Here are my notes for the final session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my small group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.
One of the most striking similarities that most churchgoers share with the non-Christian world is their ability to complain about the way the church operates.
If you could create the perfect church, what would it look like? If you joined a perfect church, would that church still be perfect?
Could that perfect church be accomplished through human talent and strength? Or would it require the power of the Holy Spirit?
We could duplicate most of our successful churches by assembling the right group of talented, winsome people. If a church has the right worship leader, an exciting children’s program, and entertaining speaker, it will grow. But is that really the secret to life-changing ministry? Is that how God designed the church to operate? Where does the Holy Spirit fit in that model? “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Zachariah 4:6
I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power. I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for him to come through. That I am ruined if he does not come through.
Consider your involvement with church life. In what ways do you tend to rely on natural talent as we strive to fulfill the church’s mission?
The tractor illustration from the video segment: We get excited about the tractor, and then we wear ourselves out by pushing it inch by inch through the field. At the end of the harvest, we barely managed to finish the job and end up with just enough food to go around. Tragically, this is how many churches operate; they are built on the sweat and efforts of a few talented but exhausted leaders. When we consult the owner’s manual, however, we find that the tractor is actually designed to run and plow the field on its own. When we discover that the church was designed to function through the power of the Holy Spirit, it changes everything.
Do you see yourself and/or our church pushing and pulling the tractor an inch at a time?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-2:5 – Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth to address the factions that were dividing the church. Groups were forming around attractive personalities.
How does Paul describe human effort as compared to the power of God?
According to this passage, why is it so important to rely on the power of the Spirit?
Think about the way you minister to the people around you. Can you say, “my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)?
There ought to be a real difference between a spirit-filled person and everyone else. As Christians, we have the source of both joy and peace living inside of us. Sometimes the difference isn’t apparent until tragedy strikes.
Have you ever witnessed a person manifesting the Fruit of the Spirit to a supernatural degree?
The Spirit wants to do more than just help us out a bit. He wants to transform us, patiently but steadily, into people who transform the dark corners of our world. Sometimes we get so caught up in everything God wants us to do that we lose sight of who God wants us to be.
We won’t be transformed by simply trying harder. Remember, it’s never about you doing it on your own. It’s about the power of the Spirit in your life.
What would it look like for you to cultivate a relationship with the Spirit, allowing him to transform you, rather than simply trying harder on your own?
Perhaps we don’t recognize the Spirit’s power in our lives because we’re not stepping out in faith and doing anything where we desperately need God to show up. Talk to hurting people around you, digging deeper to learn how you can love and serve them, that’s when you need the Holy Spirit, and that’s precisely when he shows up. God works in the most desperate situations so that no one can make it for anything other than by his power. Maybe he will grant you boldness to speak into a frightening situation. Maybe he will give you a divine compassion for the lost and the poor. Maybe he will give you wisdom to say exactly what a person needs to hear at a critical moment in their life. You won’t know what God will do until you get out there and follow his leading.
We absolutely need to step beyond our own abilities. You get praised for using your own talents well. God gets praised when his power accomplishes the humanly impossible.
Have you ever walked away from a ministry opportunity because it would take you beyond your natural talents? In what areas would you need the Spirit to empower you in a situation like that?
This is by far the most difficult. It’s time to follow the Spirit’s leading, even if you’re not sure where he’s taking you or how you’ll get through it.
What would it look like if every Christian in our church fully submitted themselves to the Spirit’s leading?
What practical steps can you take right now to pursue the Spirit and live in dependence on him? Will you rely on your natural abilities, or will you allow the Holy Spirit to use you in incredible ways? If you rely on your own talents, you will be stopped so easily. You will get tired, distracted, overwhelmed, and attacked.
Pray that the Spirit of God would radically transform your life from the inside out.
Francis Chan Quotes from The Forgotten God:
- I bet you would agree that a group of talented, charismatic leaders can draw a crowd. Find the right creative team, musicians, and speakers, and you can grow any church. It doesn’t even have to be a Christian Church. The fact is that without making a conscious choice to depend on the Holy Spirit, we can do a lot.
- I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power. I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for him to come through. That if he doesn’t come through, I am screwed.
- We created a whole brand of churches that do not depend on the spirit, the whole culture of Christians who are not disciples, a new group of followers who do not follow.
- God is not interested in numbers. He cares most about the faithfulness, not the size, of his bride. He cares about whether people are lovers of him. And while I might be able to get people in the doors of a church or auditorium if I tell enough jokes or use enough visuals, the fact remains that I cannot convince people to be obsessed with Jesus.
- Regarding Elijah and the prophets of Baal: Is that what happens at the Christian gatherings you attend or does it feel more like what the prophets of Baal experienced before Elijah prayed? We can have a great time singing and dancing ourselves into a frenzy. But at the end of it, fire doesn’t come down from heaven. People leave talking about the people who led rather than the power of God.
- We all can choose to face life’s issues and circumstances in exactly the same way as someone without the Spirit of God. We worry, strive, and grieve know differently than non-believers. While it is true that we are humans like everyone else. It is also true that we are humans with the Spirit of God willing in us. Yet, whether consciously or not, we essentially say to God, I know you raised Jesus Christ from the dead, but the fact is my problems are just too much for you and I need to deal with them by myself.
- He desires to do more than “help out” a bit. He wants to completely transform us. He wants to take a timid heart and set it ablaze with strength and courage, so that people know something supernatural has taken place, life change just as miraculous as fire coming down from heaven. He wants to give us wisdom because he is the spirit of wisdom and revelation, (Ephesians 1:17, Isaiah 11:2).
- What disturbs me most is when we are not really bothered that God living in US has not made much of a noticeable difference.
- Don’t keep yourselves from praying desperately and courageously put the Spirit to work in your life simply because you are not the prophet Elijah as this verse says, Elijah was a human being with a nature like ours. He was just like us. The key thing about him? He prayed fervently, (James 5:17).
- I know that I tend to run from situations where I need God, and I think that is true in most every one of us. It is safer to avoid situations where we need God to come through than to stake it all on him and risk God’s silence.
- The church is tended to be a beautiful place of community. A place where wealth is shared and when one suffers, everyone suffers. A place where one rejoices, everyone rejoice. A place for everyone experiences real love and acceptance in the midst of great honesty about our brokenness. Yet most of the time this is not even close to how we would describe our churches.
- When we stock up on knowledge without applying it to our lives, we are actually sinning. You would think that learning more about God would be a good thing, and it can be. But when we gain knowledge ABOUT God without responding TO God or assimilating his truth into our lives, then it is not a good thing. According to the Bible, it is sin.