Feeling the Holy Spirit at Non-denominational church

Hello all,

My brother-in-law and I have been having an ongoing conversation about Christianity. He is sola scriptura and non-denominational.

He recently found a church he likes because “I really feel the Holy Spirit there.” His wife is Catholic and he goes with her once in a while to mass, but references how boring it can be (along with the other standard grievances non-Catholic Christians have) and has said that this new church of his is “definitely not boring.”

Some other things he mentioned about what he likes about this church:

  • The music is more modern - like a rock concert
  • People from the church are always going on missions
  • It was formed when two other churches came together and “people just started joining from all other”. This is a major sticking point for his because he believes that Christianity has been split up by the devil and evidence of the Holy Spirit is when people just start following . . . The Spirit I guess.

On conversations have been cordial and I have been trying to play it slow since I have a tendency to come on as aggressive in these matters. I listen patiently and intently to what he has to say.

The thing is, I am ready to start talking seriously.

My question is this: He has invited me to this church (which I am not all that worried about because I have attended churches like it when I was just coming back to the Christ after a stint of atheism) and I see this as an opportunity to open up some serious, critical dialogue with him. The thing is, I have no idea how to address certain things he has attached himself to, such as “I really feel the Holy Spirit in this church but not the Catholic Church” or “I am not bored at this church like I am at the Catholic Church.”

Does anyone have any insight on how I might approach this topic when the time comes? I don’t know why, but I really want to get this right with him and so I want to be prepared when it comes up.

Thank you for reading.

Does anyone have any insight on how I might approach this topic when the time comes? I don’t know why, but I really want to get this right with him and so I want to be prepared when it comes up. Modern music has nothing to do with a community’s spirituality. It’s a personal taste and nothing more. (I like Jimi Hendrix and The Who and even Peter Tosh as much as anyone but worship music it just ain’t) Ask him if he can see himself adoring God with that kind of music…or see the angels doing so?

So what? There a a metric boatload of mission possibilities out of Catholic parishes. point him towards St. Paul Street Evangelization and point out that this nation of our own needs far more missionary work than most other countries.

You can always point out that we Catholics were not the ones who broke unity during the reformation and that we are not the ones plagued by thousands of communities all asserting that their beliefs and message is led by the Holy Spirit when they all cannot even agree with each other, which is one of the clearest signs of the Holy Spirit and have him look at 1st Corinthians 14:33.

As for his feelings…ask him to show you anywhere in the New Testament that says that we can and should trust our feelings to guide us as to the truth of things…especially with regard to religion.

One of my favorite counters to this does not even come from the Catholic Church, but from Campus Crusade for Christs Four Spiritual Laws tract which says.

Do Not Depend on Feelings
The promise of God’s Word, the Bible - not our feelings - is our authority. The Christian lives by faith (trust) in the trustworthiness of God Himself and His Word. This train diagram illustrates the relationship among fact (God and His Word), faith (our trust in God and His Word), and feeling (the result of our faith and obedience) (John 14:21). [/LEFT]

http://www.crustore.org/images/train.gif The train will run with or without a caboose. However, it would be useless to attempt to pull the train by the caboose. In the same way, as Christians we do not depend on feelings or emotions, but we place our faith (trust) in the trustworthiness of God and the promises of His Word.

Note however that they still are pushing the error of Sola Scriptura, which is the fundamental source of all their problems to begin with.

If anyone feels bored at Mass , they have NO idea what is really happening. Good music, vibrant sermons and energetic participation can certainly be signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit at any Protestant Church, but they are NOT necessarily so. Yet, regardless of boring sermons, bad music and any number “going-through-the-motions” Catholics, there is ALWAYS and necessarily the Holy Spirit at Mass with the Real Presence of Jesus Christ ! We are taken to actual Sacrifice of Calvary and present with Christ in His Resurrection at Mass. Christ makes Himself present at the Mass in a way NO Protestant service can.

If anyone finds Mass boring, the cause is NOT Mass, but the person going to Mass! If your brother in law doesnt “feel” the Holy Spirit, its not because the Holy Spirit isnt there. Its because your brother doesnt believe that Christ in His Real Presence is there! His non denominational church may have the presence of Christ in the Holy Spirit, but its NOT Christs Real Presence! If that Church were to announce that Jesus would actually be present , people would flock to that church. And yet Christ comes to EVERY Catholic Church at EVERY Mass and we are too lazy, ignorant , unbelieving or foolish to realize what we have! Im not sure of the “diplomatic” way to convey this to your brother in law, but its the truth of the matter.

Fortunately, my parish is NOT boring, the Holy Spirit is present and more importantly I know the Real Body and Blood of Christ is there as well! But even at the most “dead” Catholic Church, even one true believing Catholic can celebrate in the Real Presence of Christ, and no great music, or interesting sermon or building full of exuberant believers is necessary! One believing Catholic is all it takes to have an encounter with the Real Christ at Mass. How exciting is that?!

