Make Space for the Spirit
I was sitting on the second row in the seat closest to the middle aisle when I heard the voice over the din of the fading music.
It was Monday night, July 24—the third evening service of YouthQuest 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida. The worship team, comprised of both Emmanuel University and Southwestern Christian University students, had opened the service with an exciting anthem of praise and led the entire congregation in joyful celebration. With lots of hands in the air, jumping, shouting, and singing at the top of our lungs, we came into the Presence of God with exuberance and the whole room was having a great time.
It was a regular worship service through the second and third songs—we’d moved from exuberant praise to more reflective and thoughtful worship when I noticed the other instruments lower their volume in preparation to transition to the next and final worship song.
As those chords diminished, I heard a voice call out from the crowd over my right shoulder and immediately knew someone, a male voice, was giving a prophetic message in tongues. I heard just a few quick syllables and began to look around, only to realize that while many of us in that section heard the voice and understood the Spirit of God was speaking to us, no one on the stage had heard the lone voice over the noise of the music.
I was standing in the middle of a crowd of teenagers with no access to the stage, no microphone, and no easy way to get the attention of the worship leaders to pause the service and give an ear to the Spirit.
I felt nervous.
I remember thinking, “What should I do?”
In my mind, I began considering all the options of how to get to the stage, grab a microphone, and pause the service in an orderly way to give attention to the Spirit—but before I could generate a second thought, one of the worship team members began singing the next song and the volume picked up again, drowning out the lone voice that was still speaking.
“I know they didn’t hear that message in tongues, and they’ve already begun singing the next song.”
I wrestled for a few seconds, wavering in my mind, trying to determine whether or not it was too late to stop the service, or if I even should stop the service.
“What’s gonna happen in this great big room filled with people if I go up and stop the service and we’ve somehow missed God’s voice, or worse, it wasn’t a message for the people at that moment?”
Was it too late?
Should we just move on with worship?
Had the moment passed us?
Was it even God’s voice?
I couldn’t dismiss the sense we needed to make room for the Spirit of God to speak.
While the music continued to play and everyone sang, I turned and moved toward the back of the room and then walked around the crowd to the backstage area and looked for Pastor Jonathan.
Jonathan Rivera, our guest speaker for YouthQuest this summer, is the MultiCultural District Director for the Florida District of the Assemblies of God and the Campus Pastor at Southeastern University in Lakeland, FL. He’d already preached two masterful messages and truly connected our students to Christ and the Scriptures—both in his messages and in the ministry times at the altar. When I found him backstage, he was quietly praying and was preparing to make his way onstage.
I walked over to him and told him what had just happened—
that a message in tongues had rang out, but was missed in moments of music and worship—
and I said, “I don’t know what’s about to happen, or what God’s trying to do, but I know you’re about to be onstage and want you to be aware of His Presence in this moment, to be sensitive to His voice, and to be obedient to His leading. I don’t want us to miss what He’s trying to do or say.”
I didn’t know what to tell him to do, so I placed my hand on his shoulder and began to pray for discernment, for the Spirit of Wisdom to rest on Him, and for an obedient heart as he took the stage to minister. It was a short prayer; afterward, he hugged me and thanked me and I returned to my seat while he waited for the song to end.
I felt I had done what I was supposed to do as I moved from backstage and stood at the back of the venue—and we were not disappointed.
Pastor Jonathan came onstage with a calm, respectful attitude, he quieted the crowd and instructed the worship team to play softly. He had us open our palms to heaven and pause before God in an act of worship. The room grew still as hearts and minds opened to the King of Heaven.
My heart, however, thumped in my chest as I wondered what might happen next—but I didn’t have to wait long.
A voice piped up again from that same section and we heard a prophetic message of encouragement, this time in English—this time more than loud enough for the room to recognize and reverence the Spirit of God.
I remember the message being a reminder of God’s constant Presence with us, I remember spiritually sensing its’ authenticity, but more than anything I remember that it washed over the room and shifted the atmosphere.
People immediately began to respond to the message, some crying out to God, others dropping to their knees in worship, and still others praising aloud with shouts of gratitude and adoration.
Pastor Jonathan yielded to the move of the Spirit and prompted us to pray for one another—especially prayers for physical healing and restoration. The worship team gently ramped up the volume in reprise and the freedom in the room was palpable. We know that people were healed in that moment and it was an incredible, spontaneous move of the Holy Spirit.
I had been super nervous about what to do and how to lead us through that moment—I had wavered in my mind about which direction to go, how to interrupt service from where I was sitting, and whether or not I even should be based on how it all happened.
But as the Holy Spirit moved at that moment, I heard His voice speak to me personally and say, “Because you made space for me in this service, my people could hear me speak.”
That Fatherly voice broke me and I fell to my knees, wrecked by His great love and tender Presence. In that moment, I learned that it’s always appropriate to make room for the move of the Spirit and that if we’re sensitive and submitted, He’ll come in His perfect way.
Pastor Jonathan’s message was great, and the rest of the service flowed out of that unified, worshipful atmosphere, but I’ll never forget that service for His voice that reminded me to make space for His Presence.
Rev. Stephen Jones currently serves as the Pastor of Student Ministries at Whitnel Pentecostal Holiness Church in Lenoir, NC. In 2002, Stephen earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Christian Ministries from Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, GA. In 2008, he completed a Master’s of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Since 2002, Stephen’s full-time ministry to teenagers has spanned two IPHC Conferences, three IPHC churches, and numerous IPHC summer camps. Stephen currently occupies the Leadership and Skill Development Portfolio under the Student Ministries Advisory Team. His areas of expertise and responsibilities include:
– Leading, teaching, structuring and programming for leadership and ministry-skill development.
– Advising the team about current developments, resources, and trends related to leadership and ministry-skill development, especially as they relate to youth leaders and youth ministry.
– Serving as a resource for other leaders, especially in the area of leadership and developing leaders.