There is one key skill that each of us needs to develop if we want to multiply disciples.
I was spending time with the Lord one morning, watching two squirrels play a game of tag in the oak tree outside my window, when, out of the blue, a thought came to mind.
“You are to walk Oltorf.”
Oltorf is a street about a 20 minute drive from our house. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, had no reason to ever go there.
The end of that story was a church built out of the harvest in a low income housing project on Oltorf.
As I mentioned in the last post, the job of the disciples in Luke 10 was to listen to Jesus and do what he said. If we want to see multiplying disciples and churches, then we need to learn to do the same.
But how do you hear God?
The first thing to understand is that God wants to communicate with us. Following Jesus as a system of rules and traditions is merely religion. Jesus wants to have a vital, living, vibrant relationship with each one of us. Living that way becomes an adventure! In John 10, Jesus tells his disciples, “My sheep hear/recognize my voice.”
I could be in a room with 100 people all speaking at once, but I would instantly recognize Tony’s voice–and not just because he has a British accent. I recognize his voice because I delight to spend time with him. There’s no one on earth who I would rather be with. It’s the same with Jesus. As we develop intimacy with him, we recognize his voice amidst the myriad of thoughts going through our minds.
Perhaps the best pattern I know of listening to God comes from Mark Virkler. I first read his book, *Dialog with God* probably 30 years ago and it’s formed the basis of how I hear the Lord ever since. He describes a four step pattern:
1. Free yourself from distractions
2. Focus on Jesus
3. Listen for a flow of spontaneous thoughts
4. Write them down.
For me, the “flow of spontaneous thoughts” often comes as an idea, apparently out of nowhere, like the idea that I should walk Oltorf. I’ll find myself thinking, “Where did *that* come from?”
Sometimes I see a picture, often very fleeting, but that encapsulates an idea that God then elaborates on. For example, one time in a gathering I had a picture of ball moss (a kind of moss that attacks trees in Texas and eventually kills them.) The Lord spoke to the group through that picture that we should get rid of distractions and things that are seemingly small and inconsequential but that were choking our spiritual lives.
Sometimes God speaks through a word of Scripture. In our business, for example, we’ve several times found ourselves guided in how to pray by a story or book from the Bible.
Occasionally God communicates through dreams, or prophecy.
At this stage you don’t try to judge what you’ve written down. Later, you can weigh what you wrote against Scripture. I try and do this several times a week. Mostly, what I write down is Scriptural, encouraging, but nothing out of the ordinary. But sometimes, God speaks incredibly clearly and specifically.
When we’ve learned to hear his voice in times set aside for doing that, then we can hear his quiet whisper:
“Go sit down next to that person on the bench over there.”
“Prayer walk this apartment complex.”
“This is the people group you will be working with.”
“This coffee shop is to be the place where you hang out.”
“That person needs prayer–her husband has just left her. Go start a conversation with her.”
Listening to God, recognizing his voice so that we can respond in obedience, is the main, key skill we need if we are to multiply disciples and plant churches.
5 replies on “The key skill we need to multiply disciples”
I like what you are saying here, and in my mind I agree with you. But (and I’m probably repeating what I’ve said here before) it doesn’t seem to work that way for me. I find it very difficult to do what you say, and when I do I tend to find myself observing myself trying to be open to God rather than actually being open to God. God has indeed spoken to me a few times in my life, but rarely if ever when I’ve been attending a focusing like that, but in the flow of daily living.
Obviously there are different gifts and personalities. Knowing myself and observing others, I believe I have a gift for having an open mind, understanding truth and apply it strategically. I seem to have little capacity for worship or the sort of devotion and attention you recommend here. Most other christians seem to be very different to me.
Do you have anything to say to all this, any experience of others whose response is similar to mine? I intend to try to do what you say here for a while, to give God the opportunity. But I don’t feel confident that it works the same for me as it does for you. I think God treats us differently according to our gifts or lack. What do you think?
Eric, I hope you don’t mind if I leave a few thoughts here for you.
You may be right, that Father will not use this way of communicating with you. But I have a hunch you may not be allowing yourself enough time and space.
The first step, freeing yourself from distractions, is quite hard for some people. But it’s no good going on to step two until you have allowed your mind to move away from busy, busy to settled. It may help to jot down some of these intrusive thoughts so you know you won’t forget them later. Nothing is more distracting that the thought that I must remember to buy carrots or post that letter. And if simple things like that can get in the way, then bigger things are even harder to deal with.
I’d suggest just devoting five minutes each day to practicing this first step until your mind is still, and then moving to step two. Try thinking of yourself walking with him in his garden, sitting with him looking out to sea, or kneeling at his feet. Whatever works for you. But don’t even consider steps three and four until one and two are regularly achievable for you.
And if this really is not the right way for you, then the Spirit will find a different way that does work for you. I’m confident of it!
But meanwhile, give yourself the space and time to keep practicing the first step of Virkler, and if you achieve that add the second one. Only then move on to step three.
I hope this helps,
Hi Chris, I certainly don’t mind. I asked Felicity the question to get input and I appreciate your thoughts. I will certainly be trying out the ideas.
Great thoughts, Felicity, as always.
It’s very helpful to have this just at this particular time, and I’m going to email the link to all my friends in Donna’s Small Group, part of Open Door Church. Although I’m not officially part of Open Door, I am deeply connected within the Small Group. Every single person there is a close friend.
We tried Virkler together two months ago so your post will be a reminder with plenty of examples of how Father uses what we hear to guide us in unexpected ways. And this I especially like, ‘God wants to communicate with us’. Amen!
Consider: To best become a disciple, then later disciple others: Answer large and hard questions about doctrinal truth. Wrong answers to doctrinal truth will create really flaky disciples who make flaky disciples. So, first ask: Do you expect to ever be or make Living Masters? (Why don’t you believe you can become a Living Master and make disciples who also are? Because low expectations are required by wrong-doctrine churches! Low expectations are created by an environment of extremely wrong doctrines that always fail to make Living Masters.
So, it is actually really tough to correctly be a disciple, because few will challenge core doctrines of Evangelical Christianity that actually prevent any creation of true Living Master Disciples.
The core doctrines to figure are: Rapture – is it really a lie? Does God return in “Christ-in-You” instead? Can we bless and support Christ-in-You folk, or allow the pastor to “smash-the-mole” any Living Master-True Disciple? Can Living Masters ever really be paid hirelings? If no hireling can be a Living Master, why listen to hirelings? Would a hireling be jealous of a Living Master?
Another core doctrine is Eternal Security: If it is really, really hard to become a Jedi-Living Master with high levels of Christ-in-You, then… why do so if Eternal Security is true? In other words, if everybody that joined the Army got a guaranteed hero’s retirement, why fight for anything in the Army?
Another core idea is to really ask: why do Evangelical leaders implode so much? Are their implosions doctrine-driven? Does Eternal Security make pastors go out and adulterate? Why wouldn’t it?
Does Rapture make folk believe God’s next move is Rapture? How would this have helped any American on December 7, 1945? God’s next move was to get the Allies to do a nasty piece of work. They did, and in 3 1/2 years the war was won.
Fast forward to today: America is involved in five conflicts. Is God’s next move rapture? Or does God have an assignment for Allies to do a nasty piece of work to stop ISIS?
See http://www.inthatdayteachings.com to enjoy critique against the common adolescent Christian narrative, and “shake hands with better” than is offered at Charisma, TBN, et al.