A ‘kairos moment’ is God’s appointed time to act.
A ‘kairos moment’ is a moment in time when the Holy Spirit draws near to do a special work in and through a person or group. The Holy Spirit creates and orchestrates ‘kairos moments.’
In his book, The Fourth Dimension, South Korean pastor Dr. David (Paul) Yonggi Cho illustrates what a kairos moment is and how we can cooperate with Jesus when they occur. Pastor Cho relates that for years while he preached he saw in his mind’s eye cancers disappear, tuberculosis healed, cripples throwing aside their crutches, and much more. However, nothing actually happened in the physical and practical realm. No one left the service restored.
At first Pastor Cho thought that the hindrance to healing was Satan, so he rebuked the devil. Still nothing happened other than his visions of God-at-work among them intensified.
Following a time of prayer and fasting during which he sought the Lord for answers, the Lord directed his attention to Genesis chapter one which opens with the Spirit of God hovering over the void. Then God spoke and things began to happen in the natural realm.
“You can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in your church – the pulsating, permeating presence of the Holy Spirit – but unless you speak the word, nothing might happen. Souls may not be saved or broken homes may not be reunited. You must speak the Word in faith.” (Cho, 1979, p. 81)
Although this story illustrates several dynamics involved in Spirit-empowered ministries, my emphasis today is on the phrase, “You can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in your church – the pulsating, permeating presence of the Holy Spirit.” That phrase describes a kairos moment. Let me explain this important concept and its implications for us by comparing two Greek words for ‘time’: chronos and kairos.
We are familiar with this concept. ‘Chronos’ is time is clock time. It is measured in minutes, hours, days, or years. Chronos refers to the moving of the hands around the clock or the turning of the pages on the calendar.
One of our best Greek Lexicons defines ‘chronos’ as ‘time, mostly in the sense of a period of time.’ (Bauer, 1971, p. 896)
The New Testament uses the word chronos on a number of occasions including these:
When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time (chronos) he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. Luke 8:27, ESV
And they paid attention to him [Simon the Sorcerer] because for a long time (chronos) he had amazed them with his magic. Acts 8:11, ESV
But when the fullness of time (chronos) had come, God sent forth his Son … Gal. 4:4, ESV
Bauer defines ‘kairos’ as follows: ‘Time, i.e., a point of time as well as period of time; a definite time, a fixed time.’ (Bauer, 1971, pp. 395-6)
The word kairos is used several times in the New Testament including the following:
When the season (kairos) for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. Mt. 21:34, ESV
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time (kairos) is near. Revelation 1:3, ESV
Although the word ‘kairos’ does not appear in Habakkuk 2:3 or Genesis 18:14, the concept is clearly present. Notice the phrase ‘appointed time” in both references. [Underlining mine.]
And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so he may run who reads it.
For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay. Habakkuk 2:2-3, ESV
The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” Genesis 18:10-14, ESV
A ‘kairos moment’ is God’s appointed time to act.
When Mary and Martha came to Jesus and told them that Lazarus was very sick, why did Jesus wait two days (John 11:6) before going to their home? Probably so that He could get off chronos time and onto kairos time.
A ‘kairos moment’ is a moment in time when “the Holy Spirit manifests His presence and is ready to accomplish His purposes at a particular time and place.” (Long, Whitaker, Byron, and Selig, 1998, p. 226)
A ‘kairos moment’ is the appointed time when the Holy Spirit is moving and ready to act. It is a ‘pregnant moment’ during which the Spirit is prepared to ‘deliver’ the power of God to bring dynamic transformation to a person or situation.
Often when a kairos moment is occurring, or is about to occur, people who are tuned-in spiritually sense a ‘shift’ occurring. They sense that something is about to happen. The Spirit is brooding; He is hovering near (see Genesis 1:2). He is waiting for the word of command that will release Him to act. For example, Jesus may move the group from exalted worship to a profound silence accompanied by a sense of ‘presence’ – His presence.
During these moments the Holy Spirit hovers near and waits for us to speak and act in obedience and faith, releasing Jesus to work.
Sometimes we miss kairos moments. Brad Long writes,
It was the first Sunday after the youth group had returned from the mission trip to Bolivia. We were all relieved and excited to have our young people back. There had been reports of how, in addition to good work at the Christian camp, many of them had grown in their faith.
Shawn Stewart, the youth director, brought a report to the congregation on the trip. He concluded by reading letters written by the young people, telling of the profound experiences that they had had while in Bolivia. It was obvious that they had grown in faith and commitment. As Shawn read the letters, I [Brad Long] became aware that something was happening in the congregation. It became very still, and in the stillness was the intensity of the presence of God. Like a window being flung open on a morning fragrant with spring, I could feel that we were on the brink of something really exciting. God seemed in our midst beckoning us into a fresh engagement with Himself. Shawn continued to read, but became so moved that he started to weep. As he did, some in the congregation started to cry quietly too.
