One of the things about us Christian people is we like to use many terms that really have either no meaning at all, or a ton of meaning, but no one really has any idea how it practically works. Some of these, in regards to the Spirit, go like this:
– We need to be more Spirit led
– We need to be empowered by the Spirit
– We need to submit ourselves to the Spirit
– We need to be filled with the Spirit
– We need to listen to the Spirit more
We use these terms all the time, and I completely agree with all of these wholeheartedly. But, what I found is that I had no idea what these terms actually meant, so I just agreed and then shelved it in my practical understanding of living it out. This happened for years in my life and so I started to see the Spirit like the crazy uncle that came to your family reunions. You didn’t really want to talk to him or even make eye contact with him. You knew if you did, he wouldn’t stop talking and in all honestly, he was just a bit creepy and you never knew what he was going to do.
This all flipped for me when I first started to seek out how to walk out the mission to make disciples in the everyday through missional communities. It was a little over years ago now and it was after Caesar Kalinowski was done preaching at one of our gatherings. My wife and I desired to start living this out, so I went over to ask Caesar how we should start. Now, when you get to know Caesar you start to realize one thing about him: He’s a master missional strategist. I don’t know any that are better at it currently. So, when I went up to him to start this conversation, I was expecting a plan of action, but what surprised me was his response:
Seth, here is what you do. Go home with your bride and ask the Spirit, “what’s next?” Then listen for him to respond and when he does, do what he said to do. Then continue to do that over and over again.
That’s it? I was kind of bummed out…just ask the Spirit what’s next? Lame. Because I thought it was lame, I prayed pretty lame. I honestly went home with my wife and we prayed in a very condescending way, “Spirit, what’s next?” Amazingly enough…even through my belief in the Spirit being like my crazy uncle, the Spirit, full of grace, answered our prayer and our lives since then haven’t been the same and neither has our understanding of the Holy Spirit.
Puts “Dependence on the Spirit” in the hands of the People
We use all the terms that I mentioned above without really thinking through how to practically apply them. Dependence on the Spirit, submission to the Spirit, Spirit led, Spirit empowered, etc. etc. When you start to walk in a rhythm of asking the Spirit, “what’s next?” it starts to actually work each of these out. When you ask what’s next, what better way to depend on the Spirit?
You ask, and depend on the Spirit to answer and then give you direction on how to carry out what he tells you. You ask, and you submit yourself to whatever he calls you to, whomever he calls you to and wherever he calls you to. When you ask what’s next and you listen and follow the Spirit wherever, whenever and whatever you are being Spirit led and have to actually depend on the power of the Spirit.
When we continually ask this simple thing, one starts to practically understand how these famous Christian mantras are actually lived out in the everyday.
The Spirit Desires you to Succeed
One of the issues we have with actually asking the Spirit, “what’s next?,” or thinking through what it would look like to actually say to the Spirit, “here am I, send me,” is that we are scared what that might look like. We automatically think he’ll send us to live in tents next to the Taliban or to the tribes in Africa where we are stripped of all our comforts and desires.
Now, he might do that, but he also loves you and wants to use you in the ways he’s made you in his Image. This doesn’t mean he “won’t give you more than you can handle” because let’s be honest, If God only gave us what we could handle, why would we ever need to depend on the Spirit for his power and comfort?
What I have noticed is that it is more about allowing us to learn to trust him more and more than this idea of “more than we can handle.” When I first prayed to the Spirit “what’s next?” and he said “Go to Africa” let’s be honest…I’d have made every excuse on why that wasn’t the voice of God. I wouldn’t have trusted him and it would have hindered my growth in understanding the voice of the Spirit. So, what did he tell me?
He simply told me to move my grill from the backyard to the front yard. I know, earth shattering, right? But it was clear and confirmed through what I heard and what my wife heard. As we began to ask why that was what we were told, it became evident. We lived in suburbia, we have fenced yards to keep our neighbors and their problems away from us. When you are in the front yard, it’s like an open invitation for everyone to come and show that everyone is welcome. If that’s not a shadow of our God and his Kingdom, I’m not sure what else is. From there, we kept asking and little by little, our trust continued to grow and three years later the Spirit clearly told us that it was time to go to Phoenix to start to create an environment for discipleship here.
