Megachurch pastor details common misconceptions about the Holy Spirit

Unsplash/Lampos Aritonang
Unsplash/Lampos Aritonang

A Georgia megachurch pastor has detailed common misconceptions Christians have about the Holy Spirit and how to combat these false beliefs.

Benny Tate, the 59-year-old pastor of The Rock Springs Church in Milner, details in his book Unlimited: Experiencing The Fullness of God's Power in Your Life that people misunderstand the Holy Spirit in many different ways. 

Benny Tate
Benny Tate | Courtesy Benny Tate

Tate told The Christian Post the Holy Spirit is often misunderstood because Christians either overemphasize the Holy Spirit in extreme and unbiblical ways or disregard the Holy Spirit out of fear or ignorance about its importance.

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"A common misconception people have is that when Christians often think of the Holy Spirit, many times they think of the Holy Ghost. And that seems mystic, that maybe even seems spooky. That may seem weird. I think many times when people think of Spirit, they think of an energy, they think of enthusiasm, and they fail to realize that He is a person," Tate said.  

Courtesy Benny Tate
Courtesy Benny Tate

"The Holy Spirit is a person who has a mind, who has will, who has emotions, who can be grieved, who can be quenched. I think we miss it when we fail to realize that He is a person." 

It wasn't until he entered his 40s that he was able to get to know the Holy Spirit intimately. For many years, he battled with how to approach teaching and studying on the topic.

The pastor believes many churches don't realize how "ignorant" Christians are regarding their understanding of the Holy Spirit. 

"In my own life, I had been taught misconceptions. I had been taught things about the Holy Spirit that just were not true. And so there was an element of me that I almost said, 'You know, I don't want to go there with my own church,'" Tate admits. 

"I think when it comes to the Holy Spirit, many people suffer from ignorance which means they are unlearned concerning the Holy Spirit. I think many people suffer from indifference. Those suffering from these issues often wonder, 'Does this Holy Spirit really matter?'" he continued.  

"On the other end of things, I think many people suffer from indulgence. They have heard things about the Holy Spirit. And these things have just been indulgent. Because of the indulgent experiences they've heard about, they just went so far the other direction. But, I want to remind people that the Holy Spirit is for all people." 

Tate said he'll never forget the day he came to know the Holy Spirit as someone he could be in an intimate relationship with, saying he "could not do ministry on adrenaline" but instead, he could only do it through "the presence of the Holy Spirit."

"I think I reached the point that I came to my wits end and I realized that I can't do this on my own strength. But, I can do this in the strength of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit will enable me to do everything that God wants me to do. And so, that was a pivotal point in my life," he said. 

Tate said it's false to believe that all the Holy Spirit involves is solely energy and power. 

"I think, many times, we're seeking something rather than seeking somebody. There are fruits of the Spirit. There are gifts of the Spirit. I don't think we should seek the fruit. I don't think we should seek gifts even though they're good. I think we simply seek the Holy Spirit, and a byproduct of that is having the gifts or having the fruit of the Spirit in our lives," Tate said. 

"I think we can get caught up many times. I think sometimes people get caught up with the sensational, and they miss the significance. Oswald Chambers once said, 'The Holy Spirit is the first practical power we come to experience. But He's the last power that we come to understand in the Christian life.'" 

Tate believes it is imperative that Christians "come to understand the Holy Spirit to maximize what their life ought to be for God" and that it is impossible to experience the fullness of God's power without the belief in the Holy Spirit.  

"We will never be everything that God made for us to be outside of the fortress of the Holy Spirit. He told the early Church: 'You go to Jerusalem and wait to be endued with power from on high.' It was interesting. You know, He didn't say: 'You go preach.' He didn't say: 'You go teach.' He didn't say: 'You work out some strategic plan.' He said: 'You don't do anything until you're endued with power,'" Tate said. 

"He knew the early Church couldn't accomplish turning the world upside down outside of the power of the Holy Spirit. And it's wood, hay and stubble to try to do anything in our power outside of the power of the Holy Spirit." 

It's common for new believers to misunderstand who the Holy Spirit is, and more seasoned Christians need to work to combat these misconceptions. 

"I think we have a great responsibility as a Church to mentor and discipline young Christians so they can understand the power and the access they have to the Holy Spirit," he said. 

Unfortunately, Tate said, some churches have played a part in the perpetuation of false theologies relating to the Holy Spirit. 

He said one example is when congregants in a church believe they have a prophetic gift to speak future prophecies for other congregants. Not every Christian has been gifted every spiritual gift, Tate noted, referencing 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.

Tate warned about speaking in tongues in a false manner by congregants who want attention to be on themselves and not on God. He said those congregants are often not truly rooted in biblical motives. 

"Many churches in America are one extreme or another extreme," he said. "They're almost a cemetery. That is to say, they're dead. They're lifeless. There's no life there. Or on the other end, there are churches that are almost an insane asylum. Things are going on that are so 'in the name of the Spirit,' but there's no biblical base for it."

A church should have an equilibrium of the workings of the Spirit of truth and the gifts of the Spirit, Tate said, adding that they should avoid any extremes of either the absence of the Holy Spirit or people falsely claiming they are operating in the Spirit and leading others astray. 

"The Bible says in John 4:24 'that God is Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.' If a church has an emphasis on just truth, what I found is that that church and the people in that church will dry up. But, if people are so Spirit-oriented and there's no biblical basis, everything is Spirit-oriented, people blow up. Trials come to their lives, and they blow up. One extreme you've got people drying up. The other extreme, you got people blowing up," Tate said. 

"I believe when you have a balance of the Word of God and the Spirit of God, people will blow up and people will dry up. But, the people will also grow up. And that's the plan of God. The plan of God is His Spirit and truth. And the Holy Spirit is never going to direct us to do anything that the Word of God doesn't sanction. If it's not biblically based, certainly, the Holy Spirit is not leading us to do it. Because the Holy Spirit will never be contrary to the Word of God."

Christians should always check their motives before using any gift given by the Holy Spirit, Tate noted, because sometimes, the enemy can mislead people to believe they have a spiritual gift that they don't actually have. 

"For every true thing in the Word of God, Satan has a counter. So, certainly, there are counterfeits for everything when it comes to whether or not someone is using a true gift from the Holy Spirit or if they are not," Tate said. 

"But, I can promise this. If something is truly of God, I believe the child of God will know it's of God. I just believe that if it's not of God, I believe the child of God would be able to know that too." 

"I would say with any gift of the Spirit, we should make sure our motive is always for God to be glorified. If our gift is operating in the Spirit, it's not going to be distracting. And it's not going to bring attention to ourselves. I think if a gift is from the Holy Spirit, and we're operating in the Spirit when using it, the gift will be obvious that it brings glory to God."

Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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