I was honestly surprised by the results of a poll conducted in September 2021 by the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University that showed the majority of Christians do not believe the Holy Spirit is a real person.
According to the poll, the majority of Americans, 176 million, considered themselves as Christians with 35% self-identifying as born again and 28% self-identifying themselves as Evangelical Christians.
Though the two groups are technically different groups, the polling showed that they held primarily the same opinions on multiple issues.
But when asked if they believed the Holy Spirit was real, the Christian Post reports that only 38% of the self-identifying born-again Christians believed that the Holy Spirit was a real or living person. The remaining 62% believed the Holy Spirit was only symbolic of God’s power.
In other words, the majority of Christians do not believe the Holy Spirit is a necessary part of their Christian experience.
As surprising as this sounds, it explains the anemic nature of the North American church. It is such a contrast to what we read in the Book of Acts, where the Holy Spirit was a vital part of a believer’s life.
When the Apostle Paul was in Ephesus, he encountered a group of believers. They were genuine, probably Jewish because of their familiarity with John the Baptist’s baptism, who believed that Jesus was the Messiah.
But almost immediately the Apostle sensed that something was off with this group.
“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Paul asked.
When the disciples answered they had only heard of the baptism of John, Paul laid his hands on them, and they were baptized in the Holy Spirit and began prophesying and speaking in tongues.
5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all. (Acts 19:5-7 NIV)
There was an immediate demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power in their lives.
And then Luke follows this account with two contrasting stories that revealed our need for the Holy Spirit.
First, we read how God healed people and delivered them from demons after receiving handkerchiefs and aprons that the Apostle Paul had touched. Similar to what happened to the 12 men when Paul laid his hands on them, the apostle transferred the Holy Spirit’s anointing onto these inanimate objects through a simple touch (Acts 19:11-12).
Then Luke follows this with the odd story about how a group of Jews was trying to cast out demons in Jesus’ name, by uttering, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.”
But in one attempted exorcism, Luke writes that a demon-possessed man turned on the group and gave them such a beating that they ran from the house ‘naked and bleeding’ (Luke 19:13-16).
Though they were trying to claim the authority of Christ, they did not have the power that comes from the Holy Spirit inside them to back this authority.
While the majority of American Christians (62%) fall into the ignorance category when it comes to the Holy Spirit, the remainder of us often fall into the ‘leaky’ category.
In Ephesians 5:18, the Apostle Paul exhorts us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. However, the tense is continuous. It means that we need to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. In other words, we can spring leaks.
The solution to that is to continually ask our Heavenly Father for more of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).
READ: Most adult US Christians don’t believe Holy Spirit is real: study AND What exactly is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?