It boils down to something I believe in general when someone says they are bored. I believe that when someone says he is bored , its because THEY are boring - they are not interesting enough to find the meaning of the moment! They want others to entertain them and share in the meaning that others spoon feed them. In this case , it means that your brother in law has NOT internalized the TRUTH of the Eucharist. The truth of the Eucharist is that when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, He lives IN us and we become one with Him. And since Christ is in NO way boring, or “dead”, but ALIVE , then if we become one with Him in the Eucharist WE become ALIVE and filled with the Holy Spirit . And thats NOT boring!! When we seek the Living Christ, and stop expecting to be entertained, then Mass can NEVER be boring.

Maybe he feels bored because when it comes time to receive the Eucharist-he can’t. He is not a fallen away Catholic or is he?

No, he is not baptized. He grew up with his father who has some “bad” experiences with a baptist church and has been real anti-establishment ever since. “Just me and my Bible” type of thing. His father is VERY hard to talk to and my brother in law has picked up some of these reasoning skills, but seems a little more open to things lately. This whole finding a church to go to is pretty new. When I first met him, going to church was more of take it or leave it thing.

I do think he feels a little like an outsider. Maybe there is a way I can bring him closer to the mass?

Mostly, its this feeling the Spirit thing. How do you challenge someone that is convinced they are being lead by the Holy Spirit?

This is helpful, thank you.

I have been to a wide range of churches including a bunch of Catholic, Pentecostal, non-denominational, Baptist etc. There are some where yes, I felt the Holy Spirit inside the church and there are others where I wondered what they did with it. It was just yesterday, I went to a Pentecostal service and I lasted 10min because I didn’t feel the Holy Spirit. I don’t know what they did to it, but it wasn’t there.

In response to the question “I feel the Holy Spirit there”- you can tell, you are happy that you can meet God inside his church. The Holy Spirit is a gift and if he feels it there, all the better. If he doesn’t feel it inside the Catholic church, ask him which parish he went to. I have been to some Catholic churches where I wonder what did the congregation do to the Holy Spirit? I hate to say this, but just because we call a building a church, doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit is present inside of it. Maybe the Catholic church he went to, he didn’t feel the Holy Spirit. You can offer to take him to a Catholic church where the spirit was present. Perhaps you can do a church exchange.

If he doesn’t understand what’s happening inside the mass, welcome to the reality of about 90% of Catholics inside the church in general. Most don’t understand the mass therefore, you could give him a simple book that explains the mass and encourage him to bring it when he comes to the church.

I would pray and just let nature take its course.

I don’t know how long your brother-in-law has been attending this church, but sometimes we can be fired up at a church and a lot of times that fire will dwindle. I don’t know how old he is or what kind of theological background he has, but I think it is good you are willing to visit the church with him. Granted, a lot of things might jump out to you that you see as wrong, but maybe you can go for coffee afterwards and talk about the similarities and differences between your church and his. You obviously have a belief and faith in Jesus Christ. This is a personal journey he will need to take and he probably talks about his relative the Catholic! You can plant little seeds for him to think about.
That is the best I can come up with.

This is tough, because your family member has ascribed to the consumerist like view of church. That it is about him and what entertains him. Even if he doesn’t outright say that, it is evident in the “Catholic Church is boring” and “I like this music and this style” statements.

It would be helpful if you patiently and lovingly challenged this world view. Emphasized that Church is not about us, it is about God and worshiping him. Plant some seeds in that area.

Acknowledge that God works in a lot of ways and may in some ways work through the non denominational Church. That doesn’t mean it is the right place to properly worship God, or that they have the best tools to get you to heaven and make you a saint.

It is sort of like saying “Well the Internet works everywhere”, but then denying that there is a benefit to the place that serves T3 cable over the place that has an old dial up connection"

Also let him know that we should base our religious beliefs on more than just our feelings. The Mormons would say that they feel the Holy Spirit in their sect. The Westboro Baptist Church probably does too, and so did the Branch Davidians. That does not mean it is in fact the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is evident in more than just our feelings.

I think many people feel bored at mass because it is so unlike the modern world as opposed to nondenominational services that are so modernized. They usually have really charismatic preacher and modern music that people today like. They have so many choices to pick from in Protastintism (or as I call it Free Market Christianity) the thought of having to go to this old ritual mass is boring to them. It has to do with that lack of reverence among non-denominations. They seem to latch on a warm fuzzy feeling that comes with that “yay Jesus loves me!! lets play acoustic guitar!!” but they seem to lack the reverence, awe and beauty and trade it in for the emotional high they get from being told how loving God is. I don’t mean to sound harsh but one of the biggest reason I love Catholicism is the tradition, history and reverence. I much rather sit in a big ol Cathedral with mosaics and painting and arcitectual beauty that shows glory to God through its creative design by the man in honor of our Lord. I can’t stand sitting in a auditorium with fold out chairs and a slideshow.

