Gathering to Listen #2

The following posts are part of a document written by LK and myself on what has been happened when we gathered to listen.

Ten of us sat around a campfire one warm Arizona evening. We had gathered there with no purpose other than to wait on God and listen to what He wanted to say to us. This was the first of three days of gathering to listen together in the city of Globe, Arizona.

For a while, we waited in silence.  Then D.B. spoke.

 "I just saw a couple of pictures," he said. "The first was of an old Native American leader sitting in the center of a fiery medicine wheel. He was placing a curse on our city. When I asked the Lord why he would do that, He showed me a picture of Native American women and children being thrown down a mineshaft. The old man was overwhelmed with grief and didn’t know what to do except to call on his ancestral spirits for vengeance.

American indian
"The second picture was of a house that I recognized as one just a few streets from where I live. It's a very ordinary house to look at from the outside but I saw it has two basements, connected by an elevator.  And in the lowest basement is a swimming pool. There is even an underground passage that leads to the next-door house. In the picture, which looked as though it took place in the 1960s and 70s, there were people I recognized, but much younger. They were partying, doing drugs, wife swapping. It was a very debauched scene."

What were we to make of these pictures? Were they just D.B.'s imagination?  By now we had learned to trust God speaking to people, and so we took them seriously.

Earlier, D.B. had briefed us on the city of Globe, a small town of 7,000 inhabitants on the edge of a Native American reservation. On the reservation, there is a place called Apache Leap, a 200-foot sheer cliff. Its name comes from the story that when the town was first settled, the pioneers took many of the native women and children and threw them off that cliff to be dashed on the rocks below.

The main industry, copper mining, had experienced a downturn over the years.  The small, blue-collar town had experienced some economic depression for quite some time.  In the midst of all this, D.B. runs a coffee shop—one of the few alternatives to bars in town. He is on the city council and has formed friendships with many of the local people. He told us that many murders take place on the Native American reservation and in Globe.  In fact, just a few months before our arrival in Globe, several high school students had committed suicide – four of them were about to graduate.

To be continued…


Gathering to Listen #1

For the past several years, I have had the privilege of being part of a group that gets together for two to three days at a time every few months with no agenda except that of listening to God and doing what he says.  We have recently had the "go ahead" from the Lord to talk more widely about this, but have decided just to use initials to identify people.  (Not sure what I can do about remaining anonymous when this is my blog!)

Two people came up with the idea simultaneously.  The Lord told N.G. that he wanted a group of people to come together to listen to him, because he wanted to teach us things that would be impossible/dangerous to hear on our own. So a group of maybe 20 of us came together in Colorado Springs for three days to listen to God.

Pikes Peak

One of the first things he told us was that we had to lay down our ministries, our passions, anything that was somehow "ours."  So each of us placed something in the center of the room that represented what we stood for, the things or beliefs we held dearest, and told the Lord he could take them, they were his, we were choosing to die to them.

That has been foundational for our times together.  We are not there to promote our own projects, or to enlist support for "our thing."  We are together with one purpose–to discover what God wants, what is on his heart, and to carry out any assignments he gives us.  The times have been very exciting, and have produced a shift in both the spiritual and physical realms.  The next few posts will describe a few of them.

I believe that one of the next moves of God will be where groups of his people are sent out on mission with God. They won't see the whole picture, but as they listen to him and obey what he says, completing whatever assignments he gives them,  the Kingdom of God will advance.


Description of a Spirit-led gathering #3

How many sermons can you remember a month later?  A year later?  A decade later?

When we were in medical school, we were involved in a controversial church plant–the Christians at the hospital decided they were a church.  Since they spent most of their time in the hospital and experienced great fellowship together, it was artificial to go to somewhere else on a Sunday morning for an hour.  Many of the medical students, nurses, physical therapists, cleaning staff, even some doctors, came together as a church in the consultants' dining room.  We were spoken against from some of the best pulpits in London! (How can a group of students start a church?  Who is going to teach them, etc.)  We were thrown out of the national organizing body for Christian student groups (although many of the leaders came to us privately and encouraged us to follow the Holy Spirit).

Together we were going through the book of Nehemiah. 

Ancient walls Nehemiah chapter 3 is one of those passages that most people skip.  It lists all the people and the area of the wall that they were rebuilding.  Basically it's a list of names, followed by which part of the wall they were responsible for.  We debated leaving that chapter out and going on to the next one, but eventually decided to study it anyway.  As we went through the passage, there was a mounting and almost palpable air of excitement.  The Holy Spirit revealed clearly to each of us the truth that as everybody does their part, the Kingdom is built.  Everybody is important within the body of Christ.  Today we take that for granted, but it was revolutionary thinking to us in that fledgling church.

