Church is a like puppet show. God attempts to animate His people by releasing His Spirit through them. If they resist and/or ignore the promptings of God, not much happens — the puppets remain lifeless and blank-faced in their places.
However, when people surrender to and obey God’s promptings, an amazing demonstration of the Presence of the living, resurrected Jesus Christ begins to come together as individuals (led by the Spirit) show and tell what God has done.
When church is a platform-controlled, one-man pulpet show, people become passive spectators. However, when the ordinary people present, as active participants, begin to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit (like puppets animated by the hand of God), Christ’s power and Presence pervade the place. And it’s awe-producing!
Here’s a quotation from Paul of Tarsus that describes how this worked in the First Century Church: “If everyone is prophesying, when an unbeliever or an uneducated person comes in he will be convicted and examined by everything that’s happening. His secret, inner heart will become known, and so he will bow down to the ground and worship God, declaring, ‘God is truly among you!'” –1 Corinthians 14:24-25 (ISV)
This has actually happened several times at a participatory church in Nashville — The Salvation Army Berry Street. The woman dressed in red, who is being prayed over in this picture, only came to Berry Street one time. As far as we could tell, no one present knew who she was. As people various people shared and testified, as led by the Spirit, she began to share secrets from her heart and then let us gather around and pray for her. The Spirit deeply moved us all. Many were in tears. And we all knew that God was among us.