Thursday, May 15, 2008

Listening to God

Sometimes (ok, often) my posts are kind of pointed and overly mission focused. I guess that is why I named this the rant. I wanted to speak freely - but sometimes it may be too much.

So that is to say, that the massive key to this whole thing is transformed lives and listening to Jesus. All the missional goobly garp in the world aint gonna make a hill of beans if this is not happening. This is the essence of discipleship (in my book).

On transformation - unfortunately we (the west) have gotten ourselves into program / attendance bind. We measure spiritual growth by who is showing up and how sweet the event went. I was a church planters conference recently and one of the key questions batted around in the halls was . . . 'how many you running?' They joked about this up front . . . but it is painfully how we have learned to keep score in western Christianity.

On listening to Jesus - there is a subtle but destructive force in the west that says that God ONLY speaks through scripture. What a bummer. Now I agree that he is not going to say anything that contradicts scripture, but to say that he cannot speak to me directly really undermines the whole idea of a relationship with him. What a bummer if my wife wrote me a letter when I married her and it contained all the information I would ever get in regard to her communication with me. No, I believe that it is key that we know, understand and practice listening to his voice. Then he will guide us in real time toward what we need to do.

Can you think of respected person in scripture, major or minor, who did not HEAR from God? . . . . me either. I believe this is key to what it means to be a disciple.

Dangerous and possibly hard to learn and teach . . . but absolutely key. If the young people get a hold of hearing his voice and doing what he says . . . all this talk is pointless and the craziness of a Jesus movement will blow us away.

I had to come back on and add this. If we taught this, we would never have to do placement again. We could allow the HS to place staff simply by telling them where he wanted them to go. You may think this is crazy, or would not work, or that the whole USCM would end up in Ohio . . . but this is exactly what we do internationally. No one gets placed in Kazakstan! You have to hear from Jesus and then you work the system to get there. It would be cool to set that system up for the whole of the US.


smellingcolours said...

Hey, Shane, I totally hear you on this one too! Actually, one of my mentors (outside CCC) has taught me the importance of listening to the HS, and passing that on. For my first couple years on staff, I couldn't fit this anywhere into CCC's ministry philosophy or practices. I went through 3 years of doing the same-old-same-old and getting terrible results, such as stunted disciples, graduates who leave and fall away / struggle etc. Finally, I decided to just teach it, and who cares that it didn't fit anywhere btwn the 4 laws and the follow-up or whatever.

Haha, it was great! The disciples really started growing, learning to listen to the HS themselves. And God did crazy things in and through their lives. Initiating friendships with strangers, befriending and feeding and clothing the beggars, caring for sick kids, recruiting people to go with them to do good works, sharing the Gospel with all sorts of people - middle-class, poor, young, old, students, cafeteria workers, etc.

It was nuts. Also, lots of refining of their hearts, and expansion of their hearts to love the unlovely.

And it was only a group of 4 :)

Shane Deike said...

that is absolutely awesome!! I love it! So why do we not teach this in Cru? Have we lost this in the ministry of the HS? What gives? Are is it that we do not believe God really works this way?

Wix said...

I think one reason is that we're scared of losing control. Also scared of the unknown. B/c when we really let the HS lead us and lead the students, we CAN'T go by a training manual or certain strategies. We won't be able to predict what will happen. It will be chaos and crazy and messy.

And all those things don't fit into our system and structure.

I remember how some of the girls in my small group would go weekly to see kids with leukemia. One of them got tight with a little girl and her mom, and the little girl died shortly after. She was devastated. I mean, as a Cru staff, how do you deal with this? There is no manual on helping your students deal with grief and crap from doing good. But this is life, this is part of building the Kingdom, this is where the HS steps in and takes us deeper into things such as compassion, sacrifice, real unconditional love that keeps giving even when it hurts.

Before all this, that girl in my sm group wanted to leave East Asia and emigrate to America to have a life of freedom and ease. Today, that same girl IS in America, BUT she's working on her Masters of Social Work, so she can return to EA to serve and love "the least of these."

This is what can happen when we listen to Jesus, and teach our students to listen to Him too.

ben said...

I agree with this post, in that it is a shame we don't listen more for God to speak. It's a shame that people have taken "sola scriptura" and turned it into "solo scriptura." God only authoritatively speaks through scripture. But that doesn't mean that he only speaks through scripture. Otherwise, Christian doctors would need to discout everything they learned in medical school that wasn't a Bible verse.

