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FORUM > Listening to God > are churches replacing presence for atmosphere

are churches replacing presence for atmosphere From: David Dawson 24 Apr 2015 (11:46)
Presence v Atmosphere?
ive been midly concerned about the over musicality and contemporary dance phenomon thats been happeningor in many evangelical and charismatic churches over the past 25 yrs.or so.
Ironically at the same time as the rise of the questionable evangelical TV moguls.and there empires..
Satan is a master of deception, imitating liar.

Men and women of God are somewhat blinded and fail to see satan is changing wrong into a right and a right into a wrong right before there very eyes.


i came across Jeff Clarkes who was tweeted by a friend and he brought forth his understanding of this dilemma


“Churches are replacing presence with atmosphere. True? I think so.”

I have to agree – contemporary church gatherings have become very good at creating atmosphere and packaging it as presence.
Contemporary churches have become good at creating atmosphere and packaging it as presence.

When we mix together the right combination of songs, in just the right way, with just the right accompanying music – music that incorporates an appropriate number of crescendos and decrescendos – and combine it with emotive video presentations, choreographed lighting and darkened rooms, are we not working to generate an atmosphere in order to facilitate a spiritual experience?

I wonder if what we interpret as presence may sometimes prove to be little more than an experience we’ve generated by creating a certain kind of atmosphere? The two are not mutually exclusive so that it is impossible to experience God in such an atmosphere,

I wonder if we’ve become so proficient in creating ambiance and setting a mood that we have at times traded authentic presence for atmosphere?

I wonder if we’ve become so good at creating an atmosphere that we assume it is presence by default?

What are the ramifications of making this assumption?

What if our weekly presentations are designed to feel like presence, but are instead the result of a well-manufactured atmosphere that tricks us into believing we’re experiencing authentic presence?

Another important question to consider is whether or not we believe we have the ability to create or manufacture presence to begin with?

We promise to create a worship experience for those who attend our gatherings, but will the experience we create prove to be little more than a human attempt to fabricate something we cannot actually fabricate?
Replacing Presence with Atmosphere

I too am afraid that our focus on creating an atmosphere has sometimes trumped real presence.

Charles Finney believed that if he created just the right conditions he could produce an atmosphere conducive to launching a revival.

However, the idea elicits two concerns:

It demonstrates the belief that human beings can somehow manufacture divine presence.
It reveals the underlying belief that we can manipulate the divine to move in a certain way if we combine the formulaic conditions required to activate such a move.

Both ideas are problematic and force us to ask these related questions:

Have we given up the real for the unreal?

Are churches promising presence and then working to fabricate an atmosphere in an attempt to deliver on that promise?
Are we conditioning people to believe that a certain kind of feeling generated in a worship experience can be automatically equated with God’s real-presence?
What if the fabrication feels real to us but actually misses the real in the process?

My primary concern is that people consistently mistake atmosphere for presence.

While God can decide of his own volition to work in the midst of even the most unorthodox of circumstances, we cannot always assume that an experience is God’s stamp of approval on the methods used to generate said experience.

Pragmatism does not equal orthodoxy. Just because something works doesn’t make it right.
Pragmatism does not equal orthodoxy. Just because something works doesn’t make it right.

I believe that God can work and move anywhere – even in the midst of our failed delivery systems.
However, the perceived sense of presence experienced in the midst of these delivery systems cannot be interpreted as God’s approval of the delivery system itself, as though the end somehow justifies the means. It simply demonstrates that God has voluntarily chosen to respond to a life that is open to him, even if the location, space and method in which they experience this presence is deeply flawed and in need of significant modification.

God is not limited by our limitations. However, we need to set aside time to reevaluate our systems and reconsider our methods.

Concluding Thoughts

Contrary to what some have come to believe, we cannot manufacture or fabricate presence. We can no longer maintain the belief that our primary job as the church is to create a certain kind of atmosphere so that God’s presence will show up. Such an idea makes God look like a cosmic genie – if we rub the vase in just the right way God will be obligated to make an appearance and grant our wishes.

However, God can neither be defined by or subjected to our delivery systems. God is not a cosmic genie or vending machine who responds to our every whim. And, God cannot be manipulated to show up because we believe we’ve created the perfect conditions by mixing together just the right ingredients.

Are churches replacing presence with atmosphere? Have we created a spiritual experience – labelled it, marketed it and sold it – with the promise of guaranteed results?

