principles of the Kingdom. According to the best human reasoning, the stage was set for the Church to start gathering in the harvest of God, but Jesus saw it differently. He did not just send them out from the point of His ascension, as a quick read of only one account might suggest, but sent them first to go and wait. He did not want a Church merely well-structured, or well-equipped, or well-educated. His first requirement was for a church ablaze. They obeyed, and ten days later, of the five-hundred plus who had seen Him resurrected about one-hundred twenty were still there. After ten days of that prayer meeting the Holy Spirit arrived in force and set their lives ablaze. In the next hour five thousand men, plus the women and children, had received salvation. The fire spread, and the Gospel went out through Jerusalem and outward. Not only were people believing the message of the Lord Jesus' resurrection, but the new converts were receiving the same fire that had set on the disciples on Pentecost.
A few years later, Paul and Silas were in Ephesus, and met twelve disciples there who seemed to be missing something. After a brief conversation, they prayed, and the fire was blazing in their lives also. Ephesus became home to a thriving Christian community that flouished until the Saracen massacres created an all-Islamic Turkey.
There is something about being human that craves a “comfort zone.” We all just naturally want to be able to say, “I understand this,” or “I can handle that.” To be ablaze with the Holy Spirit brings us very quickly to say, “I can't, Lord, but You can!” This violates our pride, and, while pride is the first principle of our sin and destruction, that pride is a major part of our comfort zone.
When Jesus was first talking to the Twelve about the Spirit, He called Him the “Comforter.” So why is He a threat to our comfort zone? What we call comfort is a soft chair, or a hot bath, or a plate full of rich food: things that cause us to relax into a state of, “fat, dumb, and happy!” The kind of comfort Jesus was talking about is more about “strong, wise, and joyful.” We can use joy here as rejoicing other-ly, toward God, rather than merely in our own convenient happenstance. Then we can pray, with no reservation, “It's not about me, but Thee!”
When Jesus was still teaching the First Bunch, He told them of His coming death. They responded by murmuring amongst themselves, “What does He mean?” Nobody was really willing to find out from Him what He meant; they preferred their own, more comfortable, opinions.
Look at the Roman Catholic. Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God, or Greek Orthodox, or whatever other group you like, and they all affirm being “filled with the Spirit.” In almost every case, if we polled the thousands of traditions and denominations, you would find the term used to apply to all kinds of different things. Many say that all Christians are “filled with the Spirit” from conversion, leaving Scriptural commands to “be filled...” in the realm of handy preaching phrases with no real meaning to worry with. Others want to make it a warm feeling, or some a “real good time” in church. In short, it is defined in every term the comfort zone will allow!
In the mean time, the churches in North America are shrinking weekly when, according to the Bible plan, they should have encompassed the world with the Spirit's joy long ago. The average “evangelical christian” today has never shared his faith with a single soul, from lack of boldness, or of the love that creates that boldness. Yet if asked, they will surely say that they are Spirit-filled Christians! What's wrong with this picture?
“Church” in the West today is the product of four and a half centuries of “simplifying.” At first it was simply getting rid of the idea that a paper ticket could buy a short cut to Heaven. Then ideas of the clergy controlling our salvation, or that the virgin Mary was somehow divine. All these things were vain, and needed removing. However, after a while the idea got to be more of stripping things down to the bones, and then debating on which bones needed to be there. Today we have a field of bleached bones, and we brag on how pretty they look in the bright sun!
The Church today needs the Holy Spirit no less than at any time, ever. To define terms here would take any number of face-to-face conversations, with so many people being accustomed to so many more very comfortable ideas. We need to, each, come to the place of not caring how we look, or feel, because without Him we are helpless, useless, and hopeless. Woman, if you worry about appearances when your man wants to stand close to you or to kiss you, then you love your appearances more than your man. Man, if you look around to see who can hear you before you tell your woman you love her, then there is a message there as well. Kid, does your parent's love embarrass you? Then please catch this clue. We all need to be able to sing, “I Surrender All,” or “Have Thine own Way” with a full desire to see that happen, and no care at all about what His will, or His way really is. It may mean moving to a new home, it may mean staying put when you would rather move. I could mean a lot of things, but it will mean moving from the “comfort zone” to the depths of His love!