I have been justified through Jesus fulfilling his mission and purpose and I join him on the mission that is guaranteed to succeed. Our proof is the resurrection – nothing could stop him, not even sin or death. My justification is not connected to my success of the mission and yet, I am part of the mission that will succeed and the fruit of it is eternal. (quote taken from Soma School)
Fosters Listening and Expectation of Answers
Imagine what happens when you start asking the Spirit, “what’s next?” and then the Spirit answers you and helps you to carry out what he’s called you to? Will this not lead to a community of people that desire to keep listening to the Spirit and expect him to continually answer?
I remember asking the Spirit specifically, “What’s next with my neighbor Phil and Mary?” That night, my neighbor walked up to me and told me that his wife was going to the hospital with some complications and didn’t know how to handle it as he was stressed out physically and spiritually. I asked, “Can we go over to your house and pray over your wife and then take care of your kids and meals while all this is happening?” This man wasn’t a believer, but he responded with a resounding, “yes!”
This has happened so many times I could fill up the entirety of this article with examples of the Spirit answering our pleas.
Remember, this is the Spirit’s mission and it will only be accomplished by his power. So, he desires you to listen to him and he can’t wait to answer. As your community continues to see the Spirit answer in such specific ways, there is no denying the continual dependence on the Spirit by talking and listening to him.
Fosters Community involvement and Word Saturation in the Everyday
One of the first things that we are asked as we tell these stories is the “yeah but” argument. Yeah but what if someone says that the Spirit said they should kill their wife? We usually go to the extremes, for whatever reason, but the root of the question is legit. The real question at hand is, “What if someone is hearing something from the Spirit that is contrary to the Scriptures?”
This is why when one is continually practicing this understanding of asking the Spirit, “what’s next?” it actually should drive one to community and to the Word of God.
When we were hearing that we should move to Phoenix we took it to our missional community and to our elders. We really desired to hear what they thought about what we’d heard. If we believe that God is a God of community he’ll speak to us through his Word and through his people. If we all have the same Spirit, he’ll unify us, (for the most part) when he is speaking to us in this everyday rhythm of listening and relying.
When we spoke to our elders, it was pretty interesting as they all said, “For one, we believe that’d be great to send you out to Phoenix. Second, as we look to the Word, we see the Spirit of God continually sending people through the church.”
Not only does it foster an understanding of what the Spirit is saying in theology, but when you keep asking the Spirit what’s next and he keeps putting you in the midst of not yet believers, you’ll desire to be standing side by side in community and keep reading the Word to help with answers to the lives you are now intertwined with. Studying the Word, praying and being in community stop becoming a “have to” and is transformed into a “get to.”
It Fosters a Practical Belief That God is not Far off
When you continually ask the Spirit, listen to the Spirit, and watch him answer and empower you, you practically now understand just how close our God is to us. This aids in our understanding of how much he desires true relationship with us and desires us to walk with us in the everyday, not in just the “miraculous”.
We know he is not far off because we have story after story of him being right there answering us and empowering us. As he keeps answering even seemingly small things it empowers our trust in his closeness and comfort in the daily. We then just become accustomed to keep asking the Spirit for whatever we desire for the sake of making disciples.
It also aids in our closeness to the story we see in the Scriptures of God’s people talking to him, waiting for his reply and then trusting God to work it out. This helps to affirm many theological assertions we make in our head and transfers it to our heart and affections for our God. God becomes “our God” instead of just that God we believe in with our head but have really never had a “working relationship” with like they did in the pages we read in the Bible.
Again, it regains what Jesus was telling us:
Ask anything in my name and I will do it
Notice that when we ask anything, who will do it? Jesus says he will. This whole understanding of asking and listening and watching the work of God turns from something that only happens in the book of Acts or in these huge miracles we hear about overseas, to happening in the everyday walk with Jesus just as he did with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day.
Imagine a community where instead of holding the Spirit at an arm’s length he was invited into the everyday?
Imagine a community who was able to have story after story of the power of the Spirit, relying on the Spirit, being Spirit led, being filled with the Spirit and listening to the Spirit?
Imagine if we were able to simply ask in the daily, “what’s next” and expect an answer and not be surprised when our Dad in heaven is listening to us and desires to give us good gifts?
Imagine a community that looked a lot like the church in Acts as they are normal people, with normal lives, but with an abnormal message about an abnormal God?
What is holding you back right now from stopping and asking the Spirit, “what’s next?” and waiting for his answer and his power to become evident to you?