I wonder if the three most abusive words in the English language are “God told me.” I mean, who can appeal what God has said? When someone, particularly a Christian ministry leader, says “God told me,” the trump card has been played!
I’ve heard many Christians who aren’t in leadership say the same thing, and it always used to evoke the same, unspoken, response from me: “Oh really?” That is, until I began to discern God’s voice myself. Now my unspoken response is, “Let’s test and see if it really is of God.”
I’m now of the opinion that we should be hearing “God told me” more often than we do. My caveat is to be careful not to put words into God’s mouth. Don’t over-interpret what you heard. Make a clear distinction between the actual message you receive and what you intend to do about it. For instance, I once felt the Lord say that CCCC should be accessible to every ministry, not just the ones that can afford the membership fee. That was from God. I felt a Web membership would satisfy the accessibility that God desired, but how the Web membership works was actually designed by the leadership team. I made it clear that accessibility was mandated by God, the Web membership was just my idea for consideration.
The assumption is that anyone leading a Christian ministry is being led by God. The question for leaders is, “How does God lead us?” Since it is hard to lead without any form of communication, we should expect God to lead by finding ways to ‘talk’ with us.
A secondary question is, “Does God actually speak?” This question arises because of the shorthand way that most people use to refer to God’s communication methods. I’ve not yet heard of anyone who would say they heard an audible voice, although that is possible. Some have experienced a vivid thought within their heads and described it as an internal voice, but not a real voice. Others have ‘heard’ God speaking through other people, a Bible verse, or a dream, or intuition or by journaling. It’s just easier to say “God told me” rather than go through the technical details of how you came to understand God’s message.
The two ways God ‘speaks’ to us are:
- Through the Bible
- By the Holy Spirit
We have one sure communication from God that is undoubted, and that is the Bible. We can read the Bible for historical information and for theology, but we can also read it to learn about God’s plans and his character. Scripture tells us what God is up to and how he goes about it. We learn about his character, his values and his priorities. Knowing these will help us think more like God and less like ourselves. We’ll lead our ministries with a more godly character and we’ll know better how to make our plans and decisions.
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit gives life to the church today and resides in each and every believer as our Counsellor. Shouldn’t we therefore expect the Spirit to be communicating with us in some way? That’s part of his mission. Well, the Spirit does speak in many ways, including feelings, circumstances, visions, dreams, inspired thoughts and so forth. I’ve detailed a number of different ways in this series on “Hearing God speak” that you should find helpful.
God Told Me
However, I’ve just finished a book that I think does a pretty good job at explaining how God speaks to people. The complete title is God Told Me: Who to Marry, Where to Work, Which Car to Buy…And I’m Pretty Sure I’m Not Crazy: Learning to listen for guidance from God. The author, Jim Samra, is not a crazy person. He is senior pastor of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, MI. His academic credentials include a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Oxford University in New Testament Theology. So he’s no slouch!!
His main point is that God doesn’t speak to us these days about moral choices, because he’s already made that clear in Scripture. He doesn’t need to tell you if you should steal or not! (I might quibble with this – I believe the Holy Spirit does stimulate your conscience.) However when we need specific, explicit guidance from God on non-moral issues, Samra says we should expect to hear from him.
If hearing God is a novel concept for you, or if you think you’ve never heard God speak, you’ll find this book very helpful. I believe every Christian should be able to discern God’s ‘voice’ and this book is an easy read that gives you both a theological foundation for divine communication and practical advice for how to participate in conversing with God.
Samra presents a good biblical case as to why we should ask God for guidance. He then tells about the many ways God speaks, and how we can distinguish his voice from all others. After that, he gets down to the nuts and bolts of preparing to listen, actively listening, lessons he’s learned and when you should and shouldn’t tell others about what God has revealed to you.
The one area I wish Samra had spent more time on is interpreting dreams. I’ve had a seminary course that included this topic, but I’ve yet to find anything written (that is credible) on how dreams from God should be identified and then interpreted. There is room for a book on this topic. Otherwise, Samra covers the ground well.
God leads his people by communicating with them. He didn’t just leave us a note about what to do, but he finds ways to talk with us each day about current events. Hearing what he is saying should be a basic competency of anyone on a ministry’s leadership team. My previous posts in this series and this book should help you develop your listening-to-God skills.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God…”
“Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available now at your favourite bookseller.”