I hope not, but I fear we may have.
AMEN and AMEN dd
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Copying others doesn't make it right  From: TREFLYN JONES 26 Apr 2015 (09:11)
I read David's comments very carefully.
When I first became a Christian in 2003, I didn't have a clue between good church or bad church, right church or wrong church. Since those early experiences I have worshiped and attended many churches and all in all I feel really uncomfortable with church. I make no apologies for saying this. When we see a church that has many people attending is it because the message is strong, the teaching true and the atmosphere is right.

What I found appealing many years ago I now find tacky. Yes as a young man I went to wild parties, discos, clubs pubs etc. The Juke box, pretty attractive staff, the lighting, the welcome, the promise of a good night was too much to turn down.

I agree with David that some churches feel the need to bring their services "up to date" in order to create that "feel good factor".

Yes we like to be in pleasant surroundings with like minded people listening and singing to the music we enjoy, there's nothing wrong in that. But to what purpose?

What is the purpose of today's church?

A few weeks a go we had Ian McCormack staying with us for 4 nights. He was speaking at our TaskJesus meeting here in Warrington and I organised three other meetings for him so he wouldn't be travelling up to Warrington just to speak at one meeting. We have a green screen chromakey video studio where we video and produce various secular and christian videos which we upload to the TaskJesus video channel on Vimeo and also to YouTube. During his stay with us we videoed Ian McCormakc speaking about the 5 FOLD MINISTRY. I must admit that this blew my mind and I began to understand a little more about why I had been struggling with church as it is today.

I think that David's posting here is right on the money and I also believe that if Christians could grasp and fully understand the way the 5 FOLD MINISTRY church should be operating then they would stop doing the crazy boring futile stuff that many of them are doing to attract numbers, it's all about numbers??

As a guitarist who loves to play with other musicians and sing and play worship songs can I say that I am guilty of trying to create an atmosphere which is going to attract God to come and meet with us, I have to admit yes to that. But I see worship music and worship songs as a way of bringing everyone into God's presence and not bringing God into our presence.

What have i learnt form all of this.....?

Let God be God and let's stop trying to help God to do what He wants to do, because we just make a mess of things when we try to help God. Let's be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as He moves amongst us. Let's stop being religious and just let Jesus be the focus of our praise, worship and time in church together.

I would recommend that you watch Ian McCormack's video on THE FIVE FOLD MINISTRY on YouTube
Here is the link. (copy and paste it into your web browser address bar)


God bless you all

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the devil is a good replacer!  From: June Ritchie 27 Apr 2015 (14:56)
The church of the 70s here in Lancs is not what it is today and I thank God for that. saved mightily in 1970 I have spent years in differing church experiences and not just because of wanderings. but being called out and going forward as and when God called. the church I most loved and admired was in the charismatic movement in the 70s decade the early to mid eighties was a similar Holy Ghost situation with an active five fold ministry and the presence of the Lord so heavy one could hardly breathe! But no not every church.
its a fact that churches do work at gaining numbers to add to the flock. and they do it in subtle ways to attract. One can be in a church with just a guitar and feel Gods presence come down. another can have plenty of exuberant noisy singing and apart from excitement feel nothing going out from it as dry as when they come in. The loss of the five fold ministries within the churches is one of the saddest things am seeing in this age the dramatic healings of the seventies seem to have disappeared in such a full degree had the body of Christ still been getting it right I dont feel that situation would be with us.
there are two lots of people as I see it those who are determined to believe that they are getting fullness of God in church and the other group is those suffering the frustration of knowing what wonders were in the past which seem to have disappeared in the now. Its about personal responsibility too we are individuals and if we have enjoyed and recognised the presence of the Lord coming down on us previously we should be still able to see that today or to know when and where it is lacking. I would say without compromise Church wake up Its High Time and running out fast lets heve Gods presence filling us with awe not loud and lively praises that dont give the Holy Ghost time and opportunity to move. God forbid that I should ever go to church just to have a good time jollying myself up. I want to meet with God not just people. a lot of what david has said is spot on I can't criticise it for am seeing it in 2015. junex
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Geeing up  From: pauline Tait 28 Apr 2015 (16:49)
Tony (Howson) touched on this last Sunday clearly saying that he doesn't need to be geed up to experience God. That said there is a lot of criticism against Bethel church worship Music the lyrics of the songs are inspirational the testimonies of those writing the songs moving and one can feel oneself carried perhaps ushered into His presence. Perhaps there is a hype or a frenzy in the meetings I wouldn't know I have never been so I can't comment but there is no hype as I am listening in my own front room or while I am cooking and I have found myself suddenly in His presence many times