What is perhaps most remarkable is that I still remember that time clearly, even though it was decades ago!  The Holy Spirit is indeed an amazing teacher, and even the way that we learned with everyone participating was a picture of the truths he was imparting.

Description of a Spirit-led gathering #2

Several simple/organic churches had come together for a celebration gathering.  At one point, it was suggested that people get into smaller groups to pray for each other.

Over in one corner, a family–mom, dad, and their two kids–were praying together.  Each had tears running down their faces. God was touching them.

I was close to a group of kids, ages 6 to 10.  Most of them were from Christian families, but there was one young lad there from the housing projects.  I was interested to see how they would react to him.  Most of the kids shared similar needs.  "My aunt's car has stopped running, please pray."  "My teacher at school is off sick," and so on.

When it came to the turn of the kid from the projects, his need was in a different category.  "My mom has thrown my dad out of the house because he was doing crack.  And now we don't have any money to pay the bills or buy food!"  How would these young Christian kids cope?

I needn't have worried.  They all prayed so simply, each tackling a different aspect of the problem.  Kids don't have a junior Holy Spirit! They can follow Jesus, sometimes more easily even than adults!

Child praying

Description of a Spirit-led simple/organic/house church gathering #1

I've been involved in churches that had open participation and attempted to follow the Holy Spirit now for around 30 years!!  Over this time, a number of gatherings stand out.  Looking back,  they were when the Holy Spirit was clearly leading.  I'd like to describe a few of them for you.

We started a church in a low income housing project.  Our times together were unusual, to say the least.  Here's a description of one of them.

We usually took plenty of food to our gatherings.  It was a way of giving to them in a non-financial way.  And of course, they provided some of the food too.  There were maybe twenty of us there on this occasion, and we were just finishing the meal when a commotion broke out outside the tiny apartment of the person of peace where we met.

One of the adults, James, went out to investigate, and the usual trouble maker, a boy of 9 or so, was fighting with one of the other kids.  So James dragged the offender upstairs and started talking with him, telling him if he behaved that way and cussed out the wrong adult in that environment, he was likely to end up getting shot or beaten up.  Then Rosa, our person of peace went upstairs to join the fray, and she and James started arguing about how to bring some discipline into the boy's life.  (This is church!)

Finally things settled down, and the adults gathered indoors while the kids went outside to play.  James opened things up by asking, "How does a Christian handle it when he really hates someone?"

Was this the Holy Spirit?  We thought so, and the next half hour or so was spent in looking at some Scriptures on this topic, with everyone sharing from their experiences, and contributing to the discussion.  We also touched on how to discipline kids, and how followers of Jesus handle it when they disagree with each other.

Someone suggested we pray about what we had learned.  Was this the Holy Spirit's prompting?  Of course!  So we spent time praying for each person there, laying hands on them and making the prayers relevant to their situations.  They were short prayers, so each person prayed several times.

Then we invited the kids in.  They love to sing, and so we spent time in worship and praise. At one point I looked up, and there were two kids, aged maybe 7 and 9, singing their hearts out, faces raised, eyes closed.  It may have been loud and out of tune, but I thought to myself, "Jesus, you love this!"

Facilitating a Spirit-led gathering: Idea #4

First Corinthians 2:16 says this: 

 For,    “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?

      Who knows enough to teach him?”

   But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

The body of Christ often has the mind of Christ.  It is not something that is experienced so much individually as corporately.  Together, we have the mind of Christ.

Therefore, if we are facilitating a gathering there are some key questions that we can ask.  For example, someone may mention a need.  The person helping to facilitate may say, "Does anyone have any sense as to what the Lord wants us to do next?"  Someone suggests, "Maybe we should pray about it."  "Do others sense the same thing?"  Usually there is agreement, and so you go ahead and pray.  But maybe someone will suggest that you do something practical.  Does this have agreement from those there too?

Here are some other situations when a question may help to bring out what the Lord wants from the body.

Someone reads a verse of Scripture:  "Does anyone have a sense of what Jesus is trying to say to us through this passage?"

A time of prolonged silence (sometimes the silence itself is from the Lord):  "Is the Lord saying anything to anyone as we listen to him here?"

A picture or prophecy: "Let's weigh this and see what the Lord is saying to us through it."  Or, "Does this picture speak to anyone here about a situation in their life?"

Questions to the body will often lead to following the Holy Spirit.



