In 1962, ‘folk music’ filled the airways and in my opinion, The Kingston Trio exemplified the craze. Half of my vinyl record collection celebrated their music: M.T.A., Good News, All My Sorrows, and of course my favorite, Tom Dooley; first recorded in 1958. So when I got the news that this famous trio was going to be in concert at Russ Auditorium in San Diego, California…I had to get tickets!
So when I got the news this famous trio was going to be in a live concert at Russ Auditorium in San Diego, California…I had to get tickets!
After the concert, I asked my date if she wanted to go back stage and see if we could get autographs, or at least see them up close. I was especially bold that night, most likely trying to show off a little in front of my date. Alright, it wasn’t “a little.”
As we walked backstage, I saw two giants of men standing at the foot of some stairs. “They surely wouldn’t let us climb those stairs,” I thought to myself. But they parted, like the Red Sea, and we went to the top and into a small dressing room. And there, standing in their boxer shorts, was Nick Reynolds, Dave Guard, and Bob Shane. Our mouths dropped. How did we get this far without being escorted through a back door into the alley? Could I actually get an autograph from the Kingston Trio members?
Well, we didn’t. But Nick (right side of photo) did wave at us over the tops of the news cameras and that made it an evening to remember! ‘Nick really knows me!’
THAT WAS AN ENCOUNTER.
However, if Nick…I thought I was on a first name basis seeing him in his “shorts”… had invited us over to his dressing table and invited us to dinner in getting to know us better, my encounter would have given way to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. That is a huge difference.
I submit to you that most church folks attending Pentecostal churches I’ve attended over the years have become accustomed to ENCOUNTERS with God.
Too many of us have been attending church for years, faithfully, religiously, and we have been experiencing encounters.
- We SETTLE for weekly ENCOUNTERS with God.
- We see Him at a distance.
- We see physical evidence of Him in our life.
But I want to put a CHALLENGE out front–We need more than just AN ENCOUNTER. We need a CLOSE ENCOUNTER. CONTACT!
Close Encounters Are Different.
One of the best examples I found is the story of the 10 lepers; 10 get healed, 10 lives are changed! 10 destinies are forever reshaped and marked by the POWER of God!!
However, only ONE had a close encounter while NINE settles for just an encounter.
9 SETTLED for ‘spiritual pornography’—
Cheap thrills with no relationship or intimacy. While 1 has a close encounter with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords [Luke 17:11-19].
So the challenge for most of us as a church body and as individuals is whether we’ll SETTLE for an encounter time to time or will we call it a “good church”; we get goosebumps, get to shout out the AMEN’s, get to show off our spiritual gifts a little.
Or, will we hold out and hold on to a life changing, world wrecking, city shaking, addiction-breaking, marriage restoring, teenager rescuing close encounter with our God?
In order for us to see these events happen, we have to make a CHOICE and a DECISION–we have to determine the type of CHURCH that we are attending will be.
After my personal bible study this past week, I believe there are TWO OPTIONS available that can be found in Scripture.
The FIRST CHURCH is found in Ezekiel 44:11-14:
 They [the priests] may serve in my sanctuary, having charge of the gates of the temple and serving in it; they may slaughter the burnt offerings and sacrifices for the people and stand before the people and serve them.  But because they served them in the presence of their idols and made the people of Israel fall into sin, therefore I have sworn with uplifted hand that they must bear the consequences of their sin, declares the Sovereign Lord.  They are not to come near to serve me as priests or come near any of my holy things or my most holy offerings; they must bear the shame of their detestable practices.  And I will appoint them to guard the temple for all the work that is to be done there. (NIV Bible)
The MESSAGE Bible says in verses 13-14: “They’re fired from the priesthood. No longer will they come into my presence and take care of my holy things. No more access to The Holy Place! They’ll have to live with what they’ve done, carry the shame of their vile and obscene lives.
 From now on, their job is to sweep up and run errands. That’s it.”
You can have a church like this–
- We can come in and have charge of the house!
- We can minister in the house!
- We can offer sacrifices in the house!
- We can sing in the house, praise in the house, and do church in the house!!!
BUT never come near Him.
We can have the things of God and never really have God. That is an OPTION. We can settle for an ENCOUNTER.
Or we cam make up our minds that it is more than that. We can make up our minds and determine in our hearts that as members of the body of Christ we aren’t about to SETTLE for sweeping and running errands. There’s got to be more than that.
We have to set our face like a flint and fight for our place of meeting God on Sunday’s like the church described in 2 Chronicles 5:11-14:
We can have a CHURCH, where regardless of your rank or assignment,
- You can be an usher,
- A janitor,
- An Elder/Deacon,
- Or, the Pastor…
And it won’t matter. You can experience the same amount of GLORY as the next person.
The GLORY will be just as strong in the church parking lot as it is in the SANCTUARY. Just as powerful in the nursery as in the Home Bible Study.
What really matters is that we are all after the same thing.
We can have CHURCH where the GLORY of the Lord is so strong that none of us can stand it!
We can have a CHURCH where the close encounter is so close…all we can do is stand in AWE!
We can have a CHURCH where the move of God is so profound and so pronounced that A CITY will have to sit up and take notice, sinners will flock to find out what is happening–that the STARVED will find spiritual food as well as physical food, that the DRUG ADDICT will fall short-changed, that the UNLOVED will find the LOVE for which they have so longed for.
WE HAVE A CHOICE
We can SETTLE for the brief encounters that have satisfied us for so long.
BUT as for me and my house, if we are going to have another Ezekiel 44 church we might as well shut all the doors at church.
If the people on Sunday Morning or on any day of the week are going to walk in and leave exactly how they entered, broken, devastated, addicted and sick…then take all the equipment back!
My personal choice is to have a church where I have, and hopefully, you will have, a close encounter with God and that stuff will fall off and stay off!
I like when this man said in a statement:
“A church is not a church until God decides that it will become a place of divine visitation. The building may seem one of architectural splendor and exquisite design, but it is not a church until God issues a certificate of divine occupancy and takes up residence there.”
**[See Footnote [i] ]
So, I present a challenge to all of us where we are.
Will we stop at an encounter? Will we be satisfied with a little taste here and there? Will you wink and say “yeah they have a cool church” or will you make a commitment with me to pursue His presence at all costs.
My hope and prayer are that we will press in until God issues a “certificate of divine occupancy” in a fellowship of believers. How does this happen?
Ask yourself, as I have asked myself on numerous occasions, are you willing to settle for an encounter or will you ask for more?
When was the last time YOU had a “close encounter”?
CREDITD & FOOTNOTES –
Footnote [i]: On Jordan’s Stormy Banks: Leading Your Congregation through the Wilderness by H. Beecher Hicks.
PHOTOS: All from Google Image Search.
Bible Translations: New International Version (NIV) unless stated in the text.