Manufacturing and Marketing the Presence of God

God is always present when His people meet. As Jesus promised in Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (KJV). But once in a while, He chooses to stir hearts with a particularly strong sense of blessing or conviction.

I occasionally notice promotional materials for Southern Gospel groups that promise to bring God’s presence, in this second sense, to services where they are invited to perform. (I can’t recall ever seeing a top-tier group do this; a claim to this effect is a pretty sure sign that I’m reading the promotional materials for a local or regional group.)

In that light, a recent series of columns from Bob Kauflin, a church musician and modern hymnwriter, is worth reading. In the first post, he states:

Good intentions notwithstanding, no one can consistently and meaningfully “bring God’s manifest presence” to a group of people. No musician, no pastor, no singer, no preacher, no leader – nobody. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit and he functions on his own terms, not ours (John 3:8; 1 Cor. 12:11).

He adds:

I’ve been invited to attend conferences, download songs, attend concerts, buy books, and listen to preachers who all claim they will bring me into God’s presence – for a price. But we can’t buy the presence of God. Simon the Magician realized that when he saw the disciples laying their hands on people with dramatic effect. He offered them cold cash, saying, “Give me this power.” Peter rebuked him.

God’s power, like God’s presence, can’t be bought or sold. God doesn’t call us so much to be facilitators of his glory as faithful to the gospel. Our job isn’t to create an “environment of excitement” but an environment of response to the true God through the gospel in the power of the Spirit.

Check out the three-part series here, here, and here. Don’t be dissuaded from completing the series by the corrective tone of the first post; the second post provides a necessary positive balance—we also aren’t to minimize the fact that sometimes God does choose to move in these powerful ways, and we need to be open and receptive when these times come.

In the concluding third post, he gets to the heart of the matter: “Don’t let the pursuit of experience replace a pursuit of faithfulness to Scripture and the gospel.”

It seems every generation is tempted to value and pursue experience over faithfulness. The perils are numerous. It can lead to equating elevated passions to encountering God, feeling disappointed if we’re not emotionally or physically affected, making secondary means (technical skill, lights, videos, arrangements) primary in engaging people’s minds and hearts, and being overimpressed with unusual manifestations. If the people I lead get more excited about the latest “move of God” than the fact that Jesus Christ came to die for our sins and rise from the dead to reconcile us to God (the gospel), then we’re responsible to lead them back to what is of first importance (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Likewise, if my congregation thinks “hearing from God” only means prophetic or spontaneous events, I need to help them treasure God’s sufficient and authoritative Word more than gold (Ps. 19:10-11).

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25 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. Great thread in my opinion !

  2. Great post. We all need to be conscious of the fact that many people try to use God to further their own agendas, We should instead use our agendas to further the work of God. We don’t use the Holy Spirit to show how great we are; we are to allow the Spirit to work through us to show off His power.

    • I pray this thread will stir lots of discussion… Brian has stated it correctly. The Holy Spirit is with me now in a motel room as I prepare to leave for my day of customer visits. He will be with me when I stop at Biscuitville to pick-up biscuits for my customer’s shop guys. He’ll be with me during a seminar I’ll lead later this morning. The Holy Spirit will be with me as I drive for an hour or so to vsiit another customer later – then when I drive home. The Holy Spirit will be with me when I arrive home for a quiet evening with my wife. He does not leave my heart.

      No pastor, no musician – no one brings the Holy Spirit. Jesus announced the Holy Spirit – and His Father sent the Holy Spirit. I ignore “spiritual marketing” as nothing more than a gimmick.

      I think back to the Gold City song “Hide Me Behind The Cross” as an anthem of my life renewed in Him. I include this thematically in many of my public prayers – as a reminder that God equips me, God enables me – and He deserves all the praise. I think back to the old song – “Without Him – I would be nothing…”

      I just completed reading Ken Mansfield “Stumbling on Open Ground” – a great book. He paints beautiful word pictures, and one that has really impacted me speaks of a time when he was praying for healing and he came to realize he was demanding God – and his prayer had become a little one-sided. He got real quiet – and the Holy Spirit warmed his heart as a gentle wind. His next statement – “and nothing was stirring but my heart and His Majesty.” WOW…

      Eventually – we all must have time when nothing is present – but our hearts and His Majesty.