The real danger I see in the west these days is the post-modern skepticism about the scriptures. Guys like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren starting to ask the question "did God really say that homosexuality is a sin?" or "is the virgin birth a necessary doctrine?" I contend that if we lose the scriptures, we lose Jesus.

Jeremiah said...

I'm on board. I'd recommend Hearing God by Willard, and I want to read Suprised by the Voice of God by someone I can't remember.
It's funny, because growing up in my movement in CA, I was told every time we went out to do Evangelism that we should listen to the Holy Spirit to tell us who to talk to. I was suprised to hear from a pastor later that he had never experienced this and he thought it was somewhat miraculous if someone did experience God talking to him like this even once in his life. It's a major doctrine/belief out there that God doesn't really speak in specifics outside of the Word, and the Word provides principles to live by. I am bummed for hte people who believe this.

Anyway, any other book suggestions?

Shane Deike said...

Forever Ruined for the Ordinary: The Adventure of Hearing and Obeying God's Voice - Joy Dawson
Walking with God - John Elderedge (just out)
Waking the Dead - John Elderedge
Practicing the Presence of God - Brother Lawrence

Ken said...

yeah i teach on this stuff, both the projects i have led and the campuses i have led, as far as i know it is part of CCC out here.

I agree though.

I felt called to Turkey 10 years, and I am finally going, it took a decade of fighting, can you believe that.

I also have had great ideas from the Lord, callings of the HS that got rejected and I always wonder what could have been.

I agree, give up control, what is the worst thing that can happen? I will tell you what, putting the HS at the head of HR would have a much bigger upside than downside if you ask me.

Kristin S said...

Leaving for project in one week. Honestly, what I am most excited about is our first week where we focus on walking in the Spirit (SFL, listening to the HS, whatever you want to call it). While the whole summer is transformational (Lord willing) I see the most growth and ah-has in students and even staff when we focus on listening to and being obedient to the Spirit.
Thanks Shane!

Kristie said...

I agree with you about sending people to KZ...what's up with it being so hard about sending people there? (One Answer: a huge part of the problem is finding qualified men who aren't enjoying porn between weekly meetings and Bible studies.)

But what I really want to talk about is the issue of God speaking to us in our heads. Look, I am a person who is always having strong impressions. I also score high on the Intuitive scale on the Meiers Briggs. So when I get a strong impression or hear that voice in my head....where is it coming from? Is it the neurons that have been shaped by my genetic make-up and social upbringing? Or is it God Himself?

I am being rhetorical here. What I am saying that if a person tends to be feelings oriented, or intuitive, or right-brained or whatever you want to call it---how do they distinguish what is just their natural personality and what is God actually speaking to them?

What if a person grew up in home where there was a lot of guilt-trips dished out and they have an ultra-tender conscience? How do they discern if God is speaking to them, when they actually might be feeling guilted into doing things because of voices in their head?

Does that then mean that those who aren't intuitive and who don't have guilty consciences, but hear God speaking to them have some special knowledge that other Christians don't?

And what about the problem of you having God tell you something, then God tells me something different?

What about if I am on a team with someone, and my teammate thinks God is speaking to her and telling her something about the way we all ought to be doing things. But my impressions are totally different? Who is right? Would God be speaking to us, telling us to do conflicting things??

Or what if your leadership is hearing a different voice from God. Just becuase it is a different answer from you think God is telling you, does that mean they aren't hearing God and you are? How is that determined?

What if God is telling a person to go to Kazakhstan, and there is no team to go with and her leadership is saying she needs to go to Australia instead. What if the HR people were praying and asking for God's guidance in the same way? just because they are in a more corporate structure, does that make them less spiritual or even incorrect? Is it right to criticize your leadership and assume that they are wrong and weren't hearing God's voice correctly?

I am not trying to pick a fight, but really, when I read this post and the comments these are the things that came to my mind.

I do think the Bible does have some great counsel in this, especially in Psalms 119:24-Your testimonies are my delight;
they are my counselors.

Or Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel plans fail,
but with many advisers they succeed.

Our best counsel comes from the Word and from good friends. It is good to be humble about our impressions, and to run them by people we respect and who know the word. Sometimes we can get carried by emotions and not see things clearly. Maybe we are way off track with the voices in our head. Or maybe you have a crazy idea, and you run it by someone who knows you well or someone who doesn't know you well--and then they say, "yeah you are right!"

