Pastors share why awareness of Jesus is vital: ‘Without God’s presence, church is a social club’


Daniel Fusco, the pastor of Vancouver’s Crossroads Community Church, and Banning Liebscher, founder of Jesus Culture Music, shared in “The Crazy Happy Podcast” that Christians need to be aware of Jesus’ presence because “without God’s presence, church is a social club.”

“Ultimately we were created for relationship, just to be connected and to know God and … to be in the presence of God is where we are most fulfilled and alive,” Liebscher, who also serves on staff at Bethel Church in Redding, said in the Jan. 11 podcast.

“And I think there is something about just saying, ‘We are going to be a people of His presence above all else.’ I mean, in His presence is found [the] fullness of joy. Freedom is found in His presence.”

Every human longs to be in the presence of God — and God wants to stir up fresh passion for His presence, according to Liebscher. But many times, he said, Christians choose a version of success apart from God’s presence.

“We get to a place where we realize there is no success apart from His presence. It’s His presence I was made for,” he said.

“By and large, the Church has three buckets by which it is founded,” added Fusco. “One is the Scriptures [or] the Word of God and the second bucket is tradition. … This is how God has moved in different times and different places. The third bucket is experiencing God. Scripture is the story of people experiencing God.”

The Word of God, Fusco said, is amazing because it’s driven by God’s presence.

“The Scriptures are tied to God’s presence and of course tradition coming from a group of people who experience God’s presence in a unique way,’” he contended.

“I always tell people: ‘If the best of all we have is watching historical people experience the presence of God, and then we don’t get to, then we are actually getting to be nourished by someone else’s food that they have eaten,” he noted.

Liebscher said in his own personal life, he feels more alive when He is in God’s presence. However, he finds that, as a Church, there needs to be more of a realization about the importance of the presence of God.

“Apart from God’s presence, we’re like every other social club out there that is organized,” he said. “But we’re not a social club because what separates us is the presence of God in our midst. It’s Emmanuel. It’s ‘God with us.’”

“Pastors and preachers sometimes think that it’s our planning, our effort, our sermons that change people’s lives. But the reality is, I’ve never preached a sermon that has changed somebody’s life,” Liebscher stressed. “It’s the presence of God. It’s the Spirit of God that changes people’s lives. … God’s presence changes lives. My life was changed with an encounter with the presence of God, not from a really great program.”

Fusco said he believes that everyone has experienced being discouraged, defeated and hopeless due to the pandemic and other world news.

“We feel vulnerable given all that’s gone on in the world and … when I feel these things, it’s because I am believing a lie,” Fusco said.

Liebscher highlighted the importance of guarding one’s heart and taking up the “shield of truth” in such times.

“It’s the concept that the arrows that are flying at us are lies and this is the native tongue of the devil. … He is the father of lies. He’s trying to lie to you. This is why you have to hide His word in your heart,” Liebscher explained. “You have to fill your life with Scripture because it is truth. It is the shield against all these lies.”

Some Christians tend to “drop the guard around their hearts,” Liebscher said, which results in lies being able to have a foothold in their lives. When this happens, the enemy finds access to plant seeds, he said.

It’s important to remain vigilant in this season, he posited, adding: “We are exhausted from all of the stuff; all the social media, all the news, all the pandemic, all the unrest, all the elections, put it all together — all the unknown, all the uncertainty. We’re just tired and so when this happens, we drop the guard around our heart.”

He pointed out that physical health is directly related to spiritual health. He reminded listeners, “Don’t ever underestimate the power of a meal and nap.”

“I think, as believers, sometimes we tend to separate the physical and spiritual. We somehow think they’re not connected. But listen to me, if you’re tired physically, it absolutely affects you spiritually. You begin to drop the guard, tired emotionally, tired physically, tired mentally.”

Liebscher and Fusco agreed that when a Christian recognizes that they are experiencing pain, isolation and hurt, they should begin to plan how to cope with what they are feeling. All plans, however, should involve God.

“Awareness of what’s going on inside without the presence of God becomes almost an adventure in narcissism,” Fusco said.

“Those emotions are real. Those feelings are real. And if we don’t stop and we’re not honest or aware of it, then you just kind of move through the world wounded and broken, wounding and breaking people without God’s transformational presence at work,” he added.

In every area of a Christian’s life there should be healthy fruit as outlined in the Bible, Liebscher said. The presence of God, he emphasized, contributes to this health.

“Healthy fruit is a result of the soil you’re planting yourself in,” Liebscher said.

“If you want to be healthy, if you want to bear fruit, then you got to be in the soil of God’s presence, you got to be in the soil of God’s Word and you got to be in the soil of God’s community,” he concluded. “And that healthy, thriving, vibrant, fruit-bearing, freedom believers are found in the presence of God, in the Word of God and are found in the family of God.”


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