      Great topic Daniel… Thanks for posting.


      • “Hide Me Behind the Cross” has some of the best lyrics of any song I’ve ever heard. Applicable in this discussion, applicable in the life of any gospel singer, or any Christian servant.

      • Yes, those are some of the best SG song lyrics ever composed.

    • Thanks! Great points, Brian and J.E.B.!

      I read the posts that inspired this one over two months ago. I wanted to take a while to think them through and read them repeatedly, to avoid discussing the topic prematurely. It’s a sensitive topic, to be sure, requiring caution in these comments!

  3. Thanks Daniel for posting. Good stuff.

  4. Excellent post today, Daniel. Great thoughts. Speaking in the context of music, the Holy Spirit is not impressed with how many times a song gets encored or whether the artist gets a standing ovation. The work of the Father is accomplished when humble servants are prayed up and prepared to be the vessels through which He can work through to accomplish His will and for which He receives the glory. There is a certain amount of showmanship and entertainment in Southern Gospel Music, and I don’t think that’s wrong, because it breaks the ice and gets the audience’s attention so the singer can then do what they really came to do–share Jesus. The real important part is to not lose focus when a hot song or incredible arrangment gets a great response. There is no substitute for the move of the Holy Spirit and I’d venture to guess it is often quietly at work in the hearts of people in spite of a great performance and not because of it. I’ve been told by several major artists that they still get that nervous feeling when they are introduced to sing, and they are just fine with that because it is a constant reminder to fully rely on God while they are doing His work on stage.

    • I agree on all counts. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      I’m delighted with the thoughtful nature of the comments so far. My biggest fear in putting this up was that someone would take it the wrong way and post a heated reaction.

      • Well, I can’t imagine anyone professing to be a Christian, who has a personal relationship with Christ and a clear sense of where our strength lies, being upset with a reminder that we need the Lord in order to accomplish anything worthwhile in our lives. Just one of many examples is Peter, walking on the water, who was successful in doing so until he took his eyes off the Lord.

      • I hope you’re right!

  5. Really enjoyed this discussion. Some great food for thought.

  6. Some great and true thoughts — thanks for sharing them!!! God bless.

  7. Once again, Daniel…you have elevated your blog to a high spiritual level with this post. It is reassuring and refreshing to see someone who so loves this music, and knows so much about it, to always come back to the Book, and the priority of our lives. Having spent way too much time on a SGM blog site where there is essentially nothing of spiritual value or input, this is THE drawing card to your site. Please, keep it up, sir! These posts are valuable and necessary reminders to us all, of the things that matter.

    • A great site for sure!

    • Ugh, I think I know which site Lindsay is referring to. I’ll walk a very fine line and not mention which one it is… (cough)

    • Lindsay (and Michael and GVFan), thank you very much!

      I posted this fully expecting that the reception would not be anywhere near as positive as it ended up receiving. So I am particularly encouraged by the positive comments today.

  8. I thought the Presence of God is something only God can do and not man .How can someone or group promise if you come to this concert you will get the Presence of God. I like Daniel how you presented this and I will have to check out the three part series.You also have a great blog thanks for sharing it with us.

  9. Wow,…..I certainly hope this article is as much a blessing to A LOT of people as it has been to me. Thank you for bringing it to us. Maxine

    • You are welcome! So glad you appreciated it!

  10. Prosperity gospel is not God’s way providing His will in our lives.
    Excellent and well focused thread.
    Daniel started out this blog with a positive-minded theme.
    He has kept his word!

  11. I WILL DEVIATE FROM THE TOPIC BUT FIRST WANT TO SAY I AGREE WHOLEHEARTEDLY. Just in case some are not aware there are two new projects available for those who love SG. The Cathedrals live in Chicago from
    Stowtown records will make you feel like you’re at one of their concerts. The sound is clear and tou should hear that great voice of George Younce. the other project is Lari Goss, the man behind the music with the Booth Brothers, Greater Vision, Signature Sound and many more, available from Greater Vision.
    Both of these projects are well worth having. Enjoy!