Sometimes we also have to forge ahead alone when all our friends abandon us and leave us as well. And we do face that in our line of work at times. There are times of adversity, and we just walk forward in faith. We all have stories like that, don't we, and we see God lead us victoriously answering our prayers!

So I am not saying this is a dry orthodoxy where the HS has a minor role in our lives, only prompting us to feel guilty for not having a Quiet Time. What I am saying is, you have to be careful when making the assertion that the God of the Universe is speaking to you directly some special revelation that is apart from your inner conscience, genetic make-up, intellectual processing mode, and emotional reaction center (uh, the medulla?).

One more thing---you need to be careful when you label someone as being fearful just because they are skeptical about hearing God's voice. The Bible talks about testing the Spirits and being like a Berean searching the Scriptures. Why skewer and label a person who is cautious and a critical thinker.

If someone says, "God told me" I am going to be skeptical. Does that make me less spiritual or blind or someone worthy of sympathy?

But if someone says to me, "I have this passion or desire or I really want to try this crazy thing..." then I am like, okay, as long as you're doing in faith (and I can't measure that so I won't judge you) go for it. It is more humble, I think, to say that and give God glory for that desire than to say "He spoke to me."

So there it is...I need to get out and go swimming with my kids...have a nice weekend.

Mike Lipscomb said...

Hey Shane - love the idea about letting the HS do placement. I was thinking about how cool it would be to just dissolve all of our parent organization in the USA and tell everyone to leave staff, or move abroad. The needs overseas are HUGE and there is so much extra in the USA. There are plenty of good local churches doing what we have done already. Aren't we supposed to work ourselves out of a job, anyway? :) Keep up the ranting,


Re√ said...

i get it, a rant is a rant.

Can I rant on your rant? I won't do any harm i promise, it is just my thought experiment. Can i do that?

I think we all see that some CCC peeps are on the HS-led team, some are on the God speaks only through Scripture team.

Why don't you seek the high ground and make your argument form Scripture instead of your experience and the results of your experience? If you spend all day talking about what is happening and KZ and in your own life form listening to God speaking to you aren't you just playing into the objection of the God-speaks-only-through-Scripture team? Aren't you totally ignoring their only concern? You should try to win them over, not polarize from them. If you ignore their concern you are just going to widen the chasm my friend.

Also recommending books from people who embody your team (like Willard, Lawson, Elderedge, etc.) is just playing to your team. It doesn't show that you thought about it a lot. Doesn't show that you dealt seriously with the other teams question, it just seems like a fanclub.

Finally, Mike,

If you think the HS should do placement and we "tell everyone to leave staff, or move abroad" it kind of defeats defeats the purpose of letting the HS lead huh? Is the HS is telling you to do something that you are trying to project on others and not yourself?

So what do you think? Feel free to rant on my rant of the rant!

Wix said...

Haha, I love the rants! I love it more that we have a safe space to rant!

Hey Rev, I get your point. Also yours too, Kristie. And I totally agree. We need to take into consideration the Word of God, the community, circumstances, etc. when we talk about "listening to God/HS/Jesus."

I think it helps to give context to our comments. I'm guessing that most of us are highly influenced by Evangelicalism and Traditionalism - anyhow, that's my background: conservative Baptist. So, I have been brought up to be strong in listening to God through the Word and prayer, and community, but had to learn more how to listen to Him through circumstances and how he's wired me in terms of giftings and passions.

Recently, I was asked to move to another city to be a coleader of an exciting ministry, where my gifts of coaching and innovation, my passions for social service/justice can grow and flourish. However, after talking to my community and God, and bringing into the mix what it means to be a good steward of my life (Biblical truth!) - I saw to move could be more detrimental than beneficial, and also irresponsible.

So, I totally agree that listening to God is more than just, "I have an idea, and let's do it."

The way I teach the college girls to listen, also includes, "Have you listened to Him in the small things of your life?" I ask them questions too to help them see what God wants to teach them, how He's working, convicting etc. through their daily life stuff. If they feel convicted about smth they need to do or not do, but they don't obey, I actually don't go on teaching them new things either. It's following the Biblical principles of obedience, and being faithful with whatever God has given us first.