Also what does it mean to feel the holy spirit? I hear that all the time by every denomination I can think of! They feel happy so they assume its the Holy Spirit? One could say that contemporary music they have sounds good which is pleasing, when something is pleasing it releases dopamine in the brain. Drugs do the same thing, is that the Holy Spirit? What about those who go through the Dark Night of the Soul, the feeling of complete abandonment from God. Should they abandon their religion because they no longer “feel” it.

I don’t expect my life as a Christian to be easy or happy in the material context we think it should be in. It will be a bumpy road to salvation full of failure and great sadness, persecution and hate by others, but Gods love and mercy and sovereignty will help us through it.

“The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain”
― Padre Pio

To prepare for your conversations/argumentations I recommend watching Marcus Grodi and his Journey Home programs. Go through a few, you will get more out of some than others.

There are also debates on YouTube between Catholics and Protestant scholars. And of course books! My favorite is Karl Keating “Catholicism and Fundamentalism”. Others I can recommend (in no particular order):

  • Robert Sungenis “Not by faith alone”
  • Stephen Ray “Crossing the Tiber”
  • David Currie “Born Fundamentalist - Born again Catholic”
  • Patrick Madrid “Surprised by truth”
  • Scott & Kimberley Hahn “Rome sweet home”
  • Scott Hahn “Signs of life”

So…what is it that you are trying to do?
Are you wanting to convince him that how he feels is “wrong” or “bad”?


Lucifer has been historically known for beauty. This perception nor his beauty equated to salvation.

Its the point in my mind. Not convincing of wrong or right, but understanding wrong and right validated by feelings. I think you type better and quicker so I’ll leave you to explain. :stuck_out_tongue:

All too often, Protestants think that there is only one style or type of Catholic worship. Perhaps he would be more comfortable in the Charismatic Catholic movement. Not my cup of tea but…


I’m sure there are others on youtube to check out and most dioceses should be able to give you more direction. It’s just a little too noisy for me.

Really? Beauty is usually thought of as part of the “face” of God.
The Holy Spirit is the inspirer. He moves wherever He wants and is an activator and creative force in the life of humankind. So equating beauty with demonic influence is wrong headed.

Perception is not reality but our perception is our reality. What is needed is a change of perception in the brother in law. Feeling the Spirit can be a trap to the gullible and the minimally churched.Feeling the Spirit is wonderful but the true test is what comes forth from that feeling. No fruits than no Spirit , no matter how good you feel.

Contact with God is not a diversion or entertainment Beware of a church that advertises it’s
Music ministry! God is more often found in the small , the silence or the whisper.In the noiseless interior .
Seems that the brother in law is building a relationship with God on the sand.

Ultimately the Spirit goes where he will , moves where he wills, and uses the most unlikely people to fulfill The will of God…

And that thought doesn’t mean the beauty of lucifer equates to salvation, nor does it mean the beauty of a building, music and so forth equate to salvation.

Right, thus Lucifer “beautiful” but that didn’t save Lucifer nor did it change the fact the beauty is thought of as the face of God. Nor did it change the Holy Spirit is the inspirer who moves wherever He wants etc.

This is an assumption, I equated Lucifers beauty with the fact its not indicative of salvation?

And your perception may be be different than mine in a like situation. So what you think is your reality, perhaps is not mine.

Well its amusing we agree here. :slight_smile: Absolutely and how does one do this?

Again we seem to be in agreement here. But it could also be the absolute truth I’m sure you agree with?

OK so whats that say about your feelings? Whats make one think this can’t result in fruits? What is that conclusion based on? Further the admission above is; “The Holy Spirit is the inspirer. He moves wherever He wants and is an activator and creative force in the life of humankind.”

So what does this say about these feelings thus perception of beauty thought to be reality for these individuals through the Holy Spirit? They have a different perception than you? Why? “The Holy Spirit is the inspirer. He moves wherever He wants and is an activator and creative force in the life of humankind.”

Would seem, but my post isn’t in judgement of him nor was my comment on Lucifer a comparison to him and this congregation. Thats what was wrong headed. I think the conversation jumps off at Daddy Girls point. At least in my mind.

Exactly so why is your perception of where he did or didn’t go right?

I’m not arguing the Protestant congregation point but the overall thinking of beauty, anointed etc. Sorry if the Lucifer example created difficulties, it wasn’t a comparison to the protestant congregations. See how thinking went in regards though?

We do not go to Mass for the purpose of being entertained.
We go to worship God, thank Him for His Providence, ask Him to forgive us our sins and finally petition Him for our needs. If we feel bored at Service, then what of God? He must feel completely ignored.

I think its an interesting point though, and one we hear all the time. In fact the same comparison can be made in the Catholic Church with the TLM, the Divine Liturgy and the N.O.

So true! But we have to get people INTO church to be a part of church. The manner of worship is what helps me. All too often, prayer becomes rote praying - saying words without focusing on the meaning. True participation leads to true worship.

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