A few years ago I was privileged to travel to Bangalore, India. Hundreds of thousands of Christians from all over the country gathered in an open field for three nights of amazing services. Jesus’ power and presence were evident. As I and other ministry workers walked among the people many would bow slightly, fold their hands, and expect us to pray for them by laying our hands on their head. They wanted an encounter with God.

Perhaps you’re hoping for something like that. You’d like to find the right service, the right church, the right preacher to lay hands on you and set you free. If only you could find the right book, the right therapist, the right Christian TV program. Healing rooms, deliverance services, revival meetings, something.

All those things are good. God uses them. But the danger is that we fall into expecting the right person to “fix” us instead of connecting with God Himself. Years ago when I was in the middle of my mess I was looking for anything that would “fix” me, and some of those modalities helped. But it wasn’t until I met God Himself that things changed.

So if you’re struggling, what should you be doing? Where do you put your energy? Where do you look for help?

Let’s talk about having an encounter with God.

What Changes You

I’ve learned in my personal experience and in working with many people in ministry that what changes people is the presence of God. When Jesus was here on earth no one who needed help could come into His presence and remain the same. Sick people were healed. Dead people came back to life. Broken people became whole. Just get the person to Jesus, and everything could change.

It’s no different now. The reason people are changed in certain church services or laying-on-of-hands is when the presence of God is there. Small or large, regardless of the music style, if the presence of God is welcomed, invited, made room for, people are changed.

And it doesn’t take an organized religious service. Two or three believers align their hearts with Jesus, and He is present with them. (Matthew 18:20)

And then some of the most impactful times in the presence of God can be just you and Him. You’re alone in your prayer closet or in God’s great outdoors in silence and stillness. And He shows up.

Whether in a crowd or by yourself, an encounter with God is not Him raining down something “on” you; it’s Him being with you. Your heart is open and still, and the living God of the universe comes to dine with you. (Revelation 3:20) Astounding! More intimate than any two human beings can ever experience. You and your Creator-Redeemer together at the table-for-two that He prepares for you. (Psalm 23:5)

The Role of People

People including pastors, therapists and counselors, small groups, etc. play a vital role in our experience of God. He often works by showing up through the presence of another person in the body of Christ.

Teaching and preaching are necessary. But people are changed when one person’s heart connects with another’s. Like Jesus coming to be Emmanuel, God with us, we can be with each other. When you are seen, known, understood, you become healed and transformed.

That’s Jesus ministering His presence to you through another human being. And it’s beautiful.

When I began my theology training I was hoping to learn the secret to ministering God’s power to people to set them free. But the dean of the School of Theology and Missions at ORU, Dr Thomsen Matthew, would often say to us students, “Our job (in ministry) is to connect each person’s story to God’s story, and then get out of the way.”

In working with coaching clients now I repeatedly see how this is true. For well over a year I’ve worked with one couple facing significant 20-year-long marriage challenges. A few weeks ago she wrote, “the Holy Spirit came. I feel different. I actually feel happy!” The very same week he wrote “The Lord said to me, “If I asked you to do this for me, would you do it?” That broke me.” Everything changed for both of them. Our next session together was completely different. Now their hearts are more open to making progress than ever before.

That’s only one such example. I’ve seen over and over that it’s not something I say or do. I’m more like a matchmaker clearing roadblocks and introducing someone to the person of Jesus. Or a midwife helping to nurture and support what God is birthing in them.

Seeking an Encounter with God

So if you need change, and that happens in the presence of God, how do you find that presence?

Most importantly, Keep Showing Up.

Go where God’s presence is welcomed. That means church or other services where it’s not simply a glitzy production or a social club, but where God’s presence is welcomed. It’s connecting with other individuals in a small group not just to study a book, but to seek His presence. It’s reading about or listening to others who have experienced God’s transformation in their own lives, and learning from them.

And keep showing up alone with God. Your daily devotional time is not something to check off your list; it’s investing in a relationship with your Creator-Redeemer, your Best Friend, your Divine Lover.

Not every time you show up, but sometimes, you will sense an invitation. Your heart must be still, but you will be invited to enter His presence more deeply, and you’ll have a choice to make at that moment. If you say Yes, something special can happen. If you’re with others, you will lose a certain sense of what’s happening around you and all your awareness will be focused on Him. And if you’re alone, you suddenly sense you’re not alone; He is there.

And you become transformed.

This may sound mystical; it’s not meant to be. It’s the experience promised every follower of Jesus; the Comforter (Holy Spirit) will be with you. (John 16:7)

I prayed for many during those services in Bangalore, India, and I continue to do so. But it’s not my prayer that changes people; it’s the presence of God. And His presence can change you too.

Just keep showing up!

Your Turn: Where have you had an encounter with God? How did that change you? If you need an encounter with God, where are you going to enter His presence this week? Leave a comment below.

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