Shawn became awkward and then just sat down. Richard, our pastor, had a look of perplexed expectation. He seemed unsure of what to do in this moment of unformed opportunity. The intensity of expectation of God’s presence was nearly palatable.
At that moment, the written order prevailed and the next item on the program was commenced. As the person spoke about something completely unrelated to the mission trip or the presence of God that seemed about to visit us, the whole congregation relaxed its tension of expectancy. We had been at the edge of something wonderful, and it had been missed. The next week, I met with the pastor and youth pastor, they both expressed the same awareness that I had had, and some opportunity had been missed. But what was it?
It was as if a door had opened to another dimension of engagement with the spiritual realm but we had not known what to do. The door had closed and we were left with the awareness that there had indeed been something more. Like a dream that is lost upon awakening, there was left in our souls a restless yearning. (Long, Brad; Whitaker, Bob; Byron, Gene; and Selig, Larry, 1998, pp. 210-211)
On April 25, 2001, I recorded the following in my journal:
Last week I taught at “SpiritLife” at Fellowship Church, Traverse City, MI, on the subject of the Holy Spirit “upon”, tracing the theme from the OT into Acts, and ending with the question, “What might happen if the Spirit came upon you?” As I asked that question, I sensed the Spirit’s presence in a manner that was, as best I can describe, electric. A palpable ‘shift’ occurred in the spiritual atmosphere. Unsure of what to do next, I turned the meeting back over to Jon.
In retrospect, I believe that we missed the kairos moment.
I wonder what would have happened if I had had the courage to ‘face the emptiness,’ pause, and quietly wait for guidance from Jesus through the Holy Spirit regarding what to say or do next.
What follows is an example where a leader walked with the Holy Spirit into and through a kairos moment and Jesus worked in dynamic ways. Once again I quote Brad Long.
In 1978, at a PCC conference in Montreat, North Carolina, an estimated nine hundred people stood in exalted, Spirit-led praise of Jesus Christ. After a period of singing, we stood in silence. The Holy Spirit’s presence was vibrant, nearly palpable; to me [Brad Long], it felt like the thundering clouds before a storm. Awed by the presence, we waited for something to happen. It was like the eve of creation.
Suddenly, there came into my mind the words, “Bow down before me, bow down before me, for I am the mighty King.” I knew that the Lord was speaking to me, but I was afraid that I might be wrong. As I inwardly struggled to discern whether it really was of the Lord, or whether I would just make a fool out of myself, the words grew hot! Finally, I took the risk and started to speak them out. To my amazement, no sooner had I said, “bow” than everyone in the whole group instantly fell to their knees. The Holy Spirit only needed the word to do His work. There followed an amazing period in which the Holy Spirit moved in the group with healing and other manifestations of power. (Long, Brad; Whitaker, Bob; Byron, Gene; and Selig, Larry, 1998, p. 216)
A ‘kairos moment’ is a divinely orchestrated moment in time when the Spirit of God is moving. Ponder, for example, Genesis 1; Ezekiel 37; and John 11.
One of our challenges as followers of Jesus Christ is this: To see and to sense the presence of Holy Spirit orchestrated kairos moments and, in faith and obedience, take appropriate action.
As I sat in our worship service my mind drifted toward the question of kairos moments. I wondered, “Does Jesus build kairos moments into every worship service? Are they usually there if only we will stay tuned-in to the Holy Spirit?” I’m not sure what the answer is to that question but the tenor of the Book of Acts would indicate “Yes.” Certainly it is always appropriate to prepare for Sunday – and for other ministry events – by praying, “Lord Jesus, be pleased to build kairos moments into our time together. Enable us to sense them and to flow with what You desire to do, through the Holy Spirit, in our midst.”
What has been your experience with kairos moments?
Bauer, Walter. Trananslated by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich. (Thirteenth Impression, 1971). A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christain Literature. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Cho, D. (. (1979). The Fourth Dimension. Seoul, Korea: Seoul Logos Co., Inc.
Long, Brad; Stokes, Paul; Strickler, Cindy. (2009). Growing the Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Long, Brad; Whitaker, Bob; Byron, Gene; and Selig, Larry. (1998). The PRMI Dunamis Project. In the Spirit’s Power: The Gifts of the Holy Spirit . www.prmi.org.
Rienecker, Fritz; and Rogers, Jr., Cleon. (1980). Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library: Zondervan.