How does God speak to you?

In my line of ministry, and because of the events I attend, I meet Christians from a diverse range of backgrounds.  This means that I encounter a variety of prayer and worship styles because of all the different churches and denominations that I work with.  Yet the interesting thing to note is that God speaks to people in every church, in every prayer style and in every worship style.  The key to hearing from God is to know how God speaks to you.

In my line of work I have met people who hear from God through praying the rosary, reading the bible, listening to podcasts, contemporary worship music, social justice, working with people, teaching and many more.  It would be unfair to say that God doesn’t speak at least someone through a particular prayer or worship style.  However it is fair to day that most people hear from God in the style that is dominant in their denomination:

  • Pentecostals in contemporary worship
  • Catholics in the Liturgy
  • Anglicans in preaching
  • Salvation Army in service of others

Most of us have a favourite prayer and worship style and so we think God speaks to almost everyone in that style.  For example, some of my most profound moments with God have been in the four or five songs of contemporary praise and worship service, yet my wife wants it to finish half way through the opening song to get on with the preaching.

Two people at the same even can have very different reactions.  For example, when I visited a monastic prayer service with a group I was working with, someone said it was the most profound experience of God in their life, yet I could not understand a single word of the service as it was in Latin.

We are all different and so God uses different prayer and worship styles to speak to people.  Here are three things to keep in mind when listening for God:

  1. Not everyone listens in the same way:  Perhaps a friend of yours listens to God using one style but you might be more comfortable with another style.  Look at how you normally take in information (audio, visual, experiential, individual, communal etc) and see if you can find a prayer and worship style suited to that.  Don’t just stick with what is natural in your denomination, experiment with other styles until you find one that helps you listen to God.
  2. Don’t rule it out until you’ve tried it:  some people rule out styles of worship because it isn’t from their denomination.  Perhaps you need to experience something to see if you find God in it for yourself rather than listening to someone else’s negative opinion.  Once you have tried it then you know if it is for you or not, just like I now know that monastic prayers services in Latin are not for me.
  3. Your preferences change as you get older: be aware that as you grow older and as you grow more mature as a Christian your preferences will change.  When you were younger you might have liked more communal prayer styles but as you get older you need more personal time with God.  Perhaps as you get more mature in your faith you need to listen for God through serving others and putting your faith into action.

In your searching you will encounter some styles of prayer and worship that can be forced rituals or superstitious if you don’t enter then the right way.  Check with a trusted leader, pastor or priest who might be able to help you, but be aware that people hear from God in almost every prayer and worship style.

Before we finish here are two words of warning:

  1. God’s Word:  if you don’t ever hear God speaking to you when you read the bible then perhaps you need more detailed advice than this blog post can give.  God’s Word in the bible should be like air to our lungs; it should inspire us, comfort us, challenge us and makes us feel loved by God.  If you never hear from God when reading God’s word then see your spiritual advisor, pastor or priest.
  2. Service:  the bible says that faith without works is dead (James 2:26), so if all you do is sit by yourself listening for God without ever serving others then get out into the world.  As a Christian it is not just about your own personal relationship with God, you must be out in the world serving and ministering to others.

I hope that helps you learn to hear from God.  If you have any advice then please leave a comment in the section below.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mark of faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald, markoffaith.net

Where are you heading personally? Vision Part 2

In a previous post I wrote about where are you heading in your ministry.  Whilst it is important to steward your ministry well, most of us won’t stay in the same ministry our entire life.  So how do you work out a vision and direction for your life that fits into what God is doing within the ministries that you are planted?

When I was younger I thought my youth group was the best thing I had ever done.  Every Sunday night I would go to Church, during the week we would catch up, I would write talks, help out with meetings and do whatever was needed.  After three years of giving everything I had to this ministry I started to see life after the youth group.  It was like I grew out of the youth ministry as I grew older and I needed to move on.  Since then I have seen the same pattern repeat itself within every ministry I have served in; it is just the length of time that changes.  Sometimes it is six months sometimes three years sometimes 10 years.

In your life have you seen this pattern in ministry:

  1. Discover a new ministry
  2. Soak up everything you can from the group
  3. Devote everything you have to the ministry
  4. Pass on everything you do to other leaders
  5. Move onto the next phase of your life

It is Ok to spend a season in a ministry and move on.

The challenge for us is to be guided by what God is calling us to rather than drifting from ministry to ministry.  If you are going to stay in ministry long enough to contribute, you have to go through a period where it may not be as enjoyable as when you first started.  If you leave a ministry when ever it is no longer enjoyable then you are not moving by God’s call but by your own desires.

Here are four things to help you determine where you should be heading personally:

  1. What is your calling?  Your calling doesn’t usually look like a job description.  It isn’t often that your life’s call is Year 12 Geography teacher at Summer Bay High.  Your calling is some way that you will make a different in the world so describe it in unique ways.  Your calling is most likely not just the things that you are good at but the things that make you stronger as a person and as a disciple.  Your calling will never draw you away from God but will help you build God’s Kingdom in a special way.
  2. What season are you in?  You may be in a season of growth; you may need a season of rest.  You need to reflect on what season you are in because God may be asking you to sow into a particular ministry for a particular time.  If you feel you must commit somewhere for the rest of your life then you may miss the opportunity to sow into a great ministry for a short period of time.
  3. What are you preparing for?  Are you developing your craft for a future season?  We can be so focused on what we are doing now that we forget we need to be preparing for what is next.  This might be further study, it might be connecting with mentors who are at the next level, it might be reading more books or developing your platform.  Even if you are in a season of great productivity you should be preparing for the future.
  4. What is your life’s work?  Sometimes you need to imagine how you will view your life after you retire.  Whilst most of us have no idea about every single job that we will hold in our life, it is important to focus on what significance your life will make as a whole.  Some people will have three or four ministries throughout their life others will serve in 10-15 different places.  What difference will your life make as a whole in the Kingdom of God?

Whilst this might sound focused on you, I really believe that we have to let God be God.  We have to constantly be asking God how can I serve you?  It is not our vision but God’s vision that we should be following.  If you are heading nowhere in your life then you will get there.  If you want to be heading in the right direction then you have to be looking to God.

markoffaith, mark of faith, Mark of Faith