In our study of five habits of highly missional people we are following the BELLS formula.
B is for Blessing
E is for Eat
and out first L is for Listen.
Specifically listening to the Holy Spirit, as opposed to our own wants, desires, and tendencies.
I recall an incident in High School before class. The people dropped off early or by bus gathered in the gym. I had a friend who was of particularly hell-fire-and-damnation church, and this was Bessemer Alabama in the 1980s so that is saying something. Some kids came over to where we were sitting and were asking him questions. As they no doubt expected, they got him wound up and the next thing you knew he was going off about how there sins were going to send them straight to Hell if they did not repent right now for they never knew the day nor the hour…
You get the point.
And as you might have expected no-one, other than me, stayed to the end of his sermonizing.
See, he had been very programed by his religious culture to treat evangelism one particular way. In that moment he was not listening to the Holy Spirit, he was listening to his preacher or Sunday School teacher. He did more harm than good.
We must cultivate habits of listening to the Holy Spirit so that we can “speak in season and out of season” about the love of God.
As with all things this requires us to be deliberate.
- Set aside a block of time. At least 30 minutes. Your mind will wander about for a good 10 to 15 before you can settle down so don’t do less than that.
- Remove all distractions. Whatever it takes get rid of all demands on your attention and your time. You may need to engage in some contemplative prayer before getting into the right state of mind. I have discussed those elsewhere, but for now I will make two suggestions:
- Use the Jesus Prayer, breathing in and out slowly, to center yourself. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
- Use a prayer-word. This is a single word or two said prayerfully to get your mind in a receptive state. Try Lord Jesus, Peace, Love, Father, or something similar. An ancient Christian prayer-word is “maranatha” which means “Lord Come.”
- Listen. This is not intercessory prayer time. This is not a time to unburden yourself of your sins and needs. They may need to happen, but it must happen first. This is a time to listen. To be quiet. Some people are afraid of silence. Struggle with that discomfort until you can accept it. You may need longer at first until you get used to it.
Do the above as often as you can or feel comfortable.
Once a habit forms, it will be easier to get into the Listening state.
Any efforts to be missional people are going to be useless without the guidance of the God. We often get ahead of ourselves and place our objectives and desires before God’s Will. We compromise too much in the effort to relate to people and undermine our own plan; or we so hold to our ideals that we come across as judgmental and arrogant and do no one any good.
Listen to the Holy Spirit.