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

Pentecost

Did you colour this in Sunday School?

Does anyone remember sunday school or primary school classes about Pentecost where you coloured in tongues of fire resting above the heads of the Disciples?  Pentecost was such an easy passage to draw yet it was a confusing passage to understand as a kid because we read about tongues of fire, a rushing wind and a Holy Spirit as a dove.  Whilst I don’t expect kids to get the full understanding of the Holy Spirit, it would be a shame if adults had this limited understanding of the Holy Spirit and Pentecost.

Pentecost is not a memory of an event 2000 years ago but a reminder that God is still active in the world today through the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost is not just an even for “Pentecostals” but for everyone who calls themself a Christian.

Recently at Bible College we debated whether John 20:22 was St John’s version of the Pentecost event that occurs in Acts 1 written by St Luke.  Whilst the debate leaned towards it being a separate event, the main message of our discussion was that Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to the disciples because He was about to leave them.  A better question would be “why did they need the Holy Spirit?”  The answer to this question is that when Jesus ascended into heaven the disciples needed God’s support to carry on the mission of spreading the Good News or Gospel.

The Holy Spirit, or Comforter, is not given to us so that we can be comfortable, but so that we are comforted as we engage in Mission.  If we want to know where the Holy Spirit is working today, take a look at those engaged in Mission.  The Holy Spirit empowers us for mission.  The Holy Spirit equips us for building the Church and equipping the Saints (see Ephesians 4:12).

I have heard it said that the Church doesn’t have a mission, the Mission has a church.  On a day like Pentecost we are reminded that we are empowered to take this Good News out to the world, not keep it to ourselves within the walls of our Church building.  My prayer for you is that the Holy Spirit blesses you with the gifts you need to be bold and courageous in the mission within your community.

Define your Charism not your ministry label

 

You only have a spend a little time in the Church to realise that there are so many labels and stereotypes out there.  If you have been a ministry leader then perhaps you have given other ministries labels or maybe you have been stereotyped yourself.  In the past few weeks I have been bombarded by all the different labels in our Church as people try to describe a particular church or ministry to me.  Here are a few labels people use:

  • Conservative or Liberal
  • Liturgical or Evangelical
  • Pentecostal or Evangelical
  • Charismatic or Doctrinal
  • Social Justice or Missional
  • Seeker Sensitive or Bible Believing

Perhaps you know of a church or ministry that could easily fit into one of these labels.  Whilst we all think that our own ministry is more rounded than just one label we tend to badge others ministries with a narrow label.  What if we were to change our thinking about how we define our ministry and the other ministries in our community?  What if we were to recognise the Mark of Faith in a leader, a ministry or a church instead of how they are different to us?

One way to do this is to define your charism not use the traditional labels that define your style of Church.  A charism is a special “flavour” given to a church, ministry or group of Christians by the Holy Spirit to build up the Body of Christ.  So we start to recognise that the Holy Spirit has given us a particular way of doing ministry to reach a particular group of people in our particular community.  We can then learn from other ministries without having to change them because they are trying to reach their particular community with their particular style.

Here are a few examples:

  1. You may not be a Hillsong Church but you may use Hillsong Music.  The Hillsong church in Sydney has been graced by the Holy Spirit with a particular Charism, their style of worship, to build up the Church.  A church that started in a community hall in North west Sydney has now produced worship music sung by millions of people.
  2. You may not be a Taize community but you may use Taize chants.  The Taize community in France has been graced by the Holy Spirit with a particular Charism, their meditative chants, to build up the Church.  A community that started in a small village has a style of prayer used by millions around the world.
  3. You may not be in a Jesuit church, school or community but you may use the Jesuit method of discernment.  The Jesuit’s, originally from Spain, have been graced by the Holy Spirit with a particular Charism, their method of discernment, to build up the Church.  A community that begin with a few men in Northern Spain has now educated millions of students in colleges and school on every continent.

I could go on but you get the picture.  We can’t try to be a church that does everything; we can’t mix Hillsong music with Taize chants because they suit different people and different styles.  However we can recognise the different parts of the Body of Christ rather than labeling ministries.

In your own leadership, ministry or church what is your Charism?  It is helpful to define your Charism by two things:

  1. What does the Holy Spirit want your ministry to contribute to the Church?
  2. Define what you stand for not what you are against.

It might be a little idealistic of me to think that we could drop the labels in the Church and see each others place in the Body of Christ.  But what we can do is remember that the Holy Spirit does not give labels to a ministry, the Holy Spirit blesses a ministry/churches with a charism for the building up of the entire Church.

How would you define your Charism?  Please leave a comment.