A ministry…..of listening?
A Ministry Update
Due to numerous factors, and after many hours of prayer and discerning the Lord’s direction, we, plus the elders of Perimeter Church, decided to move Shalom City Church into a season of pausing, praying, and (hopefully) planning the next season of house church development, discipleship and outreach. Can ministry mean more than constant hospitality, big outreaches and planning meetings? In the longing to share the reality of a Living Savior, and to raise up disciples of this Good King, is there a place in “ministry” for simply…. listening?
Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)
may warrant so.
A Ministry of Listening
“Stop talking so much.”
When a busy mom of seven prays by the bed of her bedridden husband on that very average morning, and these are the very distinct words she hears, she starts to wonder.
“Stop talking so much.”
“Like, stop talking to my kids? Lord, I don’t understand. I’ve gotta talk to them, I’m running a massive household!”
But in the days to follow, it came so clear. “Stop talking so much when you pray.”
Pious self-absorption. That’s what it can evolve into…all that yacking I’m doing when I pray. Pious self-absorption. So busy crying out for my prayer needs, praying my lists, voicing my scripture proclamations, laying out ministry concerns. These are all good things, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I just need to shut up and trust and listen to the bigger picture. Had it every crossed my mind that His Spirit might have something to say? Or maybe there is something He wants me to pray about, rather than the prearranged agenda I have when I approach Him in prayer. Maybe all my endless talking and praying is sort of like when one of my kids keeps begging me for something when I, knowing the bigger picture and the schedule to come, know that they wouldn’t REALLY want it if they knew what was around the corner, but they won’t listen long enough to hear what is coming.
So when we gather weekly in this “pause and pray” season of our ministry, my living room looks differently. Two years ago we were cramming 30 rambunctious kids into it for house church and now, instead of the frantic activity and crowd control, our launch team of about twenty gather to meet. We gather to meet, but not with each other. We gather to meet with the Lord. We worship, yes. We meditate on Scripture, yes., We repent, yes. We intercede, yes. But then…..we LISTEN. A 15 minute timer on the iPhone, and then just moments and moments and moments of collective silence, to see if the Holy Spirit had anything to impress upon us. The mind will wander at moments, but the Holy Spirit will captivate at others. So,after reigning in my mind from the distracting sounds of a 3 year old occupied on an electrical device in the other room, the Lord gives a picture, as clear as day, to this listening, available mind.
A circle of us. Our launch team, all holding hands and creating a circle. Hands locked together we guard the the center of the circle… a space which we are to make room for and protect collectively. Why hold hands so tightly? Why spread out so broadly? Why just stand there so patiently?
We are waiting. Waiting and creating space for the Lord. Space for Him to descend in fire and power, for Him to enter in His gentleness and Sweet Presence, for Him to have a landing spot, for Him to do whatever He pleases. If we are all frantically moving about from one ministry or event to the next, and we are all darting back and forth, there is no space for Him to visit. We must be holding hands, together, creating space in our schedules, in our agendas, in our minds, in our prayers so that our King, in all His authority and glory, can show up and we can receive His direction, His empowerment, His comfort, His love.
I didn’t just see one large circle… I saw us afterwards going about our days creating other circles, smaller ones, with other members of the Body of Christ as normal life warrants our need for continued direction. As we joined hand in hand to pray and listen to our Lord and King, our Head gives instruction, direction and empowerment, just as the brain might direct the body.
And that is what we are. A body. The Body. The Body of Christ. And the whole reason we have assembled in the community we are in is to BE that. A body. Not the Head. Not the Mind behind a church planting endeavor or a Non-profit start up or a mentoring ministry. Our planning and strategies and preparations, no matter how well intended or well developed, is nothing if THE HEAD did not give them to us. The Head speaks and the earth and heavens are shaken and created things will be shaken away and only that which cannot be shaken will remain. (Hebrews 12:27). If this is true, and much of what is around us will completely pass away, wouldn’t we want to invest time, heart and soul into that which will remain? The only way to do so, is if we are ever-listening to the voice of the One whose voice does the shaking. And just as the brain does not send a message to the rest of the body, only for the body to get a one-time instruction, detach from the head, and go perform that actions, neither can the Church, the Body receive a one-time instruction (“go plant a church”) and detach to “go get the job done”. The only way for the Head to accomplish with His Body what He intends is for the Body to stay in an attached attentive manner, ever available to move at the “nerve impulses” sent from the Head.
But maybe we are all too busy to hear it, or at least hear it and respond.
Or maybe we start locking hands with each other, thus blocking out distractions and frantic activity that would threaten to intrude on the time and the space and the attentiveness needed to allow the Living Lord Jesus to come and visit us. We create circles big and small for the Holy Spirit, the Head’s nerve impulses, to impress upon us our what we need to know… convictions over what is blocking His power in our lives, clarity for situations, and instructions for what to do next.
What would happen if we did this? What if we invited every new Believer, every teen recently baptized, every child we are mentoring into a living relationship with a Living Lord who actually wants to speak to His followers?
It would produce disciples. Not disciples of us, but disciples of Jesus, empowered to hear HIS voice, obey and go share His goodness with someone else. It would be a disciple making missional movement. It would be the Kingdom of God coming on earth as it is in Heaven, for our King and Commander would have full access to His Body, to do His bidding.
And it would have all started in a ministry of listening.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. Colossians 1:17-18
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
…they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:1-4