Are You Listening to God?

by Paul on October 13, 2009

The last few weeks I’ve been on the road.  I find it hard to write as I travel, so the frequency of posts goes down.  I’m home for the next few weeks, so you should hear (read?) more from me.

I’m working on a book about starting an online ministry.  The post below is an excerpt from the first chapter.  I wasn’t going to post it here, but something weird happened.  I was part of a church planter training and, to my shock and surprise, only a handful of the participants brought Bibles – digital or otherwise – to the training!

What does it say about modern church planting and church planter training events when we think we can attend one without God’s Word by our side?

Listening – particularly listening to God – is the first critical strategic element of any ministry – online or offline.  If your strategy for ministry doesn’t start with listening to and obeying God, you’re in deep trouble.

What are you doing to listen to God each day?

Let me know what you think of the excerpt below.

Listening to God

I listen to God when I read His Word.  Sounds simple enough, but I’m always amazed by how quickly I get sidetracked.  I’m also amazed by how many Christians approach God’s Word as some sort of philosophical exercise or spiritual yoga rather than as a guide to getting to know the heart of God, living to please Him, and transforming families and communities.

Reading the Bible is not the only way to listen.  Obeying what God says in the Bible is another way to listen.  I know, that sounds strange.  But, in my experience, God teaches us more as we obey Him than if we read His commands without any intention of doing anything about them.

Reaching the Online Generation is a case-in-point.  As we obeyed Luke 10 (and other passages) in the digital space, God taught us the things that you will read in this book.  He pointed out opportunities to heal the sick and care for people.  He taught us how to love atheists and witches while talking with them about spiritual things.  He taught us how to believe Him, rather than what to believe.  I believe that obeying what you hear from God increases your capacity to hear and recognize His voice.

I study the Bible in a way that slows me down, forces me to listen, and makes me state the ways I’m going to obey what I’ve read.  At CityTeam, we call this method a Three-Part Study.  It’s pretty simple:

  1. Turn a piece of paper on its side (Landscape).
  2. Divide it into three columns.  Label the first, “Scripture.” Label the second, “My Words.”  Label the third, “I Will.”
  3. In the first column, write a passage (Luke 10:1-12, for example) word-for-word.  Writing each word forces you to slow down and read the passage rather than skimming it.  For those of us who grew up in the church, we often skim passages rather than reading them.  Additionally, when you write a passage you have to read it multiple times.
  4. In the second column, I re-write the same passage in my own words.  I don’t explain it.  I don’t summarize it.  I re-write it as if I were telling it to my seven-year-old daughter, but didn’t have my Bible.  This forces you to meditate on the passage and understand it well enough to retell it in very simple language.  In this column, you prepare to obey 1 Peter 3:15 “…but set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
  5. In the third column, write what you are going to do to obey what God said to you through His Word.  Always start it with the phrase, “I will…” Make it specific.  Make it something you can do in the next 24-48 hours.  For example, instead of saying “I will love God.” you can say, “I will show my love for God by making a list of at least 25 reasons I love Him and sharing that list with three friends.”

This method is a powerful way to listen to what God says through His Word and to listen through obedience.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex Tran October 13, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Dig it! Always on the lookout for practical, out-of-the-box ways to engage the Word and walk it out! Will definitely share this with others.

Robert Reeves October 14, 2009 at 12:07 am

I really liked and will do the three colums it makes all the different to me thank you so much

James October 14, 2009 at 3:48 am

We're using this with our kids in our house church. It works great. Thanks for the nice word-smithing in clearly articulating it. I hope you don't mind if I read this to them.

Mark October 19, 2009 at 11:34 pm

Great ideas. Very practical. Thanks for sharing.
Here's my online ministry – it's mainly about hearing God:

pauldwatson October 14, 2009 at 2:01 pm

I don't mind at all, James. Thanks.

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