Learning to follow the Holy Spirit with not-yet believers: Idea #3

We love to start with groups of people the majority of whom do not yet know Jesus.  Right from the start we have them talking about what God is doing in their lives (a concept know as prevenience–God is at work in the heart of the unbeliever before they know him) and praying, and we encourage them to listen to what God might be saying to them.  I have never known any unbeliever to have a problem with this, and if they are encouraged to do this before they become believers, it is never a problem later on.

In the past few months I have come across some ideas for working with new groups by David Watson that facilitate this.  He asks each person in the group to share:

  • What has gone well lately that gave you joy?
  • What has caused you, or someone you know, stress lately?

As people share, it is easy to move from the first question into saying, "Let's praise God for this,"  or "Let's talk to God about this situation."

You may ask, "Is this following the Holy Spirit?"  If someone brings up a problem, do you think God wants to deal with it?  Of course he does.  And it is easy to ask people to give any impressions they think God may be giving them as they pray about the situation too.

An example of how teaching can be led by the Holy Spirit: Idea #2

The comments below were a response by April Sellers  on the Arkadelphia Simple Church Network site ( to my post on listening to the Lord in meetings.  

We don't often talk about teaching in house church.  Within simple churches, we most commonly learn from the Word in the context of an interactive Bible study where everybody participates and is learning from the Word together.  But 1 Corinthians 14:26 does talk about teaching.  So how do we handle it within the simple church context if the Lord gives us a "teaching"?

I thought that April's comments were a very interesting example of the "teaching" mentioned in this verse, and a great example of following the Holy Spirit.

"I recently read this great, short article by Felicity Dale on how to hear God in the context of a gathering. The article is really short, but I’ll summarize it anyway. If we really want to let Jesus be the head of His church, we have to let Him lead the meetings.  The way to do this in a meeting is to listen to the Holy Spirit, fully engage in the meetings and share the spontaneous thoughts, songs, scriptures, etc.  that God gives you. Don’t try to force it by thinking, “Hmm…what kind of song or scripture would go best with this?” Just share what God gives you.

For example, at our meeting last Sunday, I (April) brought a teaching that God have given me earlier in the week. As I was sharing this teaching,  different people would speak up and share scriptures, insight, convictions and experiences that the Lord brought to mind from the teaching I was sharing or from something else that someone said.  We had a really great time as we learned from and encouraged each other. I wasn’t worried that we “strayed” from what I had brought to teach. Actually, I hoped that would happen. I hoped that God would take what I had brought and weave it together with what everyone else had shared.  God did weave it together, and he built us together, as a church, in the process.  As I’m writing this, I’m reminded of this scripture:

When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. (1st Corinthians 14:26)"


Ideas on how to follow the Holy Spirit in a gathering: #1

This is the first of several posts that look at how to follow the Holy Spirit when we gather.

Everyone spends some time (10 minutes or more) on their own seeking God for what he would like them to bring. It might be a Bible passage, a thought, a picture, a song, a prayer need etc. Then as each one makes their contribution, respond to it and see what the Lord does. Is there a theme in what people have brought that you can follow?

We have seen God move in remarkable ways when we have done this.  For example, one time a group of us had gathered just to listen to God.  As each one came back and shared something, one of the prophetic people in our midst condensed what each person said, and presented it at the end as a prophetic "tapestry" from the Lord to us.  Even the person who said, "I got nothing" was included!

How do you hear God in the context of a gathering?

Jesus wants to be Lord of our times together.  He is not the honored guest but the Master of Ceremonies.  If we are to follow the Holy Spirit in a gathering, it is important to know how to hear him in a group context.  How do you know what is the Holy Spirit and what is your own thoughts?

The best way we know of to do this is to participate fully in what is going on, making it your own vehicle of communication with the Lord.  Then what comes spontaneously to mind (a flow of spontaneous thoughts) is likely to be the Holy Spirit communicating with you.  So for example, if someone is giving a praise report or praising God in prayer, and a certain song comes to mind, that is likely to be the Holy Spirit.  So you suggest that the group sings it (or if you have the confidence, start the song).  Then maybe that song prompts someone else to bring a word of prophecy, or reminds them of a Scripture.  As one and another trusts the Lord and speaks out as he prompts, the Holy Spirit leads.

What doesn't work so well is to sit there thinking, "I wonder if anyone is going to say anything.  Maybe I'll lead out in prayer," or "Is there a song that would fit in with that Scripture?"  These are not spontaneous thoughts, and although the Holy Spirit can lead in that way, he is much more likely to do so as we join in fully with what the Spirit is currently doing.