Follow by Email

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Hosting God's Presence

I'm going to take a break from the subject of authority and hierarchy for now though I will come back to it: I want to suggest some thoughts on structures and culture of leadership in the local church once we abandon hierarchy. But something different for now.

I'd like to use this blog to occasionally write brief reviews on books that are influencing my thinking right now. I have just finished reading Hosting the Presence by Bill Johnson.

Worship and valuing the manifest presence of God is something that is part of our heritage, for many of us. I am so grateful to spiritual fathers like Bryn and Keri Jones who helped to lead a movement in the UK, one of whose main legacies was to transform the experience of worship for so many - they paid the pioneers' price so that we could enjoy a church culture that experienced freedom, passion, genuine intimacy with the Holy Spirit, exuberant joy, the gifts of the Spirit and an expectancy that God would manifest his presence and power when we gathered to worship. I honour them for that. (One of my favourite books by Bryn was Worship: A Heart for God, almost certainly now out of print).
Bill Johnson's writings on worship, intimacy with God and the Presence therefore so resonate with this key aspect of the journey many of us have been on for years. In this recent book he puts it in the context of God's ultimate agenda to live among people - in the garden of his Presence. Then he reflects on different aspects of what it means for us to be carriers of the Presence both individually and corporately. Where I think he takes us further on the journey is in encouraging an expectancy for the supernatural lifestyle as living in God's Presence becomes normal for us; and for our experience of the Presence to actually lead to a transformation of cities as the Presence we attract actually changes the atmospheres and environments in which we live. 
He gives us so much to think about in this as in others of his books. People often say that a book was so good they couldn't put it down. I usually say of most of Bill Johnson's books that they are so good you have to put them down - he writes in such a way that you want to stop and think about what he has said. And often just to worship! The only other writer who wants to make me stop and worship is A.W.Tozer.
Bill Johnson argues that for many years, churches have camped around the sermon in our gatherings. We need to value preaching and teaching but learn again to camp around the Presence, and to discover more about its transformative power. I agree. 


  1. sorry to only now find your article! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Johnson's book...and the concept of hosting "the Presence."

    I am also a charismatic believer and I rejoice in the sense of God's nearness in our times of worship. But in the last several years I have become increasingly concerned that by emphasizing "the Presence", we have subtly moved away from the real authority of the Word, and replaced it with just about anything that looks or "feels" supernatural.

    And so we see people enamored with ecstasy of even wild proportions, little caring for whether or not it is biblical. I have seen people fainting in the "presence" of a diamond stone that has suddenly appeared in a meeting. The preacher carried the stone around the room and people were falling out under "the presence".

    This is idolatry. This is divination and paganism. And even many sincere Christians are being taken in by it. Are you aware of these excesses?

    1. Hi Dane. Thank you for your comment. It is encouraging to see that people are still reading these posts. To some extent, I sympathize with your concern - there is a shift toward the experiential in many churches, and we should be careful about that. But I don't think that we should pit Word and Presence, or Bible and experience, against each other. The reality is that the truth of the Bible is meant to be experienced. And we all read the Bible through the lens of our experiences anyway (both the obviously spiritual ones and more general experiences of life). And often people use the word 'biblical' to mean their particular interpretation of the Bible. For some the Bible has become an idol also - in the sense that they try to get their meaning and fulfilment in life from biblical correctness rather than from being loved by and loving God. I think that the best way forward is to stay in conversation with each other and learn from each other by sharing both our experiences and our understanding of the Bible. So thanks for joining the conversation with me, Dane.